CallonDoc Focus: The Best Diet for Asthma

Asthma is a well-known condition, affecting over 25 million or 1 in 12 people in the United States alone (CDC). Additionally, half of those with the condition get asthma attacks, which makes it difficult for a person to breathe. While the condition makes prolonged physical activity difficult, there are many cases where people with asthma appear to adapt to the condition later in life. 

While some find relief from routine medical care, others have found that adjusting other aspects of their lifestyle, such as their diet, has proven to be an effective way to improve and manage asthma. Some call this the "asthma diet." An asthma diet has been an effective method for those needing additional assistance due to it being rich in nutrients that specifically aid the lungs and airways on top of being healthy. 

Asthma diet chart

Asthma Diet Chart

What foods help asthma?

While there are many foods associated with worsening symptoms of asthma, there are many nutrients that can help those and reduce the condition. According to sources like Healthline and WebMD, the following nutrients can help those that suffer from Asthma. 

Flavonoids: According to Healthline, flavonoids are compounds found in various types of foods like fruit, vegetables, tea, wine, and chocolate. Not to be confused with vitamins, these compounds allow the body to deal with toxins and stressors while regulating cellular activity. Not a one-all be-all, flavonoids are divided into six groups:

  • Anthocyanins: Berries, black plums, blood oranges, specific roots, eggplants, purple corn, etc.
  • Flavan-3-ols: Red wine, cacao beans, beer, apples, black teas, hops, fruit juice, black soybeans, etc. 
  • Flavanols: Mostly tea and wine, but can also be found in onions, apples, citrus fruits, leafy vegetables, etc. 
  • Flavanones: lemons, limes, dried oregano, grapefruit, artichokes, oranges, orange juice, etc.
  • Flavones: Dried/fresh parsley, dried oregano, artichokes, green pepper, celeriac, chicory, etc.
  • Isoflavones: legume seeds, genistein, daidzein, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, meats, cereals, etc. 

While not firmly determining the connection between flavonoids and how they affect asthma, a 2013 study does attribute balancing flavonoid-rich food into your diet will ultimately help overall health to the point that it positively affects your lungs. 

Magnesium: Several studies over the past several years have established the benefits of magnesium (Ex: Soybeans, millet, almonds, etc) when it comes to several diseases and disabilities, including asthma. According to WebMD, the mineral helps with inflammation and wheezing, which allows normal management of several airways. Magnesium has been shown to help:

  • Soothe inflammation in the lungs
  • Raise nitric oxide levels
  • Reduce muscle spasms

Selenium: There is evidence that selenium does support those with mild and severe cases of asthma. As detailed by ScienceDirect, selenium (Ex: Red/white meat, eggs, fish, shellfish, etc)  can help with mucus production and inflammation that often contribute to the severity of asthma. More specifically, it reduces adverse reactions like inflammation that tightens the airways and reduces or prevents the overproduction of mucus that might further block your body’s attempts to get oxygen. 

Vitamin C: Known as one of the primary vitamins you should take for your immune system and known to help fight off general disease, vitamin C (Ex: Fruits, berries, juice, vegetables, etc)  also helps reduce the severity of asthma. An asthma diet that includes regular levels of vitamin C will not only boost regular daily activity but will also improve long term health. A 2014 study outlines this exactly, exhibiting increased recovery after exercising in patients with asthma that regularly took vitamin C. 

Vitamin D: The results are clear when it comes to this vitamin, normal lung function is reduced when you have less than the needed amount of vitamin D in your system. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, there is a correlation between low lung function and lack of vitamin D in both children and adults. Furthermore, those with mild to moderate asthma would benefit from vitamin d to reduce or neutralize asthma attacks. Some examples of vitamin D include:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna 
  • Swordfish
  • Sardines
  • Liver
  • Fortified orange juice

What food is not allowed for asthma?

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, asthma and allergies often go hand in hand. On top of things like pet dander and dust, foods you are allergic to can also cause a reaction that includes an asthma attack. The same concept works similarly for foods that trigger an allergic reaction, making an asthma attack possible when a person eats something they get an allergic reaction from.

