The Asthma-Friendly Kitchen: Low-Inflammatory Ingredients
For the last few years I have been combining my two passions; educating people with asthma to better take care of their disease, and my love of cooking and sharing delicious food. This has led to my nickname “asthma chef,” and inspired this series of blog posts on Asthma.net. Future posts will include recipes and tips for eating and living well with asthma.
Asthma is a disease of inflammation. The inside of the airways become red and swollen, blocking the flow of air and making it hard to breathe. Since the main culprit of asthma is inflammation, eating anti-inflammatory foods may help reduce airway swelling and improve symptoms.
Below are a few of my favorite ingredients I always have on hand that are easy to incorporate into any cooking routine:
- Avocado is a fruit (yes, a fruit!) that is nutrient dense with fiber, Vitamin E, B Vitamins and folic acid. Avocados are naturally sodium and cholesterol-free, and are packed with heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fat. Two tablespoons are only 50 calories. For a quick and easy breakfast, top whole wheat toast with fresh avocado slices, fresh ground pepper and a dash of hot sauce.
- Dark leafy green and cruciferous vegetables such as kale, spinach and Brussel sprouts contain high concentrations of vitamins and minerals—like calcium, iron, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. I add greens to all types of egg dishes; omelets, quiche and egg casseroles.
- Turmeric is an Asian spice that has been used for over 2500 years to improve several chronic conditions; everything from arthritis to high cholesterol. Turmeric contains curcumin, a chemical that is believed to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Turmeric’s relative, ginger, is also known to reduce chronic inflammation and decrease stomach upset. Try adding turmeric to rice or egg dishes, and sauté mushrooms with ginger, onions and garlic, and then simmer in miso broth for a warming soup.
- Green tea contains flavonoids that are potent anti-inflammatories. Studies have shown green tea can help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. White and oolong tea are also delicious healthy drink choices, cold or hot.
- Beets are full of fiber, Vitamin C and phytonutrients. Don’t be turned off by the canned/pickled beets most of us our exposed to, try buying them raw and roasting them in the oven with a little extra virgin olive oil (also anti-inflammatory) and salt and pepper. Gold beets are a little sweeter than red beets, and won’t stain your hands or countertops.
- Apples pack quite a nutritious punch. A medium apple has four grams of soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol and inflammation. At under 100 calories an apple is a smart snack choice by helping you feel full and not spiking blood sugar the way sweeter fruit can. Put apples in salads for a fresh, crisp, crunch. Combine apple slices (with skins on) in a pan with a dot of butter, sprinkle of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and a dash of salt. Cook on low heat until melted and caramelized. Add walnuts to raise the anti-inflammatory benefits and deliciousness even more.
Asthma is a complicated disease, so there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to managing it. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your meal planning is just one tool in your asthma management toolbox (along with the right medications, trigger reduction, etc.) that can lead to good asthma control. As someone who lives with asthma, I have found the ingredients listed above help me manage weight, which is always struggle. How about you? Have you found eating healthier does or does not help your asthma? Is finding healthy food difficult or too expensive to buy? Please share your comments!
Have you ever experienced an itchy chin prior to or during asthma attacks?