Quitting smoking is one of the toughest habits to break, but what many smokers don’t realize is that proper nutrition can be a very important piece of the puzzle in achieving success. Renowned nutritionist Ashley Koff, R.D., says that addressing the physiological changes that occur in the body when nicotine is removed is important.
If you eat fast food, for example, you may feel lethargic and experience digestive problems, which means it will be harder to fight those cigarette cravings typically associated with making you feel better. By eating a salad made of kale and wild salmon, you’ll fill your body with the essential nutrients it needs, like healthy fats, protein and antioxidants, leaving you feeling less depleted and better able to fight cravings.
Research has found that smokers who ate lots of fruits and vegetables were less likely to smoke because they experienced greater satiety, as hunger is often confused with cravings to smoke. A 2007 study revealed that eating fruits and veggies also makes cigarettes taste worse, while red meat and alcohol make them taste great.
Koff says that smokers often smoke after a meal to settle their stomach, but if a healthy, balanced meal is eaten, it may decrease the need to have a cigarette. By consuming calming herbal teas, and foods that are rich in magnesium, like dark, leafy greens, as well as nuts and seeds, avocados and bananas, it can also help ease the stress and anxiety typically felt when quitting, thus increasing the chances of success.
When those cravings hit, try reaching for a healthy snack such as an organic apple, carrots, celery or nuts, since crunch foods tend to be more satisfying and provide some exercise for the jaw muscles, which can help fight the craving to smoke.
A study presented in April 2012 at the World Congress of Cardiology found that omega-3 fatty acids were linked to decreasing some of the negative effects of smoking, improving arterial stiffness and decreasing acute smoking-induced vascular damage. Adding foods that are a rich source of omega-3s, like wild-caught salmon and flax seeds, to your diet will contribute to better health while you’re trying to quit, as well as after you’ve had your last cigarette.
It’s best to limit or eliminate alcohol from your diet when kicking the habit as it can significantly increase cravings, and also avoid all highly processed foods, sugary snacks and fast foods. Don’t forget to drink plenty of liquids—but avoid both regular and diet soda. Drinking water or herbal teas without added sugar is your best bet.
Smoking is one of the most detrimental things you can do to your body—it decreases not only lifespan but the quality of life, aging one much quicker on the outside as well as the inside. A healthy diet is on the opposite end of the aging spectrum. By quitting and eating nutritious foods, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier, happier life!
-The Alternative Daily