As an asthma doctor, I am often asked what are the best foods for asthma? Before we begin, it should be noted that no foods will help relieve an asthma attack. But your daily diet plays a role in your overall health to keep you healthy and reduce symptoms of asthma. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease, thus we can help reduce the inflammation that causes asthma by adding specific foods to the diet.
Phytonutrients are natural chemicals found in plants that help protect against infections. Flavonoids are the main category of phytonutrients that are found in all plants, below are some that are helpful.
- Anthocyanis-are found in berries, pomegranates, red onions, grapes and cherries. They seem to reduce inflammation in the body and lung, and keep them healthy over time.
- Carotenoids-are in sweet potatoes, mangoes and carrots. They also help reduce overall inflammation.
- Quercetin-can be found in apples and onions, they are a yellow hued phytonutrient.
- Hesperidin-is concentrated in citrus fruit like lemons and oranges.
It is important to get a wide variety of phytonutrients in your diet every day.
The gut or microbiome plays an important role in our immune system. 70% of our immune cells are found in the gut (notably IgA). The bacterial buildup in the microbiome starts at birth and children should be exposed to a range of bacteria from the time of birth. One way to get healthy bacteria is through fermented foods. Kombucha (fermented green or black tea), miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and pickles are fermented. Cultured dairy also contains bacteria, this includes kefir and yogurt.
Prebiotic foods contain fiber that help feed healthy bacteria in the gut and include, garlic, oats, barley, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, onions and legumes.
Key nutrients you need can help improve your overall health.
- Magnesium-is important for lung function and can be found in dark chocolate, avocado, nuts, lentils and seeds (pumpkin, flax and chia).
- Potassium-is also important and found in avocados, cantaloupes, oranges, leafy greens and bananas.
- Omega-3 fatty acids-are known anti-inflammatories. Studies have shown Eskimos who eat large quantities of oily fish that contain Omega-3’s have lower rates of asthma. The are found in salmon, mackarel, sardines, cod liver oil, walnuts, soybeans and seeds. (Omega-6 should be avoided, they are found in packaged foods with refined oils like soy or corn).
- Vitamin A-is essential for immunity and found in liver, salmon, carrots, broccoli, cod liver oil, sweet red peppers, apricots, black-eyed peas, winter squash, spinach, kale and collard greens.
- Vitamin C-has been shown to reduce the risk of viral infection. They are found in oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, acerola cherries, sweet yellow peppers, thyme, parsley, kale,kiwis, broccoli and papayas.
- Vitamin D-levels are important for asthma, lower levels have been associated with higher asthma risks. One of the best ways to get it is through sun exposure, approximately 15 minutes a day. In foods it is found in salmon, mackarel, egg yolks and fortified foods such as milk, orange juice and cereal.
- Vitamin E-has anti-inflammatory properties as well and its found in walnuts, pistachios, ground flaxseed and pumpkin seeds.
Overall, the best foods for asthma tend to be rich in inflammation busting nutrients that can help you stay healthy. Avoiding processed foods, fried foods and artificial ingredients are known inflammatory triggers and should be avoided.