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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 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • MMJ123
    10 months ago

    I have allergy-induced, adult onset asthma. I’ve also recently begun to learn about the low histamine diet, which 2 friends (1 a physician) have had success with. Avocado is VERY high in histamine and definitely a “no.” Spinach is also high in histamine. Beets are a “yes.” I also make iced ginger tea, which is easy and delicious. I buy organic ginger, cut it into smaller bits (I don’t even peel it), then crush it with a meat mallet. I think put it in a fine metal strainer, place the strainer over a pot of steaming water, and let it steep for at least 30 minutes. Easy clean up – just remove the strainer! Cool and chill. I recently added lavendar teabags to the ginger tea (I don’t have fresh lavendar) and the combo was delicious! I squeeze a bit of fresh lemon into my glass when served. I like a little sweetness, and use local, raw honey or agave.

  • Valerie1126
    2 years ago

    I just had allergy testing to find my triggers and I’m allergic to everything. I’ve been doing research about potential cross allergies. Some I’ve all ready avoided from past allergy testing and I have had a reaction to those substances (sunflower, benzoyl peroxide which is what they use to bleach flour) The thing is, some of these new potential cross allergens are regular parts of my diet (tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, etc) and they don’t bother me. So now feel more confuses than educated.

    I have a feeling I just bought a referral to an Allergist and that is prudent. I’ve also wondered if the allergy elimination diet would work introducing some foods in. Any thoughts?

    Yes, before anyone answers I know this does not substitute for my doc’s advice. It would help from a patient’s perspective.

    Thanks everyone. Val

  • MMJ123
    10 months ago

    Hi Val,

    I highly recommend connecting with a good immunology practice specializing in allergies and asthma. They will become your “go to” for everything breathing or sensitivity related (even skin for me), though my PCP is also very much in the loop. I also tested positive for “everything” and it had not changed with recent testing after 9 years. I highly recommend immunotherapy (i.e. allergy shots) – they have helped me enormously, particularly with the brutal tree pollen season (tree pollens are my worst environmental allergen). I’d definitely check out a low histamine diet. It’s fairly strict but it has helped others I know and I’m just learning and beginning with it. You can reintroduce foods later, if you want to try. For food testing, I saw a naturopathic, integrated medicine medical doctor. Food testing is done in panels of 50 foods….she recommended starting with the first two panels (i.e. top 100 foods that are allergens). It was enlightening! I quit coffee, spinach (which I was putting in daily smoothies) and chicken for 6 months. The lab the doctor used for testing provided a comprehensive report as well as a calendar that rotated the moderately severe foods every 4 days, providing something to work with immediately.

  • NewCreation
    2 years ago

    I have been working with a nutrionist for over a year now. There has been a huge turn around in my over all health through diet and exercise. Avoidance of foods allergies, a plant based diet, elimination of sugar and substitutes, incorporating antioxidants and regular exercise has given me back quality of life. In addition to getting off the asthma and allergy medications, have discontinued the pain management clinic and am off arthritis medications. I don’t get respiratory infections anymore. It is like I have been given a whole new immune system! Miraculous!

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi NewCreation and thanks for your post. It’s gratifying to hear just how successful you’ve been monitoring and controlling your nutritional status and diet. Thanks so much for sharing it with the community. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • TheresaP
    3 years ago

    I have issues with this all the time! I can’t eat/drink anything without irritation or phlegm development. Wish there was more research and knowledge on this problem

  • Richard Faust
    3 years ago

    Thanks for writing TheresaP. You are correct that there is not too much known about specific foods or nutrients that can make asthma better. As this article from our editorial team notes, however, “several observational studies show that eating nutrient-rich foods is linked with lower rates of asthma, less wheezing, and less severe asthma.”

    Hope this information proves useful. Best, Richard ( Team)

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