For most people, coping with nicotine withdrawal is one of the most challenging aspects associated with quitting smoking. Nicotine is the primary addictive substance in cigarettes and other tobacco products, and between 80-90% of individuals who smoke regularly are addicted to it.
Eating habits can be one of the first things to change when a person quits smoking, in large part due to the hand-to-mouth cravings being substituted for something else. Here are a few important things to keep in mind in regards to quitting smoking and eating, as well as a couple of recommended foods that may help make this challenging but rewarding process a little easier!
- Nicotine acts as an appetite suppressant, so without it, former smokers may experience a temptation to overeat or binge eat. Eating several small meals over the course of the day in exchange for a more traditional breakfast-lunch-dinner model may help, along with working to stimulate the metabolism and promote weight loss.
- Studies have shown that as nicotine levels rise in the blood so does the amount of blood glucose, making your blood sugar levels rise and fall. Foods that slowly release sugar into the blood stream (think pears, whole wheat crackers, natural yogurts, multi-grain bread) can help regulate this effect.
- Smoking is known to deplete stores of vitamin C, which is important for safeguarding your lungs and nervous system. Re-up with citrus fruits like oranges, kiwi, and grapefruit to replenish your levels of vitamin C, as well as protect against illness and infection.
- Drinking lots and lots of water will allow your body to begin to flush toxins out of your system, as well as help balance out your appetite and help you eat less.
- There is some evidence to indicate that foods which release serotonin might help with warding off the depression many people experience when quitting smoking. One familiar choice is chocolate, while other lesser known serotonin food sources are poultry, fish, nuts, and beans.
- Exercise is a well-documented solution for helping to address nicotine cravings, and whole grain carbohydrates like pasta and rice can help provide additional energy stores to maximize the impact of your workout.
Some great options for helping moderate the impact of nicotine withdrawals includes:
- Fresh fruits like apple slices, oranges, pomegranates, and grapes
- Fresh vegetables like carrot sticks, celery, cucumber, and eggplant leave a bitter aftertaste when had before smoking, and may also decrease the intensity of nicotine dependence.
- Milk – recent studies show that smokers who drink a glass of milk before smoking didn’t like the taste of cigarettes
- Sugarless gum can help keep your mouth busy when you feel a craving coming on
- Mixed nuts like walnuts, almonds, cashews, or pistachios provide energy, protein, and nutrients and can be eaten slowly over the course of a day as part of a small meal structure.