Following a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of developing asthma and, in some cases, may reduce asthma symptoms.

Foods to avoid include sulfites, salicylates, and highly processed foods.

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.

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Some research suggests that certain foods can reduce asthma symptoms, support lung function, and boost the immune system. Some foods may also worsen symptoms or cause a flare-up.

A 2020 meta-review of studies found that eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables may reduce the risk of developing asthma and may reduce asthma symptoms such as wheezing.

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.

Obesity can also worsen the symptoms of asthma. Staying active and following a diet that is low in fat and high in fruits and vegetables can help people with asthma maintain a moderate body weight.

This section looks at foods that may benefit asthma.

Fruits and vegetables

Following a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of developing asthma.

One 2020 review states that several studies have found that a high consumption of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of adults and children developing asthma.

They stated that studies also found associations between a high intake of fruits and vegetables and reduced asthma symptoms, such as wheezing.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. These help the body fight toxins, reduce inflammation, and strengthen the immune system.

This, in turn, may help improve lung function and manage the symptoms of asthma.

Some fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich sources of vitamin C include:

Some good sources of vitamin E include:

Learn about the best foods for vitamin E here.

Some examples of foods with beta-carotene include:

Learn more about beta carotene here.

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
  • whole wheat pasta
  • buckwheat
  • bulgur wheat

Learn more about whole grain and high fiber foods here.

The American Lung Association (ALA) has identified several key foods, drinks, 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:

  • sulfites
  • salicylates
  • 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.


Sulfites are a type of preservative often found in preserved foods and beverages, such as alcohol, pickled foods, bottled lemon and lime juice, and dried fruits.

Eating a lot of sulfites may trigger asthma in some people, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

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 cause an asthma episode.

People with food allergies may find that eating the food they have an allergy to triggers their asthma symptoms.


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.

Fast food

“Fast foods” are highly processed and contain high levels of saturated fats, salts, additives, and sugars. They are also often calorie-dense and lacking in nutrients that would benefit people with asthma.

A 2019 article found significant connections between consuming large amounts of highly processed foods and the risk of developing asthma.

This could be due to highly processed foods increasing inflammation in the body. Another possible reason is that consuming lots of calorie-dense processed foods without a balanced diet and active lifestyle can increase the risk of obesity, which can worsen asthma.

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

Learn more about allergic asthma here.

No cure currently exists for asthma, but many people can manage it using a treatment plan that combines lifestyle choices, such as avoiding triggers and taking medications.

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, some medications a doctor may prescribe include:

  • medications that manage symptoms, such as corticosteroids and long-acting beta-agonists, that a person takes 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 (intravenous) IV corticosteroids for severe symptoms
  • biologics, which are newer drugs that may suit some people

Learn more about the treatment options for asthma here.

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

A 2019 review indicates that viral infections can also trigger asthma symptoms. Taking steps to avoid infection, such as washing the hands and getting flu shots, can help reduce the risk.

Which complications can asthma lead to? Find out here.

If a person experiences an asthma episode, they should try to take the following steps:

  1. Sit upright, stay calm, and try to breathe slowly and steadily.
  2. For people who have a rescue inhaler, which is usually blue, take one puff every 30–60 seconds.
  3. If the symptoms do not improve or the person does not have an inhaler, call for emergency help.
  4. Continue to use the inhaler while waiting for help to arrive.

Learn more about what happens during an asthma episode and what to do if one happens here.

Although there is no specific diet to reduce or prevent asthma, many foods and drinks 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 manage their condition more effectively.

Read this article in Spanish.