There are no specific dietary recommendations for people with asthma, but some research suggests that certain foods can support lung function, boost the immune system, and reduce asthma symptoms. Others, however, may worsen symptoms or increase the chance of asthma developing.
Asthma is a common chronic condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
This article looks at foods that people with asthma may wish to avoid, foods that may improve or even prevent asthma symptoms from developing, and some lifestyle factors that may help a person manage this chronic condition.
Some foods may be more suitable than others for people with asthma for a number of reasons.
One reason is the nutrients they contain. Antioxidants, including some vitamins and minerals, are present in fresh fruits and vegetables. They
Some foods contain allergens that can trigger a reaction in some people. Sulfites, for example, are a preservative present in dried fruits and vegetables, pickled foods, shrimp, wine, beer, and some other products.
Eating a lot of sulfites may trigger asthma in some people, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. People with food allergies may find that eating the food they have an allergy to triggers their asthma symptoms.
Some nutrients that may be beneficial for people with asthma include:
- vitamin D in foods and supplements
- vitamin C
- vitamin E
- beta carotene
- antioxidants, such as selenium and flavonoids
- whole grains
The following sections provide more details on how these nutrients can benefit a person with asthma and which foods contain them.
Vitamin D in foods and supplements
Some evidence suggests that low levels of vitamin D have links to an increased risk of asthma episodes in children and adults. It also indicates that taking a vitamin D supplement every day can significantly reduce the risk of hospital admission for a severe asthma episode.
Vitamin D may also support lung function and reduce upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold.
Vitamin D occurs naturally in
Some good food sources of vitamin D include:
- fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
- egg yolks
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Following a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of developing asthma.
One 2020 article states that several studies have found that a high consumption of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of adults and children developing asthma.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene. These help the body fight toxins that may damage tissues.
This, in turn, may help improve lung function and control the symptoms of asthma.
- citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit
- kiwi fruit
- red and green peppers
- baked potatoes
Some good sources of vitamin E include:
- nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts
- sunflower seeds
- fortified foods, such as breakfast cereal, fruit juice, margarine, and spreads
Orange and red fruits and vegetables, as well as some others, contain beta carotene.
Some examples include:
- sweet potatoes
- red and yellow peppers
- dark leafy greens, such as kale and spinach
Flavonoids and selenium
A wide variety of fruits contain flavonoids, including:
Black and green teas also contain flavonoids.
- dairy products
Whole grain foods
Eating whole grain foods may also play a role in reducing the symptoms of asthma.
One 2018 study found that people who enjoyed a healthy diet, including whole grain foods, experienced fewer asthma symptoms and had better control of their condition.
Whole grain foods include:
- whole oats
- wholewheat pasta
- bulgur wheat
The American Lung Association (ALA) has identified several key foods, beverages, and other substances that people with asthma may wish to avoid because they may worsen the symptoms of the condition.
For example, people may wish to avoid:
- allergens, which can vary among individuals
- fast foods, which tend to be highly processed
The following sections provide more detail about how these items can affect people with asthma.
Foods that contain sulfites
Sulfites are a type of preservative often present in preserved foods and beverages, such as alcohol, pickled foods, bottled lemon and lime juice, and dried fruits.
People with asthma who have high levels of sulfites in their diet may find that their symptoms worsen. The ALA warns that consuming foods containing sulfites, particularly wine, may even trigger an asthma episode.
Salicylates are compounds present in teas, coffees, spicy foods, and foods flavored with herbs. Although this is rare, some people with asthma are sensitive to these compounds and might be more likely to experience a flare-up of symptoms.
Two studies from
Learn more about the risks and benefits of aspirin here.
One 2013 study that looked at the consumption of fast food among children and teenagers found that those who ate it three times per week or more were more likely to develop severe asthma as well as other health conditions.
Learn more about how fast food affects the body here.
People with asthma should try to identify and avoid triggers that may worsen their symptoms or bring on asthma episodes.
The ALA says that the following are some things to avoid to prevent triggering asthma:
- over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- common food allergens, such as peanuts and shellfish
- smoke exposure, such as from cigarette smoke, campfires, or wood burning fireplaces
- adverse weather, such as stormy, windy, cold, or humid weather
- air pollution, smog, vehicle exhaust fumes, and chemical fumes
- dander and saliva from animals with fur or feathers
- environmental exposure to dust mites, mold, or spores
There is currently no cure for asthma, but many people can manage it using a treatment plan that combines lifestyle choices, such as avoiding triggers, and medications.
According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, some medications that a doctor may prescribe include:
- medications to control symptoms, such as corticosteroids and long-acting beta-agonists, taken either through an inhaler or by mouth
- maintenance therapy, such as anticholinergics
- rescue medications, such as short-acting beta-agonists, taken through an inhaler
- oral or IV corticosteroids for severe symptoms
- biologics, which are newer drugs that may suit some people
The ALA recommends managing asthma proactively, not only with medications but also by avoiding triggers.
Preventing the symptoms
Some tips for preventing the symptoms of asthma include:
- following a treatment plan, keeping appointments, and using all medications as the doctor advises
- keeping a log of how and when symptoms appear to help identify them
- taking steps to identify and avoid foods, environments, and activities that trigger symptoms
- maintaining a moderate weight
- avoiding or quitting smoking
- consuming a diet that is low in processed foods and high in fresh fruits and vegetables
If a person experiences an asthma episode, they should try to take the following steps:
- Sit upright, stay calm, and try to breathe slowly and steadily.
- For people who have a rescue inhaler, which is usually blue, take one puff every 30–60 seconds.
- If the symptoms do not improve or the person does not have an inhaler, call for emergency help.
- Continue to use the inhaler while waiting for help to arrive.
Although there is no specific diet to reduce or prevent asthma, there are many foods and beverages that can positively or negatively affect asthma symptoms.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in processed, fatty, and fried foods can help a person manage their asthma symptoms.
Keeping track of triggers and symptoms and working with a doctor can help people with asthma control their condition more effectively.