Best Foods for Preventing and Alleviating Asthma Symptoms
This section of HealWithFood.org's Guide to Fighting Asthma presents 19 super foods with nutrient profiles that are particularly well suited for preventing and alleviating symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness in asthma sufferers. So continue reading to learn how foods like bananas, rosemary or flaxseed could help ease your asthma!
If you are interested in more general diet tips that can help prevent and keep asthma under control, check out the 10 Diet Tips to Keep Asthma Symptoms Away. For healthy recipes that combine some of the top anti-asthma foods, visit this Guide's recipe directory.
Avocados are well known for their contribution to beautiful skin, but these delicious creamy fruits can also be help alleviate asthma symptoms. Avocados are at the top of the list of foods with the highest concentration of glutathione, an unsung health promoting compound with widespread functions. Glutathione has been shown to protect cells against free radical damage and to detoxify foreign substances such as pollutants. Further, without glutathione other antioxidants would not be able not function efficiently. Avocados are also a good source of vitamin E, particularly for people whose asthma is linked to a nut allergy (nuts are one of the most common sources of vitamin E). However, if you have been diagnosed with a latex allergy, you may want to be careful with avocados, particularly non-organically grown produce. A large body of literature suggests that people who are allergic to latex are often also allergic to avocados and other foods that may contain substances called chitinases. Organically grown avocados not treated with ethylene gas contain lower levels of chitinases.
Including bananas in your diet may help you breathe easier. According to a British study, children who ate just one banana a day had a 34% lower chance of developing asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing. The results where not surprising considering that bananas are one of the best sources of pyridoxine, commonly known as vitamin B6. Pyridoxine plays a critical role in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), molecules that have been shown to help relax bronchial smooth muscle tissue.
#3: Broccoli Sprouts
Broccoli sprouts are true nutritional heroes and a great addition to your diet if you suffer from asthma. A recent study found that the study participants who ate broccoli sprouts for three days had an increase in antioxidant compounds that control the airway inflammation associated with bronchial asthma. The effect was most pronounced in those who ate the most broccoli sprouts. The control group, who received alfalfa sprouts instead of broccoli sprouts, showed no changes in their airway antioxidant levels. Available at many health food stores and grocery stores, broccoli sprouts make a great addition to salads, soups, salsa-topped dishes, and sandwiches.
Popeye was right about one thing: you'd better eat your spinach! The nutritional profile of spinach makes it an excellent health food and an effective anti-asthmatic food. One study with 68,535 female participants found that women with a high intake of spinach had a lower prevalence of asthma. This is not surprising considering that spinach features a host of important asthma preventing nutrients, including beta-carotene (spinach is one of the best sources of beta-carotene there is), vitamin C, vitamin E, and magnesium. It also has a substantial potassium content in proportion to its calorie content: a 100 calorie serving provides about 40% of the reference daily intake for this important anti-asthma mineral.
Regular inclusion of kiwi fruit in the diet has been shown to exert beneficial effects on children with respiratory symptoms associated with asthma. The protective effects of kiwi are linked to its high vitamin C content (a mere 2.3 ounces of chopped kiwis contain the reference daily intake for vitamin C!). One study found that in children eating the most citrus and kiwi fruit (5-7 servings per week) the incidence of wheezing was reduced by almost half, compared to children who ate the least of these fruits. The citrus and kiwi fruit were also shown to reduce shortness of breath, runny nose, and cough.
Turbo-charge your anti-asthma diet by adding flaxseeds to your breakfast cereal or yoghurt. Flaxseeds are loaded with asthma-alleviating minerals such as potassium and magnesium. These little, slightly nutty-tasting seeds are also an excellent source selenium, with one cup of flaxseeds providing more than 60% of the recommended daily intake for selenium. Furthermore, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids can fight asthma due to their anti-inflammatory properties. To reap most of flaxseeds' health benefits, grind them before adding them to your food (electric coffee grinders are great for that purpose). Whole seeds pass through the intestinal tract largely undigested, which means that your body won't get all the beneficial nutrients from flaxseeds if you use whole seeds.
Rosemary, a fragrant herb native to the Mediterranean region, contains rosmarinic acid, a plant polyphenol that may help alleviate asthma symptoms due to its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The antioxidant power of rosmarinic acid is believed to be even stronger than that of vitamin E. In addition, rosmarinic acid encourages cells to create prostacyclins, which help keep the air passages of the lungs open and thus promote easy breathing. Rosemary can be used to flavor fish, roast meats, and tomato sauces, but also fruits, especially oranges.
Buckwheat is considered a hypoallergenic food, which means that it is unlikely to cause allergic reactions. This is good news for asthma patients whose symptoms are worsened by food allergies and intolerances. In addition to being an unlikely allergen, buckwheat delivers an abundance of magnesium, a mineral that helps treat constricted airways by relaxing the muscles around the bronchial tubes. Buckwheat groats can be used to make breakfast porridge, and buckwheat flour (also known as beechwheat or saracen corn) can be used for making baked goods. Buckwheat groats contain only 92 calories per 100 grams and are loaded with protein, which makes them an excellent food also for those who are watching their waistline.
Garlic has been recognized for its healing powers since ancient times. Recent research has found garlic to be effective at maintaining cardiovascular health, preventing cancer, and reducing high blood pressure. But eating garlic on a daily basis may also be helpful for people with asthma. The beneficial effects of garlic on asthma are partially due to garlic's ability to inhibit the activity of certain enzymes that generate inflammatory substances. Additionally, garlic — especially fresh garlic — is a relatively good source of vitamin C and potassium. It is also a good source of selenium, with one cup of raw garlic providing almost 30% of the recommended daily intake for an average adult.
For more information about this powerful asthma preventing food, read the in-depth article Is Garlic Good for Asthma Sufferers?.
Said to have originated in the Mediterranean region, endives are veritable powerhouses of nutrition. If you can develop a liking for their bitter taste, endives are a great food to include in your diet, especially if you have asthma. Endives provide a good source of beta-carotene and vitamin C. They are also a good, low-calorie source of potassium. Endives can be used raw, for example in salads, or cooked.