Compared to nonsmokers, most smokers tend to consume more alcohol and high caloric food ― such as fatty foods. They also have lower intake of antioxidant vitamins (vitamins C, E and A) from healthy vegetables and fruits, thereby having a higher risk of atherosclerosis and various cancers. Most smokers tend to consume more coffee (3-10 cups per day) and have irregular dietary habits.
Changes in serum lipid levels
Nicotine in cigarettes increases the free fatty acid levels in the serum, to raise the serum lipid content. Carbon monoxide from smoking also inhibits the formation of HDL cholesterol ― the good cholesterol that prevents cardiovascular disease ― to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases like angina, myocardial infarction and stroke.
Effects of antioxidant vitamin deficiency
Smokers tend to eat less vegetables and fruits, so they have reduced intake of antioxidant vitamins that can prevent cardiovascular disease and cancers. They are more exposed to free oxygen radicals and therefore need more antioxidant vitamins to neutralize. For this reason, smokers have a higher risk of cancers and cardiovascular disease.
Foods that are rich in antioxidant vitamins:
● Beta-carotene (vitamin A): Consume at least two servings of green and yellow vegetables (carrots, spinach, chives), seafood, fruits (apricot, tomato, peach, persimmons)
● Vitamin E : consume vegetable oils such as oils from sesame, peanuts, pine nuts, walnuts and almond. One tablespoon per day is sufficient.
● Vitamin C : Vitamin C is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. However, excessive consumption of fruits leads to weight gain.
Ideal diet for effective smoking cessation
Smoking cessation leads to various withdrawal symptoms. One of the main side effects is weight gain. The reduction in nicotine in the body with smoking cessation leads to about 3 kg of weight gain. However, the main cause of weight gain is the improvement in appetite and taste, leading to increased food intake. Ex-smokers tend to consume more sweets, snacks and chocolate. This is the main cause of weight gain, and weight gain in turn leads to smoking.
To prevent side effects of smoking cessation:
1. Eat food at a slow rate to feel satiety.
2. To prevent weight gain and increase the consumption of antioxidant vitamins, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables ― cucumber, carrots and tomatoes, particularly cherry tomatoes, whenever you want to smoke ― peaches and other low caloric foods. Avoid high caloric fruits such as grapes and pears.
3. When you want to eat snacks, avoid foods such as candies and snacks and consume vitamin tablets, fruit juice, sugar-free gum and green tea.
4. Avoid consumption of coffee, which can lead to cigarette cravings, and drink fresh water and green tea.
5. Avoid alcohol consumption. Alcohol increases cigarette cravings to make smoking cessation more difficult. In addition, it is high in calorie content (7 cal/g) so can lead to weight gain. During the smoking cessation period, avoid drinking for the first 1-2 months to control weight gain.
6. Drink plenty of water. This increases the removal of nicotine from the body, and can prevent cigarette cravings and weight loss.
Other important factors to consider during smoking cessation
As well as these dietary habits, regular exercise (cardio exercises 3-5 times per week) and plenty of sleep can be effective in smoking cessation. Appropriate use of smoking cessation aids can also help prevent side effects of smoking cessation.
By Jun Hee-jung
Jun Hee-jung is a doctor at the department of health promotion center at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul. She also serves as a professor at Sungkyunkwan University’s School of Medicine. ― Ed