Here Are The Best And Worst Foods For Asthma, According To Science

Over 26 million Americans have asthma, and around 40% of them use other treatments than what they’re prescribed. Many of these alternative treatments include food. Since asthma stems from inflammation, eating the right (or wrong) food can impact the severity of symptoms.

Although a single food won’t make or break asthma, it can still influence symptoms. Some foods can help patients breathe easier, while others can prompt wheezing. Choose the right foods or drinks for asthma by learning which ones might make the condition better or worse.

Eat Honey Before Bed

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If you cough frequently, you may want to eat more honey. Honey encourages salivation, which may coat the throat to ease coughing. Its anti-inflammatory properties can also relax airways. In the journal Pediatrics, a study found that eating honey before bed reduces coughing throughout the night.

Consumer Health Digest recommends taking half a teaspoon of honey at a time for asthma symptoms. Children over age two can benefit from honey, too. During a scientific review in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers recommended taking honey with other asthma medications.

Fast Food Severely Worsens Asthma

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KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images

It’s no secret that fast food is unhealthy, but did you know that it can affect asthma? A study published in Science Translation Medicine found a strong correlation there. According to the researchers, eating fast food at least three times a week may heighten the risk of severe asthma by up to 39%.

In 2018, another study backed up these same claims. Because fast food is high in preservatives and sodium, it sucks out oxygen from the system. This “poor nutritional quality” does nothing but exacerbate asthma. Try to only eat fast food once or twice per week.

Want To Breathe Easier? Eat An Apple

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Yegor AleyevTASS via Getty Images

Apples may keep your asthma doctor away if you eat them fresh. In 2004, a scientific review in Nutrition Journal analyzed several studies of apples. According to the researchers, the vitamins in apples help lung function and may aid breathing.

Nutrients in apples may also prevent asthma in children. According to a 2007 study, when pregnant women consistently eat apples, their children have a lower chance of developing asthma. Plus, eating apples at least four times a week lowers kids’ chances of wheezing by 27%.

Drink Coffee Without Worries

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Bildquelle/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Fortunately for coffee drinkers, a moderate java intake is associated with fewer asthma symptoms. According to Harvard researchers, people who drink coffee have one-third fewer asthma symptoms than those who don’t. Other caffeinated drinks, such as teas and colas, do not have that effect.

Coffee contains theophylline, a chemical that’s similar to caffeine. Theophylline is already used in some asthma medications. According to a study in the journal Chest, “long-term moderate coffee consumption may not only reduce symptoms but also prevent the clinical manifestation of bronchial asthma.”

Watch Out For Dried Fruit

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Dried fruits are preserved through a chemical called sulfur dioxide, which can worsen asthma symptoms in some people. According to the USDA, there is a strong correlation between asthma attacks and sulfur dioxide. It’s worse if you fall within the 1% of people who have a sensitivity to this preservative.

During a 2017 study published in the Journal of Asthma and Allergy, researchers found that sulfur dioxide tightens the chest and inhibits breathing. For people with asthma, this could cause a life-threatening emergency. Dried fruits have more sulfur dioxide than many other preserved foods.

Soy Could Be The Best Or The Worse

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Photofusion/Brian Mitchell/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Although some authors have denounced soy as an allergy trigger, research points to the opposite. In 2010, a study by the American Lung Association found that soybeans soothe asthma symptoms. Soybeans contain powerful antioxidants that can relax and heal the lungs.

On the other hand, soy allergy is one of the most common allergies, according to the Asthma & Allergy Center. If you have this allergy, don’t eat more soy. Don’t rely on soy, either; studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association only saw results when pairing soy with asthma medication.

Asthma Patients Should Eat More Tomatoes

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Due to recent research, some journalists have dubbed tomatoes as “the new superfood.” In 2015, scientists found that tomatoes can directly fight asthmatic cells. They extracted one of the tomato’s antioxidants, called lycopene, and saw it destroy asthmatic cells in airways.

Peter Wark, a professor at Hunter Medical Research Institute, says that researchers have not seen an antioxidant as effective as lycopene–at least when it comes to asthma. Lycopene is also found in grapefruit and watermelon, but tomatoes have a very high amount of the compound.

Turmeric Helps Asthma Because It’s Orange

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Turmeric gets its bright orange color from curcumin, and this compound also helps asthma. In 2014, researchers tracked 77 asthma patients who took curcumin capsules. After 30 days, the participants’ airways became more clear, and the patients could breathe easier. However, the capsules didn’t alleviate asthma symptoms such as wheezing and coughing.

Still, turmeric can provide some breathing relief. According to an earlier study in PLoS One, eating curry eased breathing in participants. The researchers credit the anti-inflammatory properties of curry powder, which has turmeric as a main ingredient.

Orange Juice: The Perks And Downfalls

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SABAH ARAR/AFP via Getty Images

For people with asthma, orange juice offers both benefits and downfalls. On the bright side, orange juice contains high vitamin C, which may alleviate asthma symptoms. Research in Thorax BMJ suggested that juice with vitamin C can soothe wheezing and coughing in children with asthma.

However, sugary fruit juices may harm asthma. In another study, Harvard researchers reported that children who drank sugary juices were more likely to develop asthma by age seven or eight. If you buy orange juice for asthma, opt for a low-sugar version.

Time To Eat More Salmon

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Derek Davis/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Salmon has high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, and these anti-inflammatories may help asthma. In 2018, research by La Trobe University found that eating salmon can reduce asthma symptoms in children. The study credits omega-3’s anti-inflammatory properties.

