Asthmatics Breathe Easier with Antioxidants

By Michael A. Smith, MD

According to the American Lung Association, over 20 million people suffer from asthma1 — with wheezing and shortness of breath ranging from mild to severe.

The disease manifests very differently from person to person. For instance, some people suffer from asthmatic episodes only during exercise while others are easily triggered by indoor or outdoor allergens.

Here’s an interesting fact: Death and hospitalizations due to asthma now appear to be increasing, following a decreasing trend since 1999.

In 2007, there were 3,447 deaths attributed to asthma — an age-adjusted rate of 1.1 per 100,000. Approximately 63% of these deaths occurred in women.2

Some believe this increase in asthma is due to environmental pollutants while others argue it’s linked to artificial ingredients increasingly found in our food. No one knows for sure, however.

If you have asthma, we suggest avoiding both pollutants and artificial ingredients as much as possible. You might consider moving out of a major city, for instance, and stay indoors as much as possible during the heat of the day.

Buying organic food as much as your budget allows is also a good idea. And staying away from processed and canned foods is a must.

When it comes to buying organic, the latest research shows that antioxidant-rich foods, like deep dark fruits and vegetables, are your best bet for improving your lung function. Let’s take a look at the new findings.

Antioxidants Improve Lung Function for Asthmatics

Consumption of an antioxidant-rich diet led to improvements in lung capacity and duration between and severity of asthma attacks.

The University of Newcastle researchers conducted the study and concluded that the typical Western diet, low in antioxidants, like carotenoids, probably is a contributing factor to worsening lung function and asthma control in the United States.

The researchers recruited 137 adults with asthma and randomly assigned them to either a high or low antioxidant diet for 14 days. After 14 days, the high antioxidant group was switched to a placebo diet while the low group was given a lycopene-rich tomato paste.3

The results were pretty clear: The low antioxidant group had worsening lung function and a shorter duration between asthma episodes than the group given the high antioxidant diet. The researchers calculated that the low group was two times more likely to suffer episodes.3

Interestingly, when the low group was switched to the tomato paste, no improvements were seen. This led the authors to conclude that “antioxidants in their natural matrix [whole-food] are most likely to provide beneficial and safe treatment of asthma.”

So, bottom line is to eat organic, deep-colored fruits and vegetables. How many servings? Well, we suggest five servings of each per day. That’s one serving of each every time you eat.

Recipe: Magic Fruit and Veggie Cupcakes

The original recipe is from the Food Network website4. However, we made some simple changes to decrease the sugar and increase the fiber.


  • Cooking spray (optional)
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup packed fruit crystals or honey crystals
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 3/4 cup grated or finely chopped vegetables (carrots, zucchini and/or spinach)
  • 3/4 cup grated or finely chopped fresh fruit (apples, pears, pineapple and/or raisins)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 24-cup mini muffin pan with paper liners or mist with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the flours, wheat germ, bran flakes, flax seeds, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Beat the egg and fruit/honey crystals in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the olive oil, vanilla, milk, vegetables, and fruit and mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and stir just until blended.
  3. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cup about three-quarters of the way. Sprinkle the tops with fruit/honey crystals, if desired. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.
Remember, if you have asthma, try to eat one vegetable and one fruit with every meal. And be creative. That’s why we like the “magic cupcakes.” Give them a try and let us know what you think!


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey Raw Data, 2009. Analysis by the American Lung Association Research and Program Services Division using SPSS and SUDAAN software.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. Final Vital Statistics Report. Deaths: Final Data for 2007. May 2010. Vol 58 No 19.
  3. Am J Clin Nutr. September 2012;96:534-543.


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