Diet For Smokers And Ex-Smokers

Diet For Smokers And Ex-Smokers

Diet For Smokers And Ex-Smokers

Can a diet compensate for the health consequences of smoking? What foods should smokers avoid? What kind of diet should you follow after quitting to avoid gaining weight? Linda Smyth, a registered dietitian, and nutritional consultant addresses the challenges and offers realistic dietary suggestions.

As a dietitian, the three most common concerns I get from smokers concerning food and smoking are: 

- Can a diet compensate for the health effects of smoking?

- Should I eat anything if I smoke?

- What kind of diet should I follow if I quit smoking?

1. Can a diet compensate for smoking?

No diet or eating plan, no matter how healthy, will compensate for the 850+ chemicals in cigarette smoke, many of which are carcinogenic. If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, you double your risk of having a heart attack and are five times more likely to have a stroke than if you don't. You are five times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death if you smoke 40 cigarettes a day. In addition, smoking is the major cause of lung cancer.

So, before we even consider an acceptable sort of food for smokers, my overarching advice is to quit smoking right now!

2. What should I eat if I smoke?

Daily food nutrition is essential for everyone who smokes. Damage to the body's circulatory and respiratory functioning necessitates a continual demand for more nutrition. Even if you just smoke 5 cigarettes a day, your nutritional needs are increased owing to your increased risk of hypertension, atherosclerosis, emphysema, and a variety of cancers. A good diet, as previously indicated, will not prevent certain health concerns, but it may delay their onset.

Increased need for antioxidants

Tobacco smoking raises levels of free radicals - cancer-causing chemicals - in the body, necessitating the use of preventive antioxidants that can neutralize them. Vitamin C and vitamin E are the most important antioxidant vitamins (which work best in combination with the mineral selenium). Bioflavonoids and carotenoids (for example, beta-carotene) are antioxidant-rich phytochemicals.

How to boost your antioxidant consumption

Use the following guidelines as a starting point for your diet:

  • Consume 3-5 servings of dark green, dark red, orange, or yellow veggies each day.
  • Consume 3-5 servings of red, yellow, orange, or green fruits each day.
  • Swap out your coffee for a cup of tea, preferably green tea.
  • Take 2 tsp wheatgerm oil (high in vitamin E) and 6 Brazil nuts per day (selenium).
Note: 1 medium fruit (about 1/2 cup diced) = 1 serving

Special need for increased vitamin

One cigarette is thought to deplete the body of 25 milligrams of vitamin C. As a result, all smokers have a far higher requirement for this antioxidant-rich vitamin just to keep their blood levels at a minimum. In practice, supplementation is the only way to meet this demand. I recommend taking 1 gram of vitamin C pills every day as a general rule. Choose a brand with a minimum of 100mg of bioflavonoids that is "timed-release."

Best dietary sources of vitamin

- Fruits, such as blackcurrants, papaya, guava, cantaloupe, elderberries, kiwi fruit, mango, oranges, and strawberries.

- Fruit Juices, such as cranberry, grapefruit, lemon, and orange.

- Vegetables, such as red peppers, green peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and tomatoes.

Protective carotenoids

Plant pigments are known as carotenoids. All carotenoids are antioxidants, with beta-carotene being the most well-known. Green vegetables, such as spinach, as well as orange and yellow plants, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and melons, contain it. Betacarotene appears to diminish some precancerous signs when ingested in meals rather than supplements, according to clinical investigations.

Beta-carotene supplementation, for reasons that are still unknown, actually increases the risk of illness (eg. lung cancer). As a result, food should be your exclusive source of beta-carotene.

How do you get more carotenoids in your diet?

Use the following guidelines as a starting point for your diet:

  • Carrots, sweetcorn, pumpkin, spinach, and sweet potato are examples of deep green, yellow, or red vegetables that should be consumed four times each day.
  • 4 ounces tomatoes, diced or in sauce, once a day
  • Colored fruit, such as melon, oranges, strawberries, mango, and cherries, should be consumed three times each day.

Protective brassicas

According to a study, cigarette smokers who consume more brassicas had a lower risk of cancer (eg. breast, colorectal, lung, pancreatic, prostate, and stomach). Because free radicals cause all of these malignancies, brassicas may also help to prevent other issues caused by free radical damage that is increased by smoking, such as cataracts, emphysema, asthma, and age spots.

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (all varieties), cauliflower, cress, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, swede, turnip, and watercress are examples of brassicas.

Garlic and onions

Garlic contains anti-bacterial and anti-viral capabilities and is a good source of unique antioxidants. It has been shown to have anti-tumor effects. Onions, which belong to the same vegetable family as garlic, have comparable qualities.

More dietary tips for smokers

Reduce your overall fat intake. Simultaneously, reduce your consumption of saturated and trans-fatty acids. Consume omega-3-rich oily fish on a daily basis (eg. salmon, mackerel, sardines).

Consume a variety of nutritious carbs. Choose whole grains such as oats, brown rice, and wholewheat pasta instead of refined white flour carbohydrates. Additionally, select meals that are high in soluble fiber (eg. apples, oat bran).

Fish, lean chicken/turkey, or egg whites are all good sources of low-fat protein. Small amounts of lean red meat, as well as frequent meals of soy foods (such as soybeans) and other vegetable protein, should be included in your diet.

Reduce the amount of salt in your diet on a daily basis. Check food labels for salt content and choose low-sodium or sodium-free options. When cooking or eating, avoid using salt.

Take regular cardio-aerobic exercise

Without frequent physical activity, no cigarette smoker's diet is complete. Gradually raise the intensity and duration of your workouts to roughly 30-45 minutes on most days, working within your physical capabilities. Choose aerobic activities such as brisk walking, running, jumping rope, swimming, and most sports for the best impact on lung capacity and cardiovascular function.

3. Can you prevent weight gain after you quit?

Yes, you are unlikely to gain weight if you exercise regularly and consume a healthy, calorie-controlled diet. However, some weight gain appears to be unavoidable in my experience.

What is the average weight gain?

The majority of smokers gain weight after quitting. According to current research, both men and women who quit smoking gain roughly 6-8 pounds on average. When you stop smoking, more likely you are to gain weight. When you stop smoking, your metabolic rate slows down, and your hunger increases, resulting in weight gain. This weight gain is entirely normal and should only last a few weeks.


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