7 Foods That Outsmart Seasonal Allergies
It’s hard to be enthusiastic about spring when you suffer from the itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion and runny nose associated with allergies like allergic rhinitis. As this allergy season approaches, arm yourself with foods that reduce inflammation, support immune function and ease allergies.
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Onions are rich in quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant that acts as a natural antihistamine. Quercetin works by blocking the production and release of histamines, compounds involved in the body’s allergic response, and inhibiting other allergic and inflammatory compounds. Other good sources of quercetin are apples, wine, green tea, grapefruit, parsley and berries. Try This: Halve yellow onions, toss with olive oil, roast until golden and drizzle with balsamic vinegar; thinly slice red onions, cover with a sweet vinegar brine, and refrigerate overnight for quick pickles; sauté onions in butter, add beef or vegetable broth, sherry and thyme, cook until onions are soft, and top with cheese if desired.
Pineapple is the best source of bromelain, an enzyme that has anti-inflammatory effects and can reduce nasal swelling, making it easier to breathe. Studies also show it inhibits the development of allergic airway diseases and asthma. Try This: Grill thick slices of pineapple until lightly browned and serve with coconut ice cream; combined chopped pineapple, diced red peppers, minced jalapeños, cilantro and lime juice for a tropical salsa; toss pineapple cubes with shredded cabbage, chopped mint, sliced red onions and a light mayo dressing for a fruity slaw.
Kefir, a fermented milk product, contains probiotics, which may help to treat seasonal allergies and enhance immune response. In one study published in The World Journal of Gastroenterology, people who took probiotics had less congestion and runny nose during allergy season and showed reduced inflammation in the nasal passages. Other good sources of probiotics include dairy-free coconut kefir, yogurt, tempeh, miso and sauerkraut. Try This: Combine kefir, garlic, dill, chives and a splash of vinegar for a healthy ranch dressing; purée cooked sweet potatoes and onions with curry paste and kefir for an easy soup; stir raspberry preserves into vanilla kefir and freeze for ice cream.
Local honey may reduce allergies if taken at the very start of the allergy season. The idea is that eating honey inoculates the body against local pollen that causes seasonal allergies. One Finnish study found people with birch pollen allergies had 60% fewer overall symptoms and 70% fewer days with severe symptoms after eating honey with birch pollen. It may also be that honey soothes allergies via its anti-inflammatory effects. Use local honey, ideally raw and unfiltered, for the best healing power. Try This: Purée kefir, coconut oil, honey and turmeric for a probiotic-enhanced golden milk; stir honey into creamy peanut butter, add oats and form into balls for a simple snack; whisk honey, mustard and olive oil together for a sweet-and-savory salad dressing.
Oranges are rich in vitamin C, which works as a natural antihistamine. Studies show vitamin C depletion is associated with increased histamine levels and that supplementing with vitamin C lowered histamine levels. Oranges are also rich in quercetin, and studies show that combining quercetin and vitamin C enhances their bioavailability and reduces inflammation. Other good sources of vitamin C include bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, papaya and mangos. Try This: Chop seeded oranges and peels in a food processor then simmer with honey until thick for an easy marmalade; arrange orange halves in a baking dish, drizzle with honey and cinnamon and bake until soft; juice oranges and kale for a power-packed breakfast drink.
Turmeric contains curcumin, a compound with anti-inflammatory properties that inhibits the release of histamine, inhibits allergic response and decreases oxidative stress. Curcumin has also been shown to increase nasal airflow and support the immune response in people with allergies. Combining turmeric with fat and black pepper increases the absorption and availability of its active ingredients. Try This: Cook vegetables in coconut milk, turmeric root, curry paste and ground black pepper until tender; stir turmeric, ground black pepper, coconut oil and a pinch of saffron into cooked rice; add a generous amount of turmeric powder and ground black pepper to eggs scrambled with onions and smoked salmon.
Tuna is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have powerful anti-inflammatory effects and can block the production of chemicals that cause allergic reactions. In one study, people with higher levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, had a lower risk of allergies. Additionally, a higher dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in walnuts, flax and chia, was associated with a decreased risk of allergic rhinitis. Try This: Mix canned tuna, walnuts, olives, minced onions and spinach with kefir ranch dressing; toss cooked pasta with crumbled tuna, garlic, baby arugula and olive oil; top toast with avocado, red onion and thinly sliced seared tuna.