January is a great time to start that healthy eating regime. The good news for hayfever sufferers is that a healthy diet can help with hayfever.
Eating healthily helps to keep your body’s defences strong. Some foods ease blocked nasal passages, helping you to breathe more easily. Other foods have nutrients that can help boost your immune system and help your body fight sinus and respiratory infections, which can be linked to allergies and hayfever.
Obviously, if you are allergic to any of the foods in this post- avoid them!
Mediterranean diet recommended for Allergy Sufferers
A Mediterranean diet is recommended as it is high in antioxidants which are immune-boosting.
A study* published in the journal Thorax found that Crete islanders who ate a Mediterranean diet had fewer allergy-related symptoms. They noted that diet staples such as nuts, grapes, oranges, apples and fresh tomatoes were protective against wheezing and nasal allergy symptoms.
The researchers also reported that eating margarine increased the risk of nasal allergy symptoms and wheezing. This is believed to be related to the fact that margarine is made with unhealthy fat that boosts inflammation.
Top allergy fighting foods
How do the anti-inflammatory properties of some typical foods on the Mediterranean diet protect against allergies?
Nuts are a great source of magnesium and vitamin E. As an antioxidant, vitamin E protects the body from damaging free radicals. Free radicals can cause oxidative tissue damage, which triggers inflammation that contributes to problems like allergies and asthma. (Of course, avoid nuts if you’re allergic to them).
Studies show that magnesium helps increase lung function and may also protect against wheezing in patients with asthma. Vitamin E is also an immune booster and may help to reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections, especially the common cold.
Apples, oranges and tomatoes are super sources of another antioxidant, vitamin C. Researchers found that they gave protection against allergies and asthma in the Crete diet study.
Grapes – the skins of red grapes in particular are filled with antioxidants and resveratrol, which reduces inflammation in the body. The study found that grapes gave protection against both nasal allergy symptoms and wheezing.
Don’t forget that allergies are linked: almost half of asthma sufferers also have other allergies – like hay fever. So anything that helps with both asthma and hay fever is likely to have a positive effect on your allergies.
Omega-3 from fish
According to professor of paediatrics, Dr William Sears, decreasing inflammation helps with allergies. Dr Sears has found that children and adults with allergies and asthma are often full of excessive inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish are thought to help decrease inflammation in the body.
Wild salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, sardines and tuna are good sources of marine omega-3 fatty acids.
Honey, Zinc & ‘decongestant foods’.
According to a medical professional, drinking hot tea with lemon and honey first thing in the morning activates movement of the nasal cilia, which helps prevent early morning sneezing associated with hay fever and other airborne allergies.
Zinc has an antibacterial and antiviral effect in the body and fosters immunity. Oysters, lean beef, shrimp, crab, legumes, whole grains and tofu are high in zinc.
Natural decongestant effects may be found from spicy foods, garlic and horseradish. Use with caution though, as they may also irritate the throat, resulting in excess mucous and cough.
Try these allergy-busting, immune boosting recipes!
Lovely, fresh, healthy immune boosting sweet Mediterranean salad
Feta cheese; fresh buffalo, cherry, plum or vine tomato; cucumber; black olives; pecan nuts; red grapes (yum!) Add some orange for a citrus kick!
Winter warmer healthy gorgeous spicy parsnip soup!
- small knob of butter
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- small piece fresh root ginger, peeled and sliced
- 6 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp cumin seed
- 1 tsp coriander seed
- 2 cardamom pods
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 1.2l vegetable stock
- 150ml pot double cream
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
- coriander leaves
- Heat the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes to soften. Throw in the garlic and ginger, cook for 1 minute more, then add the parsnips and spices. Cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Pour over the stock and gently simmer for 30 minutes. Add most of the cream, bring to the boil, then turn off the heat.
- Blitz the soup until completely smooth in a blender or with a stick blender. The soup can now be chilled, then frozen for up to 3 months. Serve in bowls, drizzled with remaining cream and the olive oil, scattered with cumin seeds, sliced chilli and coriander leaves.
Recipe from Good Food magazine, November 2009
So why not take advantage of the new year to start some healthy eating geared especially towards hay fever? As a bonus it may also help with your asthma, if you’re unlucky enough to suffer from both!
Read our summary top tips for a quick refresh of the medical advice on diet and hayfever:
Top tips, in summary:
- Eat fresh
- Nuts, red grapes, tomatoes, apples and oranges are all great for their antioxidant and other beneficial properties.
- Spices, garlic and horseradish may help to clear your nasal passages.
- Honey in tea is good for soothing your throat and can help clear your nose and stop sneezing
- Zinc is antibacterial and antiviral. It can be found in lean beef, shrimp, crab, oysters, green veg, whole grains and tofu.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids can help with allergies by decreasing inflammation in the body. Omega 3 is found in cold water fish such as wild salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, sardines and tuna.
*Attribution – Crete Diet Study:
Protective effect of fruits, vegetables and the Mediterranean diet on asthma and allergies among children in Crete.
Leda Chatzi, Gianna Apostolaki, Ioannis Bibakis, Isabel Skypala, Vasilki Bibaki-Liakou, Nikolaos Tzanakis,
Manolis Kogevinas, Paul Cullinan.
Thorax 2007;62:8 677-683 Published Online First: 5 April 2007 doi:10.1136/thx.2006.069419
More information about this study can be found online at bmj.com. Or follow this direct link to the study: http://thorax.bmj.com/search?fulltext=Crete+Allergy&submit=yes&x=12&y=3