Managing your asthma isn't just about getting the right medication. It takes a whole-lifestyle approach because almost every aspect of your life can greatly influence your symptoms. For example, making healthy choices about what you eat can make life easier for your lungs, which in turn can make managing your asthma symptoms and treatment plan easier. Sink your teeth into these tasty foods for asthma sufferers, and find out how they may help minimize your asthma symptoms:
1. Coffee. Have a cup of java, but go for the caffeinated variety, if it doesn't pose problems for you. Studies suggest that caffeine can help open bronchial tubes for up to 4 hours, which is good because they become constricted when you have asthma. Not a coffee drinker? (Check out this list of 8 ways to get your caffeine fix.)
2. Oranges. A preliminary study found that children with asthma wheezed less when they ate vitamin C-rich fruits, such as oranges. Not only does vitamin C (ascorbic acid) have anti-inflammatory properties, it also may boost your overall health. (Find more great foods for asthma sufferers with these vitamin C-rich options.)
3. Nuts. The vitamin E in nuts may help open your airways and reduce inflammation. Some preliminary research has found that vitamin E has antioxidant properties, which help combat cell-damaging molecules known as free radicals. (Here's how to get the benefits of nuts without gaining weight.)
4. Carrots. This crunchy favorite, as well as other red, orange, and yellow fruits and veggies, contains beta carotene, which may decrease the asthma symptoms exercise causes. Your body converts beta carotene to vitamin A, which is an essential nutrient. Beta carotene also has antioxidant properties that can help ward off cell damage. (Find other good sources of beta carotene.)
5. Onions. Onions are loaded with tiny crystals known as flavonoids, which help fight inflammation from asthma by strengthening your capillary walls. They also can protect the lining of your lungs and bronchial tubes from damage caused by pollution. In addition to onions, nosh on apples, blueberries, and prickly pears -- all of which provide tasty ways to add flavonoids to your asthma diet. (Make onions even healthier with this storage trick.)
6. Tuna. You want tuna in your diet because it contains omega-3 fatty acids and selenium. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown in some studies to reduce inflammation. Studies also show that people with asthma may lack selenium, and that adding more to their diets may help ward off asthma attacks. (Find out how this tasty food for asthma sufferers can also boost your emotional well-being.)
7. Yogurt. Look specifically for yogurt that contains probiotics -- beneficial bacteria that has been shown to reduce inflammation. Scientists can't explain why, but probiotics also seem to reduce allergic reactions, and, for some people, asthma is triggered by allergies. (Read more about the connection between this creamy treat and allergies.)
8. Leafy greens. Spinach and other leafy greens are a good source of magnesium and folate. Preliminary research indicates people with asthma may be low in magnesium. Likewise, an increasing amount of evidence shows that adequate folate can suppress allergic reactions and may lessen the severity. (Learn more about why your body needs magnesium, and where to get it.)
9. Apples. This "Superman" of fruits is packed full of vitamins and phytochemicals that may improve your overall lung capacity. In a study, people who ate at least five apples a week had better lung function than those who noshed on the crunchy fruit less frequently. However many you decide to munch, get the most out of them by eating the peel, too. That's where most of the health-helping flavonoids, such as quercetin, catechin, epicatechin, and procyanidins, reside.
Dietary Changes and Asthma
More scientific evidence is needed to fully support dietary changes to control asthma symptoms and treatment options, but it can't hurt to experiment to see whether adding or eliminating these foods can help. While you're eating better, remember to steer clear of any foods or ingredients known to trigger your asthma. For example, some people find that the sulfites in dried fruit sets theirs off. Also, if you're getting nutrients from supplements, talk to your doctor because some may interfere with your asthma medications.