Spring ushers in blue skies, blooming flowers and trees, birds chirping and bright green grass. But there are also other things that come along with the change in seasons: runny noses, itchy eyes, sneezes galore, stuffy heads, and clogged sinuses that make you feel miserable.
Ah, seasonal allergies. With all the blooming and flowering going on, our immune systems kick into overdrive as the pollen count begins to skyrocket. For many of us, that means we rely on a cocktail of antihistamines, eye drops, and tissues until we can breathe freely again.
But don’t hit the medicine cabinet just yet. Your springtime allergy relief might be as close as your kitchen.
In fact, many fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs are natural allergy fighters. Thanks to the potent antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory properties found in these foods, they help bolster your immune system and reduce the impact of allergies. In fact, food has been used as medicine for many, many years and in traditional cultures before synthetic drugs were available. And when you use food as medicine, you can help your body return to a state of optimal health.
Here are five foods to eat to help ease your seasonal allergies:
Broccoli might resemble the trees that may be the root cause of your seasonal allergies, but the green veggie also contains powerful anti-allergy properties. In fact, researchers from UCLA found that a compound in broccoli increased the presence of the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase, a vital antioxidant that helps detoxify the body and may reduce inflammation. In a separate study, other scientists from UCLA found that the broccoli compound may also blunt the allergy- and asthma-inducing impact of diesel exhaust.
The brightly colored spice, common in South Asian cooking, has been used in Ayurvedic practices for centuries. That’s because its active ingredient, curcumin, is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Plus, it also has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, according to researchers at The University of Texas. In addition, scientists in India found that curcumin could inhibit allergic airway inflammation in mice.
This leafy green vegetable has been in the spotlight over the past few years, and for good reason. Kale is a good source of magnesium, an essential mineral that affects how hundreds of different enzymes act in your body and may protect against inflammation. Researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK found that higher dietary magnesium levels were associated with better lung function and decreased risk of wheezing and airway reactivity.
Kale’s also a good source of vitamin K, which has been shown to decrease inflammation in the body.
4. Green tea
Green tea has been touted for its health and immune-boosting benefits for years. That’s because tea is rich is catechins, a natural compound in the flavonoid family.
Researchers from the University of California, Davis, showed that the active ingredient in green tea enhances the function of regulatory T-cells, which help keep your body’s inflammatory response in check. Other studies have found that green tea lowers blood levels of the IgE antibody, a compound that’s a prime player in the body’s allergic and inflammatory response.
Strawberries are a rich source of fisetin, an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant flavonoid that keeps your immune system functioning properly. Scientists in Korea found that fisetin inhibited histamine release and the expression of pro-inflammatory markers in the body.
Food plays an important role in helping our bodies bolster its natural defenses. And, as these examples highlight, these powerful allergy fighters aren’t exotic foods—they’re everyday items you can find at your local farmers market or grocery store and can easily incorporate into your daily meals.