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Healthy foods to help with springtime allergies

Posted 3/7/2016 by UHBlog

Healthy foods to help with springtime allergies

Leigh Kerns

Leigh Ann Kerns, MD
Pediatric Allergy and Immunology Specialist, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

If your child deals with hay fever each spring, you are probably familiar with the typical symptoms that pop up when plants are in bloom – sneezing, runny nose and scratchy throat. These symptoms occur when an allergen (such as pollen) enters the body and the immune system produces inflammatory substances, including histamine. Luckily, studies show that incorporating the following foods into your family’s diet may help to ease pesky springtime allergy symptoms:

The food: Apples. Apples contain kellin, a compound that works to keep airways open. Kellin is also part of a powerful group of nutrients called flavonoids. “These antioxidants prevent the body from releasing histamines that cause irritating allergy symptoms,” says Leigh Ann Kerns, MD, a pediatric allergy and immunology specialist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

How to add more to your family’s diet: Try tossing raisins or cranberries into applesauce. Or slice up apples to dip in peanut butter. Is your child not a fan of apples? Not to worry: All fresh fruits and veggies can contribute to allergy relief. In one study, adults and kids who ate the most produce were least likely to wheeze.

The food: Broccoli. Broccoli contains an anti-inflammatory compound called sulforaphane. In a recent study, a sulforaphane-rich broccoli extract reduced allergic reactions to harmful air particles. The dose delivered to participants was about the same as you would consume in two cups of broccoli.

How to add more to your family’s diet: This versatile veggie is a great addition to any stir-fry, soup or pasta dish. Or steam it for a nutritious dinner side dish.

Healthy foods to help with springtime allergies

The food: Fish, nuts and olive oil. These three foods are staples to the Mediterranean diet, which also includes fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans. When pregnant women followed this diet, their little ones were found to have fewer allergy and asthma symptoms years later. “Experts suspect the vitamin C, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids this diet contains fight inflammation and cell damage in the lungs,” explains Dr. Kerns.

How to add more to your family’s diet: For fish, simply bake at a high heat and add herbs, spices and a drizzle of lemon juice. Add nuts to salads and stir-fries, stir them into yogurt or add nut butter to smoothies. Use olive oil for grilling, roasting or sautéing, or drizzle it over toasted bread and pasta dishes.

The food: Yogurt. “Yogurt contains probiotics – healthy bacteria – which can alter the way the immune system responds to allergens,” says Dr. Kerns. “Studies show probiotics may also help to reduce allergy symptoms.”

How to add more to your family’s diet: Use low-fat yogurt to top baked potatoes and fruit salad, or in some recipes, substitute plain yogurt for sour cream. Besides yogurt, aged cheese and kefir also contain live cultures. So do nondairy foods such as miso, sauerkraut and kimchi.

Got spring allergy questions? Submit your question at to get an answer from one of our experts.

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