“Our study shows eating fish just twice a week can significantly decrease lung inflammation in children with asthma,” said lead researcher Maria Papamichael. In 2019, another study found that eating salmon protects asthma patients against air pollution. If the patient isn’t allergic to fish, eating salmon can benefit asthma overall.

If It Has Liquid Nitrogen, Stay Away

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Foods and drinks with liquid nitrogen often go by the names “dragon breath,” “nitro puff,” and “heaven breath.” The FDA recommends avoiding these foods, especially for people with asthma. Although liquid nitrogen isn’t toxic, the smoke can burn your airways and lungs, potentially leading to an asthma attack.

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency room physician in New York, says that the danger appears when the nitrogen doesn’t fully evaporate. “It may also lead to inflammation in the lungs and aspiration, which can reduce the ability to breathe,” he explains. If you have asthma, don’t opt for foods decorated with liquid nitrogen.

Consider Drinking Less Milk Milk

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Vitaly TimkivTASS via Getty Images

Some people believe that milk creates more mucus. While this is not true, milk still may not help asthma. According to the Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, asthmatic children on a milk-free diet experience fewer symptoms.

Other research pinpoints certain types of milk. During a 2012 study, pregnant women who drank low-fat milk and yogurt had a child with a 26% higher chance of asthma. Meanwhile, whole milk decreased the child’s risk of asthma by 15%. Drinking regular-fat milk lowered asthma risk by up to 46%.

Think Twice About Eating Pickled Food

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Veronique DURRUTY/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Some food preservatives can trigger asthmatic symptoms in patients. One of the most notorious preservatives is sulfite, found in pickled foods. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends avoiding high-sulfite foods if you have allergies. These include sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles.

In 1995, a Spanish study also found a correlation between asthma and pickles. According to the researchers, the sulfur dioxide and high acidity of pickled onions may lead to asthmatic outbreaks. If you are an asthma patient, limit the number of pickled foods you eat.

Need A Cooking Oil? Choose Olive Oil

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Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

While unhealthy fats worsen asthma, healthy fats soothe it. Olive oil contains healthy monounsaturated fats, which alleviate asthma symptoms. According to a 2015 study in Advances in Bioresearch, olive oil is an “anti-asthmatic” that may reduce symptoms over time.

The Mediterranean diet, which cooks many dishes with olive oil, also improves mucus and breathing. Research in the journal Lung determined that children on the Mediterranean diet had fewer asthmatic symptoms. The takeaway? If you have asthma, try cooking with olive oil.

Benefit From Blueberries

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Julian Stähle/picture alliance via Getty Images

Blueberries offer plenty of healthy nutrients, but especially on matters to asthma patients. Researchers from the University of Taiwan located pterostilbene, a special compound in blueberries. Pterostilbene removes pollutants from the body that would otherwise line airways, worsening asthma symptoms.

Although other fruits contain pterostilbene, in blueberries, the compound metabolizes more slowly. With more time in the body, pterostilbene can work to prevent asthma in some people, according to the researchers. Fortunately, very few people have a blueberry allergy, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.

If You Have Asthma, Drink Less Soda

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In 2012, researchers uncovered a strong link between soda and asthma. Australian scientists analyzed almost 17,000 participants and found a higher risk of asthma in those who drank more soda. In short, those who drank two or more cups of soda per day had a 15.6% higher chance of getting asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The researchers found a similar result from lemonade, Gatorade, and flavored mineral water–any drink with high amounts of sugar. Yale scientist Dr. David Katz says that the findings could relate to overall poor health, as soda-drinkers are more likely to maintain an unhealthy diet.

Soothe Symptoms With Spinach

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Paul Aiken/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

In 2009, researchers discovered that asthmatic kids had particular vitamin deficiencies. In particular, vitamins A and D prevent people from getting asthma. Various leafy greens offer these vitamins, and spinach provides both. Its version of vitamin A, beta-carotene, can lower a child’s chances of asthma by one-third.

It’s no secret that leafy greens help asthma. According to research in the journal Thorax BMJ, eating more vegetables decreases the chance of asthma, even in adults. Spinach provides many of the nutrients that can potentially soothe asthmatic symptoms.

Asthma Patients May Not Like Eggs

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Eggs are one of the most common allergy triggers in children. As a result, some asthma patients are sensitive to eggs. In 2004, researchers tested an egg-free diet on children with asthma. Over eight weeks, this diet greatly reduced symptoms in asthma patients. Lung function improved as well.

Even so, not every asthma patient experienced side effects from eggs. Earlier research in Italy concluded that only children with egg sensitivities react negatively to eggs. If you’re one of these people, you may want to limit eggs or cut them out of your diet entirely.

How Beans Are The Best And The Worst

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Studies on beans and asthma have yielded mixed results. For instance, some doctors may advise against eating too many beans. In 2011, research in PLoS One found that kidney beans are a major allergic trigger to those with asthma. Plus, gassy beans may prompt bloating, which inhibits breathing.

However, another study recommends eating beans for asthma attacks. In 2016, UK researchers reported that baked beans have asthma-fighting plant fibers called prebiotics. These may support breathing in asthma patients, especially after exercise. Just eat them in moderation.

Steer Clear Of Artificial Sweeteners

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Illustration by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Although artificial sweeteners contain fewer calories than sugar, they have some downsides as well. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, artificial sweeteners contain preservatives that could aggravate asthma.

In 2013, a study in PLoS One examined pregnant mothers who drank artificially-sweetened beverages. These drinks placed the children at risk of developing asthma early on. The chance of allergic rhinitis also rose with the consumption of artificial sweeteners. For the sake of asthma, replace your artificial sweeteners with honey.