Foods That May Help Smokers Quit
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.
When you smoke, your body loses many essential vitamins and minerals. The more you smoke, the more nicotine you consume, and the more nutrients your body loses. In- order to replenish your body of the nutrients it lost while smoking, you need to make sure that you eat a healthy, well balanced diet.
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. Making healthy food choices will help keep your weight down, help to reduce stress, and help to minimize nicotine withdrawals. The simple act of munching on crunchy foods can reduce tension by releasing a clenched jaw.
Here are a few important things to keep in mind, 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. Adding Proteins to your daily diet can also help to stabilize blood sugars. Foods that are high in protein include meat, fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, cheese, milk, nuts and legumes.
- Smoking is known to deplete stores of vitamin C, which is important for safeguarding your lungs and nervous system. Vitamin C also reduces levels of the stress hormone, Cortisol and returns blood pressure to normal levels. Choose foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, dark green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, berries and 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. Drinking a glass of cold water will also help to reduce nicotine cravings.
- There is some evidence to indicate that foods which release serotonin might help with warding off depression that many people experience when quitting smoking. Adding Tryptophan and Vitamin B to your daily diet will stimulate the release of serotonin which will encourage relaxation, reduce anxiety and enhance your overall mood. One familiar choice is dark chocolate, while other lesser known serotonin food sources are poultry, fish, nuts, and beans. Dark chocolate also contains Magnesium which can help to fight headaches and fatigue during the quit process.
- 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 and reduce stress include:
- Fresh fruits like apple slices, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, pomegranates, and grapes
- Fresh vegetables like carrot sticks, celery, cucumber, and eggplant leave a bitter aftertaste when consumed before smoking and may also decrease the intensity of nicotine dependence.
- Milk and yogurt– recent studies show that smokers who drink a glass of milk or eat yogurt 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. They can be eaten slowly over the course of a day as part of a small meal structure.
In a single year, more than 5.2 million people visited U.S. hospital emergency rooms for symptoms related to the nervous system.
Learn more about Smoking Cessation Services at Ochsner.