If you have asthma, keeping an emergency inhaler and other treatments on hand can help quickly relieve symptoms so you can breathe easier. But there is evidence that foods containing certain compounds may reduce asthma symptoms. These asthma “superfoods” contain nutrients and minerals—beta-carotene, flavonoids, magnesium, potassium, selenium, vitamin C and vitamin E—which may reduce 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:
The saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” may ring true for asthmatics. A study found that after surveying more than 1,400 participants ages 16–50, 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 many health benefits, such as 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 are rich in antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and glutathione. Glutathione is an important antioxidant because it has been shown to protect cells against free-radical damage and detoxify foreign pollutants in the body.
Known for protecting eyes, carrots are also good for lungs. A study surveying more than 68,000 women—of whom approximately 2,100 reported having 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. 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.
Information provided by the San Diego Sharp Health News Team. For more health stories visit www.sharp.com/news.
For more articles that pertain to families with special needs, visit the Special Needs Resource Foundation of San Diego at www.SNRFSD.org.
Published January 2017