Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States, which is about 1 in 5 deaths. Even though most of us are well aware of the ill effects of smoking such as increased risk for lung cancer, stroke, and heart disease, 17.8% of all adults (42.1 million people) in the US actively smoked in 2013.
More than two-thirds of smokers say they want to quit, but only few actually succeed as nicotine addiction is considered the hardest to kick. Surveys have shown that 90% people who try to quit smoking do it without outside support — no aids, therapy, or medicine although the success rate is very low. Additionally, behavioral therapy, nicotine patch, medicine or the combination of different techniques have shown to be beneficial when it comes to ending the relationship with cigarette.
The chemical substances in cigarette (over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins) can damage your organs and increase your body’s level of free radicals, compounds that harm DNA and cellular tissue. There aren’t any foods that can prevent or undo the effects of smoking, but research indicates that some foods are better than others for smokers.
Load up on Vitamin C
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), a water-soluble vitamin is essential for the normal functioning of our body. It is an antioxidant which helps in the process of oxidative stress and preventing damage in our body. When comparing smokers with non-smokers, evidence consistently indicates that current smokers have lower blood levels of vitamin C. Additionally, studies have shown decreasing vitamin C levels as the number of cigarettes smoked per day increases. One of the reasons smokers can be expected to have lower blood levels of antioxidant micro-nutrients is based on the simple observation that smokers tend to eat less healthy diets than non-smokers. The consumption of especially fruits and vegetables, the major sources of vitamin C is less frequent than non-smokers. The Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board in the USA suggests an additional intake of 35mg/day above the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for gender and age for individuals who choose to smoke. The recommended daily amount of vitamin C for most adults is 75 mg (women) and 90 mg (men). Good sources of vitamin C includes citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and tomatoes.
Drink More Tea!
A study published in the journal Cancer in 2008 reported that smokers who regularly drink green tea or black tea are less likely to develop lung cancer than smokers who don’t. It is believed that tea’s high concentration of catechin (an antioxidant known as a flavonoid) helps inhibit the activity of free radicals. While drinking tea won’t protect against lung cancer but it might help prevent oxidative stress in the body. Some other sources of catechin include black grapes, blackberries and dark chocolate.
Make Sure Your’e Getting Enough Vitamin E
Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin is found mainly in wheat germ, wheat germ oils, nuts, vegetable oils like olive or canola oil, sunflower seeds, eggs and leafy greens. It acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Some studies have suggested that former smokers could lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by 19 percent than active smokers by taking a specific form of vitamin E -gamma-tocopherol which is not as common as alpha-tocopherol. Gamma-tocopherol is found in soybean and canola oils, as well as in pistachios, cashews and peanuts. There are very limited studies with vitamin E and smoking at this time, but in general, vitamin E is a key for strong immunity and healthy skin and eyes as well.
Eat More “cruciferous” Vegetables
Vegetables such as kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, cauliflower, cabbage, watercress, arugula, radishes and bok choy. Cruciferous vegetables are the only natural dietary source of isothiocyanates, a compound that have been shown to reduce the risk of lung cancer among smokers. These vegetables also rich in a variety of other antioxidants that can benefit smokers, including vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids.
Vitamin D is Also Very Important
Smoking is also linked to lower vitamin D levels and impaired calcium absorption, particularly from supplements. Reduced calcium absorption has significant implications for postmenopausal women. Additionally, smoking also is shown to lower circulating levels of folate, the active form of vitamin B6 (pyridoxal phosphate), and riboflavin. However, the study found that these serum levels “increased significantly after a few days of smoking cessation.”
No diet can fully cover the harm of smoking. However, by getting popular nutrition you can ensure your body is getting the right vitamins and minerals it requires to stay just a little bit healthier. By no means does this mean we encourage smoking, on the contrary, we believe everyone should make the effort to quit and rid themselves of this harmful behavior.