The Best and Worst Foods for Severe Asthma

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

While many of us know a few of the main asthma triggers — smoke, dust, pollen, and mold —some people fail to consider how foods may be affecting the disease process.

Foods you may want to consider avoiding:

Processed foods

Processed and fast foods can be highly inflammatory. These can include refined carbohydrates, sodas, red meats, and unhealthy fats like lard or margarine. When your body is already dealing with the inflammation of asthma, the last thing you want to add is an extra trigger for inflammation. These foods often lead to weight gain, which is also hard on your lungs, heart, and other organs.

Food allergens

If you have food allergies and asthma, you need to be extra careful to avoid those foods your physician has found you to be allergic to (through testing or through previous reaction). Even a mild food reaction can compound breathing issues when you have asthma. Talk with your doctor about whether you should be carrying an EpiPen and always keep your rescue inhaler handy.

Inflammatory foods

Some foods that are not inherently bad can cause inflammation for certain people. In most instances, those foods are part of the nightshade family which includes: tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers. While these foods can be incorporated in a healthy diet for most people, it might be worth trying a six-week elimination diet to see if they are bothering your breathing. If you don’t see a change, you can always add them back into your food repertoire.

Foods you may want to add to decrease inflammation:

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and veggies should be eaten every day with the USDA recommending at least 4 cups each day. The more colorful your foods are, the more varied their nutrients. Those vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (some we may not even know about yet) seem to work in an anti-inflammatory way in the body. Buy organic whenever possible or at least try to buy the “dirty dozen” (those produce options that tend to have the most chemical residue) in their organic counterparts. We haves seen that chemical residue may lead to inflammation or reactions in our asthmatics.

Healthy fats

For years we have avoided fat like the plague. But the truth is that research has shown healthy fats prolong life and reduce inflammation in the body. Some of those fats include avocado, olive oils, nuts, seeds, and nut or seed butters. Fatty fish like salmon are also full of healthy fat. Some physicians recommend a fish-oil supplement, but talk with your doctor first — supplements can react with medications or cause allergic reactions.


Ok, so water isn’t exactly a food but it should be a huge part of what you ingest during the day. Adequate hydration helps thin mucous membranes, which improves airflow in people with asthma. Aim to get at least half your body weight in ounces per day.

Now that you know what to eat and what to avoid, don’t forget to keep a food journal! It can be key in establishing patterns for foods that might be triggering your asthma.

See more helpful articles:

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Asthma

Xolair Injections May Help Patients With Allergic Asthma

Pediatric Asthma: Preventing Caregiver Burnout

5 Triggers That Could Be Wreaking Havoc on Your Asthma

The Cost of Asthma: Are You Financially Burdened?