Reviewed by Flavia Cecilia Lega Hoyte, MD

An important part of a healthy lifestyle is good nutrition. Good nutrition involves choosing healthy foods that can work to heal and repair your body and make it stronger against disease. We will explore eating healthy and give you practical suggestions for nutrition and food for asthma wellness.

General Nutrition Tips

In order to educate Americans about healthy eating, the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have replaced the Food Guide Pyramid. The new symbol, called "MyPlate," helps people think about building a healthy plate at every meal. It emphasizes eating fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy groups as well as staying active through physical activity. Learn more about MyPlate.

Here are some additional tips:

Include a variety of foods in your diet. Each of the food groups provides nutrients that are important to you, and foods in one group can't replace those in another. Try to include each of the food groups in your daily diet.

Choose a variety of foods within each food group and eat small amounts of fats, oils and sweets.

Talk with your doctor or dietitian about your specific nutritional needs. Eating a healthy diet can help you feel and breathe better.

Eating with Poorly Controlled Asthma

Shortness of breath at mealtimes can make eating hard work. If you use all your energy preparing a healthy meal, you may find yourself unable to eat and/or enjoy what you have prepared. Here are a few practical suggestions on how to conserve energy and get the most from your meals.

  • Many people with chronic lung disease such as asthma feel more short of breath when their stomach is full. This is because the diaphragm can not work as well when the stomach is full. You can satisfy your nutritional needs, keep your stomach comfortable and help your diaphragm to work better by eating smaller, more frequent meals. Small, frequent meals also reduce the chance of reflux.

  • Plan to eat before you are too hungry or tired. Refuel before you hit empty.

  • Breathe evenly while you are chewing and eating. Stop eating if you need to catch your breath. Relax at mealtime.

  • Double or triple your favorite recipes to keep your freezer full for times when you do not feel like cooking.

  • Use prepared foods to save time and energy in the kitchen. Frozen meals, prepared foods or take-out meals from a restaurant can make your life easier. Remember, the sugar, salt or fat content of these foods may be higher than homemade. Be sure to ask if you are following a special diet.

  • Do the tasks that require the most effort when you have the most energy. For example, many people would agree that grocery shopping is a tiring task. This chore can be done when you feel freshest, in the morning or after a rest. Better yet, have a friend or family member pick up your groceries for you!

  • Don't stand in the kitchen when you can sit. Bring your chopping, cutting and mixing projects over to the kitchen table and sit while you prepare the food or keep a barstool by the kitchen counter.

Avoid that "too full" feeling is by eating fewer foods that cause gas. The following foods are common offenders. Keep a food diary to find out if they are a problem for you.

  • Asparagus
  • Beans (pinto, kidney, navy, black)
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumbers
  • Melons
  • Garlic
  • Onions (raw)
  • Peas (split, blackeye)
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Rutabagas
  • Sausage
  • Spicy foods
  • Turnips

Steroids and Nutrition 

Some people with chronic lung disease, including asthma, take steroid pills on a regular basis. Steroid pills (such as prednisone or methylprednisolone) are potent medicines that decrease swollen airways. They also have some nutritional side effects to be aware of. Steroid therapy has the potential to interfere with the way the body uses specific nutrients, including calcium, potassium, sodium, protein, and vitamins D and C.
If you take steroid pills for asthma, it is very important to:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet that meets the MyPlate guidelines. A healthy diet that includes foods from each food group can make up for some of the nutritional effects of steroid therapy.
  • Eat foods high in calcium, such as dairy products. Over a long period of time, steroid pills can increase the risk of osteoporosis (loss of calcium in the bones).
  • Limit the use of salt and foods that are high in sodium, and decrease the amount of cholesterol and fats in your diet to prevent other side effects.
  • Take certain supplements, such as calcium and a multivitamin.
  • Talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian about specific concerns regarding steroids and your diet.
  • Learn more about steroids.

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