Diet can be a powerful tool in treating an abundance of conditions. Childhood asthma is no exception. Many parents may be oblivious to the fact that the foods your child eats, from crackers to juice to yogurt, may be exacerbating his or her asthma symptoms. A few simple tips, in addition to an overall healthy diet and lifestyle, can help control your child’s asthma.
1. Eat Vegetables Every Day
Vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals that can help support healthy lung function. Broccoli, spinach, and squash are among the most nutrient-dense veggies because they are packed with vitamins and minerals like Vitamins C and E and bioflavonoids.
One study has shown that lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, can help reduce lung inflammation. Garlic and onions are high in antioxidants, which have also been shown to help improve lung function by reducing the amount of free radicals in the body.
If your child is a picky eater, try hiding veggies in some of their favorite foods. For example, add a handful of chopped spinach to a quesadilla, or chop up some broccoli and carrots to mix in with their mac and cheese. Aim for three servings of vegetables per day.
2. Feed on Fruit Often
Just like vegetables, fruits have the vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy lung function. Kiwi fruit is especially helpful when it comes to asthma because of its high levels of Vitamin C. Apples, which contain a bioflavonoid called quercetin, can help reduce inflammation. It can be relatively easy to get your child to eat fruit. Try adding a bigger selection of fruit to your child’s diet, opting for fresh and frozen variations as opposed to canned, which are much higher in sugar.
- Fruit smoothies can be a great way for your kids to accomplish the recommended 2 to 3 servings of fruit at once.
3. Make Milk Important
Milk can be very helpful to asthma sufferers. It contains high amounts of calcium and magnesium, which studies have shown can help reduce inflammation and increase airflow to help make breathing easier.
Kids need between 500 mg and 1,300 mg of calcium per day depending on age, and between 80 mg and 240 mg of magnesium per day depending on age. Add low-fat milk, unsweetened and low-fat yogurt, and cheese to your child’s diet to help them get the required amount of calcium and magnesium.
4. Try Fresh Fish
Fish is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, or polyunsaturated fats. A recent study showed that kids who ate an adequate amount of Omega-3s from fish had better airflow and resulted in low dependency of asthma medication as opposed to children who did not consume fish.
- Try serving tuna, halibut, or salmon a couple of nights per week to help your child get more polyunsaturated fats.
Have a kid who absolutely hates fish? Walnuts also have strong amounts of Omega-3s.
5. Eliminate Trans Fats
Trans fats can be dangerous to asthma sufferers. In the process of digesting these fats, the body produces chemicals that can cause inflammation in the lungs. Trans fats are found in butter, most baked goods and sweets, chips or other fried snacks, and nearly all fast foods. Avoid serving your child any processed food, and keep fast food meals to a bare minimum. Less processed food can mean less asthma symptoms.
6. Grab Some Grains
Most kids get their protein from poultry and red meat. However, a study conducted in New Zealand showed that kids who get their protein from whole grains, such as oatmeal, wheat, and quinoa, were less likely to suffer from asthmatic wheezing.
Kids need at least three servings of whole grains daily. Grab some whole grain bread and spread on unsweetened peanut butter for breakfast, or make a whole grain pasta with vegetables for lunch. Quinoa is a powerhouse whole grain and has a great taste that is sure to please any picky eater.
7. Say Goodbye to Sugar
Just like trans fats, sugars can cause inflammation during digestion. Also, too much sugar in anyone’s diet can lead to weight gain, which can result in exacerbated asthma symptoms. Limit eating sweets to once or twice per week. Opt for natural sweets, such as dried or fresh fruit, when a craving for sweets strikes.
8. Curb Your Carbohydrates
Most kids love to munch on carbs. This can be especially detrimental to kids with asthma. The body digests processed carbohydrates as if they were sugars, which means that the airways can become inflamed if too many processed carbs are eaten.
- Limit the amount of crackers, chips, cookies, and other processed carbohydrate snacks.
- Substitute your normal breads, tortillas, and pastas for whole grain versions, which are much easier on the body and the lungs.
9. Sprinkle Some Spices
Different civilizations have used different spices for hundreds of years, and most of these spices were chosen for good reason! Certain spices can have healing effects on the body and even the lungs. Rosmarinic acid, found in spices, can help get rid of free radicals and inflammatory agents in the body. Try adding some spices or seasonings to your next casserole or pasta dish and help your asthmatic child breathe easier. Spices to try:
10. Never Forget to Drink Water
Dehydration can lead to water retention and inflammation, both of which can aggravate asthma symptoms. Getting enough water helps the body run smoother and the lungs work better. Choosing water instead of juice or soda can also help kids avoid too much sugar. Kids need between 5 and 10 glasses per day, depending on age. Be sure to give your asthmatic child water to drink whenever they get thirsty.
Help Your Child Breathe Easier
Eating a healthy diet can be an important part of keeping your child’s asthma under control. Following some simple, common-sense diet guidelines can make a big difference. In addition to eating healthy, be sure to include some physical activity into your daily routine. Work with you child’s asthma doctor to discuss any diet restrictions that might be helpful.
A pediatric pulmonologist, like Dr. Mayank Shukla, can help find the right diet and medication regimen for your child with asthma. Call our office today to schedule your appointment and help your child breathe better.