According to WebMD, an additional ingredient asthmatic people should watch out for are sulfites. Occurring sometimes naturally and most often as an additive in foods, sulfites or sulfur dioxide are a compound found in: 

  • Fermented foods
  • Soft drinks 
  • Juice
  • Sausage 
  • Wine
  • Preservatives

Slowing the spoilage of foods and mixtures due to it naturally preventing bacterial growth, sulfites help slow the deterioration process of certain foods and help retain a fresher flavor. Due to 5% to 10% of people being allergic to them, people should be aware of allergies to the following when managing asthma. 

Potassium bisulfite (KHSO3): Counteractive to the development of bacteria, fungi, and insects while preserving colorless foods. Commonly used in cake mixes, canned or packaged apples, prepared squashes, etc. 

Potassium metabisulfite (K2S2O5): Serves as an antioxidant, bleaching agent, and preservative for many types of alcohols like beer, wine, fermented beverages, and processed meats (Ex: hot dogs, sandwich meat, sausages). While not found in all of those drinks and foods, it is wise to check the ingredients of each product. Not found in fresh meats, vegetables, and fruits. 

Sodium bisulfite (NaHSO3): More so a mixture of salts than an actual compound, sodium bisulfite is used for the preservation of certain foods along with adding to the general flavor. Examples include packaged gravy, canned fruits/vegetables, baked goods, some jerkies, jams, chips, etc. Often featuring the smell of rotten eggs by itself, the mixture is also used to make leather and paper. 

Sodium metabisulfite (SMBS): A commercial preservative that extends the shelf life of different meat products like sausages, some ground meat for burger patties, and canned meats. The compound is also found in disinfectants. 

Sodium sulfite (Na₂SO₃): An antioxidant and a preservative for dried fruits and vegetables. The compound can aggravate allergies and asthma attacks, being particularly hard on asthmatics. 

Sulfur dioxide (SO₂): A common preservative for sausages, dried fruits, juices, alcoholic drinks, and pickled vegetables, among others. While it has low toxicity in foods, it is bad for people when breathed in as a gas, its natural state, which is commonly found in pollutants and the gasses that escape from volcanoes. 

While those with asthma need a consistent treatment plan, it is important to understand additional lifestyle changes that can help reduce and improve asthma naturally. Even small dietary changes might greatly impact how you or a loved one feels and improve their overall day-to-day health.


  1. “AAFA Explains: Can Vitamin D Help My Asthma?” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 12 April 2018,
  2. Abuabat, Faisal, et al. “The role of oral magnesium supplements for the management of stable bronchial asthma: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” NCBI, 18 February 2019,
  3. Allam, M. F., and R. A. Lucane. “Selenium supplementation for asthma - PMC.” NCBI,
  4. Ambardekar, Nayana. “Asthma and Diet Tips: Nutrition, Good Foods, and More.” WebMD, 14 August 2022,
  5. “Asthma in the US | VitalSigns.” CDC, 3 May 2011,
  6. Ellis, Rachel Reiff. “Can Magnesium Treat Asthma?” WebMD, 12 11 2022,
  7. Felson, Sabrina. “Asthma and Sulfites Allergies: Symptoms and Treatments.” WebMD, 30 10 2021,
  8. Hatanaka, Miho. “Everything You Need to Know About Flavonoids.” Healthline, 23 October 2019,
  9. Hemilä, Harri. “The effect of vitamin C on bronchoconstriction and respiratory symptoms caused by exercise: a review and statistical analysis - Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology.” Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, 27 November 2014,
  10. Luo, Elaine K., and Annette McDermott. “Diet Recommended for People with Asthma.” Healthline,
  11. Rice, Damien, and Matt Galbraith., 16 November 2008,
  12. Tanaka, Toshio, and Ryo Takahashi. “Flavonoids and Asthma - PMC.” NCBI, 10 June 2013,
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