A protective role for dietary antioxidants in asthma has been proposed. However, epidemiological evidence to implicate antioxidant vitamins is weak, and data on the role of flavonoid-rich foods and antioxidant trace elements are lacking. We carried out a population-based case-control study in South London, UK, to investigate whether asthma is less common and less severe in adults who consume more dietary antioxidants. Participants were aged 16-50 yr and registered with 40 general practices. Asthma was defined by positive responses to a standard screening questionnaire in 1996, and complete information about usual diet was obtained by food frequency questionnaire from 607 cases and 864 controls in 1997. After controlling for potential confounding factors and total energy intake, apple consumption was negatively associated with asthma (odds ratio [OR] per increase in frequency group 0.89 [95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.82 to 0.97]; p = 0.006). Intake of selenium was also negatively associated with asthma (OR per quintile increase 0.84 [0.75 to 0.94]; p = 0.002). Red wine intake was negatively associated with asthma severity. The associations between apple and red wine consumption and asthma may indicate a protective effect of flavonoids. The findings for dietary selenium could have implications for health policy in Britain where intake has been declining.