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Your Guide to Managing Asthma

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What Are the Best and Worst Foods for Asthma?

Medically Reviewed By Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT

Certain foods, like those containing fiber or omega-3s, may reduce inflammation in people with asthma. In contrast, foods like red meat or some alcoholic drinks may contribute to inflammation and worsen asthma symptoms. Not everyone reacts to food the same way, so it may be helpful to record what you eat to track trends in your symptoms. Always talk with your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.

Read on to learn more about foods to eat and foods to avoid if you have asthma.

Foods to eat with asthma

A person's hand picking up an apple from an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables
Anna Tsukanova/Stocksy United

Some foods may be less likely to trigger asthma symptoms. These include:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables: According to a 2020 research review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , diets rich in fresh fruits and vegetables may reduce the overall risk of developing asthma. They may also reduce asthma symptoms by reducing inflammation and improving lung function.
  • Fish: Some types of fish, such as salmon or mackerel, contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids may reduce Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source inflammation and contribute to better asthma management.
  • High fiber foods: A 2019 analysis found that a high fiber diet may help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of some asthma symptoms, such as coughing or wheezing. Foods high in fiber include whole grains, beans, and chia seeds.

Learn more about foods that are high in fiber.

Foods to avoid with asthma

Avoiding certain foods might help you reduce or prevent some asthma symptoms. Though not everyone will react the same way to the same foods, it may be worth closely monitoring your reaction to specific foods and avoiding them if necessary. 

  • Dried, canned, or bottled fruits and vegetables: These foods may contain preservatives called sulfites. According to a 2016 review of several studies Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , sulfites may trigger or worsen asthma symptoms in sulfite-sensitive people. Check your food labels for terms like “potassium bisulfite” or “sodium sulfite.”
  • Meat: Diets lower in red and processed meat, such as the Mediterranean diet Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , may help prevent some asthma symptoms. Higher meat consumption may contribute Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to inflammation and overweight or obesity, which may worsen Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source asthma symptoms.
  • Ultra-processed foods: In addition to potentially increasing inflammation, ultra-processed foods can contribute Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to overweight and obesity. Examples of these foods include breakfast cereals and packaged soups.
  • Foods high in saturated fat: Some evidence suggests Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source that saturated fat may increase the severity of asthma symptoms and impair lung function. Avoiding lard, cheese, butter, and ice cream may be beneficial.
  • Wine or beer: Many kinds of wine or beer contain sulfites. Also, some research suggests Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source that histamines in wine may lead to bronchospasms, which occur when the muscles in your airways tighten.
  • Shrimp: Frozen shrimp — and other seafood — often contain sulfites. If you’re eating out, be sure not to accidentally eat something cooked in a broth made with shrimp or other shellfish. 
  • Any foods to which you’re allergic: Allergic reactions to food may be worse in people with asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma and food allergies can cause respiratory symptoms like difficulty breathing, coughing, and wheezing. Common food allergies include:
    • dairy
    • fish or shellfish
    • eggs
    • peanuts or tree nuts
    • wheat
    • soy
    • sesame

Learn more about 8 ways to reduce inflammation naturally.

Frequently asked questions

Jerlyn Jones, MS, MPA, RDN, LD, CLT, reviewed the answers to these common questions about food and asthma.

What should I eat during an asthma flare-up?

Eating anti-inflammatory foods during an asthma flare-up, such as foods high in fiber or omega-3 fatty acids, may be helpful. Ask your doctor how dietary changes may fit into your asthma management plan.

What shouldn’t I drink with asthma?

It may benefit people with asthma to limit their consumption of alcoholic drinks containing sulfites or histamines. Some research also suggests Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source that soft drinks may adversely affect lung function and worsen asthma symptoms.

Summary

Some foods may relieve asthma symptoms, while others might trigger or worsen them. Talk with your doctor about dietary changes that may help you manage asthma.

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Medical Reviewer: Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT
Last Review Date: 2023 Sep 2
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.