Boost your diet – and your lung health – with these everyday superfoods
While there’s no food that can cure asthma, the right balance of nutrients can benefit your health1 and, in turn, support your lungs.2 So next time you visit your doctor, discuss some of the following foods, especially ones that are grown in your local area, to see if they could be beneficial to you.
OK, so all fruit has health benefits,3 but apples appear to be particularly beneficial for your lungs.4 A study of 68,535 women found that those who ate the most apples had a lower incidence of asthma than those who ate the least apples.4 The fruits are rich in antioxidants which can help to lower inflammation in the body, so this may be a reason why.4
If you have asthma, vegetables can help,5,6 especially carrots that have an added superpower: they’re rich in beta-carotene, which the body uses to make vitamin A.7 Research suggests a link between vitamin A and lung health – a 2018 study of children with asthma found increased levels of vitamin A were associated with good lung function and quality of life8 – so it’s definitely worth stocking up. Sweet potatoes and red and yellow peppers are also good sources of vitamin A.9
Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium,10 a lack of which is associated with airway hyperreactivity, wheezing, and impaired lung function.11 It’s not known how exactly magnesium affects the lungs, although several studies have suggested that the mineral can be beneficial to people with asthma by relaxing the bronchial muscles.12 Almonds, cashew nuts, spinach and dark chocolate also provide good amounts of magnesium.10
A survey of 2640 primary school children aged 5–11 years found that children who ate bananas at least once a day experienced less wheeziness than those who ate the fruit less than once a month.13 The researchers suggested the benefits may be down to antioxidants in the bananas helping to reduce inflammation, although the potassium content could also be a factor – low levels of the mineral have been linked with lower lung volume in children.13 Either way, they taste delicious on pancakes!
If you like fish, then oily kinds, like salmon and mackerel are good sources of inflammationbusting vitamin D.14 Evidence suggests a link between vitamin D and the immune system, so it’s possible levels of the vitamin could affect asthma symptoms.15 In fact, one study found that people deficient in vitamin D experienced more exacerbations, and that these were lessened by taking a supplement of the vitamin.16
An Instagrammer’s favourite, avocados are rich in vitamin E17 – a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to help protect the lungs.18 Interestingly, a study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found that people with the highest levels of vitamin E had the highest lung function.18 Avocado on toast it is, then!
AND THE ONES TO AVOID…
Treat convenience foods with caution
They might be easy to fix and taste good, but there’s evidence that ultra-processed foods could be contributing to rising asthma rates.19 Not only are these foods often highly calorific, diets high in ultra-processed foods have been linked to inflammation.19 Studies show consumption during childhood is associated with developing asthma in later life, while adults with asthma who eat processed foods are typically less well controlled than those who eat a healthy balanced diet.19 So be careful and make sure you read the list of ingredients before making the decision to buy convenience foods.20
Ultimately, the foods we eat play a crucial role in supporting our health, so aim to eat a healthy balanced diet that includes protein, healthy fats, wholegrains and a variety of fruit and vegetables, and your whole body will benefit.21 Of course, diet is only part of the story, so if you’re experiencing asthma symptoms, speak to your doctor about management. The right treatment can reduce airway inflammation and help control symptoms – so you can get on and live life to the full.16
Is your asthma well controlled?
If you’re concerned about your asthma, speak to your doctor about daily treatment. The asthma control test (ACT) is a quick way to see how asthma symptoms are affecting your everyday life. Click on the link below to get the results in seconds – and be sure to share them with your doctor.
- Bleich SN, et al. Health Affairs. 2015;34;11:1813–1820.
- British Lung Foundation. Available at: https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/eating-well/eating-a-healthy-diet. Accessed March 2022.
- NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/why-5-a-day/. Accessed March 2022.
- Hyson DA. Adv Nutr. 2011;2(5):408–420.
- Guilleminault L, et al. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1227.
- Seyedrezazadeh E, et al. Nutrition Reviews 2014:72(7):411–28.
- Haskell MJ. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(5):1193S–203S.
- Bai YJ, Dai RJ. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018;97(7):e9830.
- NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-a/. Accessed March 2022.
- Cleveland Clinic. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15650-magnesium-rich-food. Accessed March 2022.
- Kılıc H, Kanbay A. Med Princ Pract. 2018;27:139–144.
- Abuabat F, et al. NPJ Prim Care Respir Med. 2019;29(1):4.
- Okoko BJ, et al. Eur Respir J 2007;29(6):1161–1168.
- Lu Z, et al. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2007;103(3–5):642–644.
- Ali NS, Nanji K. Cureus. 2017;9(5):e1288.
- GINA. Global strategy for asthma management and prevention, 2021. Available at: www.ginasthma.org. Accessed April 2022.
- Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Vitamin E. Available at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-e/. Accessed April 2022.
- Menni C, et al. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2015;191(10):1203–1207.
- Hancu A, et al. Maedica (Bucur). 2019;14(4):402–407.
- Gibney MJ. Current Developments in Nutrition 2019;3(2):nzy077.
- Trichopoulou A, et al. BMC Med 2014;12:112.