If you have asthma, keeping an emergency inhaler and other treatments on hand can help quickly relieve symptoms so you can breathe easier. But are there certain foods that you can eat to lessen the severity of asthma symptoms?
There is evidence that foods containing certain compounds may lower rates of asthma. These asthma “superfoods” contain nutrients and minerals — such as beta-carotene, flavonoids, magnesium, potassium, selenium, vitamin C and vitamin E — which may reduce the lung inflammation or swelling that can lead to asthma.
“Many of these foods are what you’d find in a healthy diet,” says Kaveh Bagheri, MD, FACP, FCCP, pulmonary medicine specialist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. So for people living with asthma — or anyone in general — maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help lessen asthma symptoms.”
Here are five asthma superfoods to consider:
The saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” may ring true for asthmatics. A study conducted in the United Kingdom found that after surveying more than 1,400 participants ages 16 to 50, apple consumption had a protective effect against asthma. The effect could be due to the high concentration of flavonoids in apples, which are known to possess strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Antioxidants have been found to have many health benefits by protecting cells against damage from unstable molecules known as free radicals. In the case of asthma, free radicals can cause airway smooth muscles to tighten, leading to asthma.
Avocados, in particular, are rich in antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and glutathione. Glutathione is an important antioxidant because it has been shown to both protect cells against free-radical damage, as well as detoxify foreign pollutants in the body.
Known for protecting your eyes, carrots are also good for your lungs. A study surveying more than 68,000 women — of whom approximately 2,100 reported to have asthma — found that those who had a higher consumption of carrots had a 20 percent lower risk of asthma compared to those who did not eat carrots often. The key may be beta carotene, another antioxidant that may help in combating free radicals. Choose carrots that are darker and deeper in color because they tend to pack more beta carotene.
Other asthma superfoods rich in beta carotene include sweet potatoes, kale and mustard greens.
Flaxseeds contain many elements, such as potassium, magnesium and selenium, which can potentially reduce asthma symptoms by relaxing airway muscles in the lungs. Flaxseeds are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Not sure how to consume flaxseeds? It’s best to grind them (using a coffee grinder) and sprinkle over cereal or yogurt.
Other asthma superfoods rich in potassium, magnesium and selenium include spinach, buckwheat and sunflower seeds.
Garlic has long been touted for its healing properties. Compounds naturally found in garlic, such as vitamin C, are thought to reduce asthma symptoms. Vitamin C can help combat free-radical damage. Moreover, research suggests that vitamin C found in garlic and other foods may have an antihistamine effect, thereby reducing the allergic reaction and inflammation of airways. Lastly, garlic can help the body make prostacyclins, which are fat molecules that help keep airway passages open.
Other asthma superfoods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, endives and kiwi.