Eating well is key to a strong body and a healthy life, no matter what your age or health status. A balanced diet is even more important, however, when you live with asthma. According to the American Lung Association, foods that require more oxygen to metabolize and produce more carbon dioxide can make breathing more difficult for individuals with asthma. However, studies have shown that foods with anti-inflammatory properties can improve your breathing and even help you lose weight.
Foods That Help Asthma
Although no diet can cure asthma, certain foods can support better breathing and reduce your symptoms.
- Foods high in vitamin D. People with asthma and allergies have been found to have low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects that can help prevent asthma attacks in people with mild to moderate asthma. Look for dairy-free sources of vitamin D (such as portobello mushrooms) and fortified drinks (such as soy milk, almond milk and orange juice), as researchers have found that dairy may contribute to asthma.
- Foods high in vitamin E. Tocopherol, a chemical found in vitamin E, may decrease asthma symptoms like coughing or wheezing. Great sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables.
- Magnesium-rich foods. Adding magnesium to your diet can help relax the smooth muscle of the bronchioles. You can get magnesium from avocados, beans, tofu and whole grains like brown rice.
- Fish and other sources of omega-3s. Fatty acids (such as those found in fish) can protect against asthma. Salmon, sardines, mackerel and oysters are packed with healthy omega-3s. If you don’t enjoy seafood, other powerful sources of omega-3s are seaweed, chia seeds and eggs.
Foods to Avoid if You Have Asthma
Do your best to stay away from the following foods because they can worsen asthma symptoms or may lead to an asthma attack.
- Sulfites. Commonly found in dried fruit and pickled foods, sulfites can trigger asthma in those with moderate to severe symptoms. This food additive is also found in red wine, beer, shrimp and many condiments.
- Salty foods. Children who ate fast food were 40 percent more likely to have asthma symptoms compared to children who ate fast food only occasionally or never. Fast food contains higher concentrations of sodium (as well as saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids and carbohydrates) that may cause immune reactions. Eating salty snacks is also associated with frequent asthma attacks.
- Sugary beverages. Asthma symptoms worsen with regular soda consumption. Scientists theorize that large amounts of high fructose corn syrup (typically found in carbonated drinks) trigger inflammation and mucus production, which contribute to asthma. Sugary drinks like apple juice or beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup also lead to significantly more instances of asthma.