7 Foods People with Asthma Should Avoid

Eating foods rich in magnesium and other nutrients can help keep asthma patients healthy.
7 Foods People with Asthma Should Avoid
José Gerardo Rosciano Paganelli

Reviewed and approved by the doctor José Gerardo Rosciano Paganelli.

Last update: 26 May, 2022

People with asthma should avoid several foods in order not to affect their health or decrease their well-being. To help these patients out, we analyze them below.

Note that the list of foods we’ll discuss is just a guideline. Thus, you should always follow your doctor’s advice and instructions.

People with asthma should follow general and specific guidelines. In this regard, keep in mind that, depending on various factors, the indications may vary from one case to another, as not all patients have the same needs.

Foods people with asthma should avoid

Food isn’t the only way to control asthma although, diet clearly plays a key role in the daily life of asthma patients. In this regard, experts have observed that limiting the intake of certain foods and following a healthy diet can preserve your well-being.

Take note of the foods that people with asthma should avoid in general.

Saturated fats aren’t good for people with asthma

Fried foods are not good for people with asthma

Saturated fats are at the top of the list people with asthma should avoid as these worsen the symptoms of asthma, according to Mayo Clinic . This is because the immune system responds negatively when you consume them.

Saturated fats are also part of ultra-processed foods, pastries, red meat, and fried foods, as well as many industrial products.

Opt for other types of fats instead. Experts recommend omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the foods rich on this fat are oily fish, flax seed, and walnuts. Lean protein sources are also a good choice for people with asthma. Skim milk, chicken breast, and legumes among them.

When you go shopping, check the labels to find foods that contain little or no saturated fats. Likewise, steam, bake, or grill your foods instead of frying them.

Whole dairy products

Whole milk are high in fats. You should moderate your consumption to avoid worsening your asthma symptoms.

Just choose your dairy products intelligently. Instead of getting whole milk, pick up nonfat products and try substitutes once in a while. Have you tried almond milk or potato cheese, by any chance?

People often eat a lot of dairy products without realizing it, since it’s in all kinds of recipes and daily foods: creamy soups, stuffed pasta dishes, ice cream, lattes, smoothies, butter, etc.

As if that weren’t enough, the consistency and texture of milk products increase mucus production, and therefore increase congestion. This makes it hard to breathe freely during an asthma attack.

Red meat

We again come back to talking about saturated fats, because red meats are rich in them. While there are exceptions, like lamb, which is relatively lean, asthma is worsened by the saturated fats in beef and pork.

According to a study from the Nutrition journal, people who eat a lot of red meat are also more likely to develop asthma. Therefore, you should minimize its consumption (once a week, for example) and choose healthier options like chicken, turkey, or fish.

Citrus fruits and tomatoes

People with asthma should avoid citrus fruits and tomatoes. Both contain a lot of nutrients and fiber, which benefit your health, but they also have some components that can worsen asthma symptoms.

You don’t have to stop eating them overnight, but at least make an effort to lower your consumption. However, to know exactly what you must do, you should consult a doctor.

Salty foods

Excess sodium triggers kidney problems, obesity, and leg swelling. It can also have a negative impact on people with asthma, since sodium intake increases your immune response and can set off your symptoms.

According to Mickleborough and Fogarty, adoption of a low-sodium diet for a period of two to five weeks can improve lung function and decrease bronchial reactivity in patients with asthma.

Use little salt on your meals and avoid processed foods, like canned or instant soup, french fries, and junk food in general. Try to keep the salt shaker away from the table and always read the labels of the products you buy at as many contain “hidden sodium” (even sweets contain salt).

Trans fats are bad for people with asthma

They’re formed by a process where hydrogen is incorporated into vegetable oil. They’re very harmful and increase your risk of cardiac diseases and diabetes, while possibly aggravating asthma symptoms.

Avoid all foods with trans fat, including margarine, fried foods from restaurants, and partially hydrogenated oils. These fats are also present in cookies and commercial baked goods, cakes, and cake mixes.

Instead, choose foods with “good fats” like (organic) olive or canola oil, flax seed, and nuts like almonds or walnuts. This may not only help reduce the severity of your asthma symptoms, but also protect you from many other illnesses.

This article may interest you Prevent Obesity with These Types of Food

Foods with sulfites

Some people experience asthma symptoms when eating sulfite containing products (a type of preservative used in foods) in large amounts. Thus, it’s best to skip or consume in moderation the following:

  • Dried fruits and vegetables
  • Packaged potatoes
  • Wine and beer
  • Bottled lime juice and lemon juice
  • Fresh and frozen shrimp
  • Pickled foods

Magnesium can help people with asthma

Magnesium containing foods.

We shouldn’t forget to mention magnesium-rich foods when we’re talking about good diet for people with asthma. This mineral can relax your muscles and promote respiratory health. Magnesium is also an anti-inflammatory and bronchodilatory.

You can find it in several foods, such as oats, wheat germ, evening primrose oil, dried fruits (pistachios, walnuts), seeds, legumes, and, of course, in various fruits and vegetables.

Do you still have any doubts? Consult your doctor

Eating a wholesome diet is an excellent way to provide your body with everything it needs to be well. Thus, you should follow a diet according to your individual needs and avoid anything that might affect your well-being.

Always consult your doctor if you have any questions or doubts about how to adopt a balanced diet according to your needs and be sure to follow their recommendations. You can complement the visit by also consulting a nutritionist.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Wang, J., & Liu, A. H. (2011). Food allergies and asthma. Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology. https://doi.org/10.1097/ACI.0b013e3283464c8e
  • Varraso, R. (2012). Nutrition and asthma. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11882-012-0253-8
  • Rosenkranz R. R, Rosenkranz S. K, Neessen K. Dietary factors associated with  lifetime asthma or hayfever diagnosis in Australian middle-aged and older adults: a cross-sectional study. Nutritional Journal. 2012. 11 (84).
  • Remig, V., Franklin, B., Margolis, S., Kostas, G., Nece, T., & Street, J. C. (2010). Trans Fats in America: A Review of Their Use, Consumption, Health Implications, and Regulation. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2009.12.024
  • Patel B. D, Welch A. A, et al. Dietary antioxidants and asthma in adults. Thorax. Mayo 2006. 61 (5): 388-393.
  • Mickleborough T. D, Fogarty A. Dietary sodium intake and asthma: an epidemiological and clinical review. International Journal of Clinical Practice. Diciembre 2006. 60 (12): 1616-24.
  • Mayo Clinic. Asthma diet: does what you eat make a difference? Junio 2022.
  • Landon R. A, Young E. A. Role of magnesium in regulation of lung function. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Junio 1993. 93 (6): 674-7.
  • Centros para el Control y Prevención de Enfermedades. Asma. Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de Estados Unidos. Septiembre 2019.
  • Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Foods can affect asthma. Agosto 2018.
  • American Lung Association (ALA). Asthma and Nutrition. Julio 2018.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.