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What is the Best Nutrition for Smokers? Eating Healthier Before Kicking the Habit

Updated on August 8, 2011


Hey you can stop giggling now and, yes, you read the title correctly. This article is about nutrition for smokers until they are able to quit. That's because, despite all warnings, including the new graphic anti-smoking images slated for cigarette packages, there are plenty of people who contemplate quitting and try to quit often and yet somehow fall short of doing so. Plus, smokers may not think it's worth any effort to eat better with such a habit as smoking on board. This is a not a prescription to give up efforts to quit, but an encouragement to eat healthier until you do. As almost anybody knows, the best way to definitely cut the risks of diseases associated with smoking is simply to quit since smoking definitely increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Did you know, however, that by eating certain foods, smokers can diminish their chances somewhat of the same major smoke-related diseases. Are you thinking blah, blah, blah, heard it all before. If so, you can stop now because this is not a lecture on getting you to quit. It's really just some easy tips for healthier eating, even if you smoke, until you can, will, or even want to quit.

Do You Need a Better Attitude About Nutrition?

Unfortunately, experts say there seems to be a connection between smoking and not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Could it be that smokers have the attitude of "What's the point of good nutrition, when I smoke?" Well there are at least two good reasons not to feel that way:

1) Getting fruits and vegetable on your plate can slightly slash the risk of lung cancer and other smoke-related diseases. It also seems to be an easier place to start in the scheme of better health for some.

2) These very same foods are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients, which can fight to help prevent smoke-related diseases or help treat those that develop. See related hub for more particulars on that subject.

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Why Not Do What You Can in the Meantime?

In other words, why not do what you can to help yourself until you either decide to quit, want to quit, can quit, or actually do quit smoking? Even if you just won't quit smoking, the following foods will offer some protection:

1) Tomatoes, which are said to offer more cancer protection than any other fruit or vegetable. This is because of the powerful antioxidant lycopene they contain.

2) Grapes, cherries, and strawberries, all of which contain ellagic acid. This is a phytochemical thought to destroy hydrocarbons found in cigarette smoke.

3) Tofu, a soy food thought to fight lung cancer. This may in part account for the lower instances of cancer in Japan.

4) Citrus fruits like oranges, limes, lemons, and pineapples. They are loaded with vitamin C, which is destroyed by cigarette smoking. In fact, Earl Mindell, R.Ph, PhD , author of the Vitamin Bible and Earl Mindell's Food as Medicine, says smokers should "eat a fruit or vegetable high in vitamin C for every cigarette you smoke." Let's see that's cigarette, carrot, cigarette, orange, and then cigarette, broccoli. I have to admit that even sounds strange. It seems that the stark contrast between healthy vs. unhealthy could help change that mindset I suppose. Admittedly, that was not stated as Mindell's purpose for that suggestion. He just felt it would be good to replenish the vitamin C lost to cigarette smoke.

5) Vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower have been touted as ones that can slow the growth of cancers.

Any Benefits for Those Exposed to Second-Hand Smoke?

Yes. Even people exposed to second-hand smoke can eat the same foods to gain benefit. The antioxidants in foods like those listed above are thought to be most helpful in trying to protect the airways from the chemicals in cigarette smoke and the negative effects on health. It seems that researchers agree on the benefits of certain fruits and vegetables being not only helpful in fighting lung cancer but almost all forms of cancers.

Until You Kick the Habit...

As a smoker, it's not necessarily futile to be proactive about your health and nutrition. Of course, the very best thing would be to quit smoking altogether. In the meantime, choosing to eat more fruits and vegetables like the ones noted here can offer some benefit. Again, this article does not advocate smoking in any way but actually indicates that even smokers can choose to eat healthier and benefit somewhat from doing so until they can or will quit.

In Summary from Experts

Finally, according to Dr. Susan Taylor Mayne of Yale Cancer Center, "Eating fruits and vegetables is associated with decreased risk," especially ones like carrots, cantaloupes, and broccoli, which have beta carotene, in addition to apricots, pumpkins, and squash. The benefits of vitamin E found in wheat germ oil and wheat germ is to maintain cell walls and to neutralize free radicals, states Dr. James Scala, author of If You Can't/Won't Stop Smoking. Also selenium present particularly in onions and garlic, and many other fruits and vegetables, is good for the same reason.


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