Has this been a particularly rough allergy season, or is it just us? Sneezing, coughing, itching all around. But there’s good news on the nutrition front: It’s possible that increasing folate intake (from sources like those listed below) could help alleviate allergy suffering. Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine compared blood levels of folate with antibodies that induce allergies among 8,083 study subjects. They found that those with the highest folate levels were up to 40% less likely to be plagued with the allergic antibodies or to suffer allergic skin rashes.

An even more recent study from Danish scientists confirmed that people with a genetically impaired ability to metabolize folate were 37% more likely to suffer from asthma and 43% more likely to experience shortness of breath — so clearly, insufficient folate, whether from low dietary intake or from genetic dysfunction, predisposes people to more trouble breathing. The takeaway for most folks is to load up on healthy folate sources like the ones listed below:

Top Sources
 Quantity  Daily Value
 Lentils  1 cup  90%
 Spinach, cooked  1 cup  66%
 Black, Navy and Pinto Beans  1 cup  64-74%
 Collard Greens  1 cup  44%
 Artichokes  1 cup  38%
 Beets  1 cup  34%
 Brussels Sprouts  1 cup  24%

In addition to soothing allergies, increasing folate from food sources yields a bounty of other health benefits such as protecting against age-related hearing loss,reducing the risk of certain birth defects, guarding against depression and boosting bone strength.

Bonus: Eating fish rich in omega-3 — like salmon, sardines and black cod — may protect against overproduction of certain antibodies that trigger allergies.

Published June 1, 2010