Asthma Diet: What You Need to Know

While there's no specific asthma diet to alleviate your symptoms, eating whole, nutrient-rich foods can help you maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight can worsen asthma symptoms, so it's taking steps to eat a balanced diet might help you with your condition.

Nutrient-dense foods high in vitamin D and fruits and vegetables are recommended, while fast food and foods that cause gas should be avoided.

This article will discuss the best foods to eat as a part of your overall asthma treatment plan. lt will also discuss foods to limit and avoid.

Diet for Asthma - Illustration by Jessica Olah

Verywell / Jessica Olah

What's the Impact of Diet on Asthma Symptoms?

Eating a healthy, balanced diet with the right foods and nutrients can improve your overall health, including your lung health.

Moreover, research shows that following a Mediterranean diet rich in fish, olive oil, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes can help reduce asthma symptoms or prevent the condition altogether.

Plant-based diets that emphasize fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting the intake of dairy and high-fat meats, can also protect against asthma development and improve asthma symptoms.

These foods are rich in compounds and antioxidants that can fight inflammation and oxidation caused by toxins we're exposed to daily.

Foods to Eat

Although there's no specific food or asthma diet to improve asthma symptoms, it's essential to eat a well-balanced diet as a key part of your treatment plan. In general, the best diet for asthma involves including more fresh fruits and vegetables and foods high in antioxidants, vitamins, and magnesium.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

If you're looking for a way to improve your diet while living with asthma, incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables is a great place to start. Not only are they low in calories to promote a healthy weight, but they also contain essential nutrients that can support a healthy lung function.

Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamins C and E. Studies have shown diets high in fruits and vegetables, especially apples and oranges, can reduce the risk of developing asthma and reduce wheezing.

Bananas may also decrease the incidence of wheezing in children due to their antioxidant and potassium content, which can improve lung function.

Other important fruits and vegetables to include in your diet include broccoli, berries, leafy greens, melon, and avocado.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A, also known as carotenoids, may improve lung function in adults and children. Thanks to its powerful antioxidant properties, vitamin A can help fight oxidative stress and support a healthy immune system.

Studies show that a high dietary intake of foods rich in vitamin A such as tomatoes, carrots, and leafy vegetables can improve lung function and reduce attacks in adults with asthma.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D supports a healthy immune system and can reduce airway inflammation. Studies also show that vitamin D supplementation may reduce the rate of asthma attacks requiring treatment with corticosteroids.

In addition to getting adequate sun exposure, foods like salmon and fortified dairy or dairy alternatives are high in vitamin D.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E contains a compound called tocopherol that serves as a powerful antioxidant. It also can decrease symptoms of asthma such as wheezing and coughing.

Good sources of vitamin E include nuts, mustard greens, broccoli, and kale.

Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants can protect your cells against damage and support healthy lungs.

Foods Rich in Antioxidants include:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Pecans
  • Blueberries
  • Artichokes
  • Strawberries
  • Goji berries
  • Kale
  • Raspberries
  • Red cabbage
  • Beets
  • Spinach

Foods Rich in Magnesium

In recent years, a growing body of evidence has emerged to support the use of magnesium supplements to reduce inflammation and relax the bronchial muscle to allow air to leave the lungs.

Foods rich in magnesium include:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Spinach
  • Cashews
  • Salmon
  • Dark chocolate
  • Low-fat dairy products

Whole Grains

Eating whole grains can reduce the symptoms associated with asthma. One study published in 2018 found that people who ate an overall healthy diet rich in whole grains experienced fewer asthma symptoms and overall greater asthma control.

Good sources of whole grains include:

  • Whole wheat bread, crackers, or pasta
  • Barley
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat

Additional Foods to Eat

Other important foods to eat include:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Cereals
  • Healthy fats like olive oil, seeds, and fatty fish

Foods to Avoid

According to the American Lung Association, there are certain foods and chemicals found in foods that should be avoided because they may worsen symptoms of asthma. It's important to also keep in mind food allergens and restrictions will vary among individuals.

Foods That Cause Gas

Avoid foods such as beans, carbonated drinks, garlic, onions, and fried foods. These may cause gas or bloating, making it more difficult to breathe. This can result in chest tightness and asthma attacks.

Sulfites

Sulfites are chemicals commonly added to foods and beverages to improve their taste, appearance, or shelf life. Things such as sauerkraut, dried fruit, and pickled foods are very high in sulfites. Beverages like wine, alcohol, and grape juice are also high in sulfites. These products can worsen symptoms and lead to adverse reactions in some people with asthma.

Salicylates

Salicylates are chemicals naturally present in tea, coffee, and some spices. Though it's very rare, some people with asthma may be sensitive to foods or beverages with salicylates.

Fast Food

In general, fast food should be limited because these foods contain high levels of saturated fat, additives, and sodium. For those with asthma, it can pose greater health risks and worsen symptoms.

According to one study published in Respirology, those who ate fast food, especially hamburgers, were more likely to have severe asthma and wheeze than those who consumed fast food less than twice per week.

How to Manage Asthma

If you're living with asthma, it's important to maintain a healthy weight and avoid triggers.

According to the American Lung Association, common triggers of asthma attacks include:

  • Respiratory infections
  • Allergens (from pets and food)
  • Smoke exposure
  • Pollen and air pollution
  • Mold
  • Stress
  • Strong fragrances or cleaning products

While it's nearly impossible to avoid some of these triggers, others may be easier to bypass.

It's also important to regularly visit your healthcare provider, develop a plan to avoid triggers, and take medications as prescribed.

Some people find it helpful to join a support group to connect with others living with the condition. If you're interested in joining a support group, the American Lung Association has partnered with Inspire to create the Living With Asthma Support Group.

Summary

Although there's no specific asthma diet, following a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals is important to help manage symptoms.

For some, there are trigger foods that may worsen symptoms and should be avoided. The best way to effectively control your condition is to maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthful diet, and schedule regular visits with your healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

Changing your diet can be scary. It's important to give yourself grace throughout the process and make slow, gradual changes. If you're living with asthma, know that you're not alone. There are support groups available where you can exchange tips and helpful advice with others experiencing the same issues you face.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What's the best food for asthma?

    Foods such as bananas, apples, broccoli, and fatty fish are all nutrient-rich options to help you manage your condition.

  • What foods help you breathe better?

    Foods rich in vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E have been associated with improved lung function which can help you breathe better.

  • Is coffee bad for asthma?

    For most people with asthma, drinking a moderate amount of coffee is fine. However, in rare cases, the salicylates in coffee may trigger symptoms.

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11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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