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
- 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
- Nuts and seeds
- 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:
- 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
- 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.
- Tree nuts
Skip out on foods that may increase inflammation in the body
See below for some helpful downloads:Common Food AllergensAvoiding Sulfites and Salicylates
- 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