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Nutrition guidance and tips for Asthma

In this Section

  • Nutrition 101

Shopping Tips

When it comes to grocery shopping, our registered dietitians recommend a few helpful tips. Try some of the following suggestions to create a smoother shopping experience.

At Home

  • Try tracking your food intake and symptoms with the Food and Symptom Tracker. This will help you better identify which foods may be triggering asthma flares and that you should avoid buying.
  • Use the Asthma Shopping List and One Week Meal Plan to help you stay organized and prepared.
  • Look for on-sale foods, coupons or store discount offers to keep more money in your wallet.
  • Shop online to save time and energy. Many grocery stores have in-store pickup or home delivery options available.

At the Store

  • Grocery shop during times when energy levels are higher. First thing in the morning or after a nap is when most people have the highest energy levels.
  • Ask a friend or family member to join you to lend a hand or carry groceries.
  • Try using a motorized cart on days when you’re feeling especially fatigued.
  • Bring the Reading a Food Label handout to the store to make reading food labels easier.
  • Be careful of tricky ingredients, like salt and sugar. These ingredients can go by many different names, so check the food label for the percent daily value (%DV). Aim to have the %DV less than 5% for added sugars and sodium.
  • Eating a heart-healthy diet is important for those with asthma. To make heart-healthy selections easier, look for the Heart-Check mark on food packages.

Download these helpful tips before heading to the grocery store!

Shopping TipsReading a Food Label

Nutrition 101

There is no one food or diet that will cure asthma, but there are eating patterns that may help to improve asthma symptoms, aid lung function and improve overall health.

One way to improve asthma symptoms is to maintain or reach a healthy weight. Adults who are overweight or obese may be less responsive to asthma treatment and may suffer from more chronic inflammation than adults who are at a healthy weight. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can help with weight control, potentially reducing inflammation in the body and improving asthma symptoms. Follow the tips below for ideas on how to eat for better asthma control.

Eat a well-balanced diet that includes

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean protein
  • Low-fat dairy foods
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains

Choose colorful plant foods that are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are nutrients that help protect healthy cells from damaging molecules called free radicals.

  • Fruits: strawberries, blueberries, cherries, blackberries, raspberries
  • Herbs and Spices: dried or ground turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic
  • Nuts and seeds: pecans, walnuts, almonds, peanuts
  • Vegetables: spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, red cabbage, beets

Include healthy fats (monounsaturated and omega-3) that help to lower inflammation

  • Fatty fish: salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines
  • Fruit: avocado
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, ground flax seed, chia seeds
  • Oils: extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil, flaxseed oil

Add fiber-rich foods to your plate to help lower inflammation and keep you full longer

  • Fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes and beans

Choose Vitamin D-rich foods. Vitamin D may be helpful in reducing airway inflammation and boosting the immune system. If considering a vitamin D supplement, talk with a pharmacist or registered dietitian for the dosage that may be right for you. Foods with vitamin D include:

  • Eggs
  • Fish: salmon, trout, swordfish, mackerel
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Fortified dairy products
  • Fortified orange juice

Get enough vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant and may lower the risk of some asthma symptoms like wheezing or coughing. Vitamin E-rich foods include:

  • Green leafy vegetables: Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, broccoli
  • Nuts: almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts
  • Seeds: sunflower seeds
  • Vegetable oils

For some people, certain types of foods may make asthma symptoms worse. These types of foods include:

  • Sulfites – Sulfites are primarily used as preservatives in food and drinks, like dried fruit and shrimp. They also help to prevent microbial growth in fermented beverages, like wine. For a detailed list of sulfite-containing foods, see the Avoiding Sulfites and Salicylates handout below.
  • Salicylates – Salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals found in many fruits and vegetables, as well as several health and beauty products, like aspirin. For a detailed list of salicylate-containing products, see the Avoiding Sulfites and Salicylates handout below.
  • Gas causing foods – Foods that cause gas or bloating may make breathing more difficult. Trouble breathing could cause chest tightness, leading to asthma flares. Foods that produce gas include:
    • Beans and legumes
    • Carbonated beverages
    • Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower
    • Fried foods
    • Garlic
    • Onions
  • Common food allergens – Those with asthma are at a higher risk for having food allergies. Food allergies can also cause asthma symptoms. When trying to determine foods that may worsen asthma symptoms, it may be wise to avoid allergy-triggering foods. Some of the most common food allergens are listed below. For a more detailed list, see the Common Food Allergens handout.
    • Milk
    • Eggs
    • Fish
    • Shellfish
    • Peanuts
    • Tree nuts
    • Wheat
    • Soy

Skip out on foods that may increase inflammation in the body

  • Alcohol
  • Red meat
  • Processed meats: hot dogs, bratwursts, sausages, highly-processed deli meats
  • Refined grains: white-flour based products (white bread, pasta, bagels, etc.)
  • High-sodium foods: canned foods, pizza, pickles, deli meat, cheese, broths and soups
  • High-sugar foods: sugar sweetened beverages, desserts, cookies, candies, ice cream and cake

See below for some helpful downloads:

Common Food AllergensAvoiding Sulfites and Salicylates
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