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Dieting For Smokers and Ex-Smokers

Most people who smoke have certain questions that need answers and that is exactly what I will address in this article.

The three most common questions which smokers ask about diet and smoking, are:

(1) Can a diet compensate for health damage caused by smoking?

(2) What should I eat if I smoke?

(3) If I quit, what type of diet is best to prevent weight gain?

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There isn;t any diet or eating-plan, no matter how nutritious, can neutralise the health damage caused by the 850+ chemicals in tobacco smoke – many of which are carcinogenic. On average, if you smoke about 20 cigarettes a day, you double your risk of a heart-attack and are five times more likely to suffer a stroke than a non-smoker. At 40 cigarettes a day, you are five times more likely to suffer from sudden cardiac death. Smoking is also the leading cause of lung cancer.

Thus before we even start to examine an appropriate type of diet for smokers, my overriding advice is: quit smoking today!


For anyone who smokes, daily diet nutrition is critical. The damage done to the body’s cardiovascular and respiratory functions requires a constant need for extra nutrients. Even if you smoke 5 cigarettes a day, you have increased nutritional needs due to your increased risk of hypertension, atherosclerosis, emphysema and numerous cancers. As stated, a healthy diet will not prevent these health conditions, but it may delay their development.


Tobacco smoke leads to increased levels of free radicals – cancer-causing agents – in the body and a corresponding need for protective antioxidants that can neutralise them. The main antioxidant vitamins are vitamin C and vitamin E (which works best in combination with the mineral selenium). Phytochemicals such as bioflavonoids and carotenoids (eg. beta-carotene) are also rich in antioxidants.


When it comes to increasing your antioxidant intake, use the following suggestions as a guide to minimum dietary requirements.

– Eat 3-5 daily servings of deep green, dark red, orange of yellow vegetables.

– Eat 3-5 daily servings of red, yellow, orange or green fruits.

– Switch from coffee to tea, ideally green tea.

– Each day, take 2 tsp of wheatgerm oil (rich in vitamin E) and 6 Brazil nuts (selenium).

[Note: a serving is approx 1 medium fruit, or 1/2 cup chopped]


Did you know that One cigarette is estimated to rob the body of 25mg of vitamin C? Thus all smokers have a greatly increased need for this antioxidant-rich vitamin simply to maintain minimum levels. In practice, this need can only be met by taking supplements. As a general guide, I suggest you take 1 gram of vitamin C supplements per day. Choose a “timed-release” brand that includes a minimum of 100mg bioflavonoids.


The best dietary sources of Vitamin C come from;

Fruits, such as: blackcurrants, papaya, guava, cantaloupe, elderberries, kiwi fruit, mango, oranges, strawberries.

Fruit Juices, such as: cranberry, grapefruit, lemon, orange.

Vegetables, such as: red peppers, green peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, tomatoes.


But what exactly are carotenoids? Carotenoids are pigments found in plants. All carotenoids are antioxidants, the most common example being beta-carotene. It is found in green plants (eg. spinach), as well as orange and yellow plants, such as carrots, sweet potato and melons. Clinical trials indicate that when consumed in foods – not supplements – betacarotene reduces certain precancerous symptoms.

[Warning: for reasons which are still unclear, beta-carotene supplements actually increase the risk of disease (eg. lung cancer). Thus your intake of beta-carotene should come exclusively from food.]


You may use the following suggestions as a guide to minimum dietary requirements.

Eat 4 daily servings of deep green, yellow or red vegetables, including: carrots, sweetcorn, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato.

Eat 4oz tomatoes daily, either in sauce or chopped.

Eat 3 daily servings of colored fruit, including: melon, oranges, strawberries, mango, cherries.<br>


According to research evidence, cigarette smokers who eat more brassicas have less incidence of cancers (eg. breast, colorectal, lung, pancreatic, prostate and stomach). As all these cancers are initiated by free radicals, it follows that brassicas may help to prevent other problems initiated by free radical damage and accelerated by smoking, such as: cataracts, emphysema, asthma and age spots.

Brassicas include the following: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (all types), cauliflower, cress, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, swede, turnip, watercress.


Garlic is a good source of unique antioxidants and contains anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Its anti-tumor properties are well documented. Onions, a member of the same vegetable family, have similar properties to garlic.


Having said all that, here are some more dietary tips for those who smoke;

Reduce the total fat in your diet. At the same time, minimize your intake of saturated fat and trans-fatty acids. Eat regular servings of omega-3-rich oily fish (eg. salmon, mackerel, sardines).

Eat healthy carbohydrates. Avoid refined white flour carbs, choose only whole grains such as, oats, brown rice, wholewheat pasta. In addition, choose foods rich in soluble fiber (eg. apples, oat bran).

Eat healthy low-fat protein such as fish, lean chicken/turkey, or egg-whites. Include small amounts of lean red meat in your diet, along with regular servings of soy foods (eg. soybeans) and other vegetable protein.

Reduce sodium in your daily diet. Check food labels and choose low-sodium or sodium-free foods. Also avoid adding salt when cooking or eating.



We all agree that exercise is very important for all of us, whether we are smokers or non-smokers. Therefore, no cigarette smokers diet-plan is complete without regular physical exercise. Working within your fitness capacity, gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to about 30-45 minutes a day, on most days. For best effects on lung capacity and cardiovascular function, choose aerobic exercise such as: brisk walking, jogging, jumping rope, swimming and most sports.


I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve been asked this question and the answer is YES, if you take proper physical exercise and eat a healthy calorie-controlled diet, you are unlikely to gain weight. However, in my experience, some weight gain seems to be inevitable.

When People Quit Smoking, Is Weight Gain Unavoidable?

Does the connection between quitting cigarettes and weight gain have to do directly with the cigarettes themselves, or are there other, outside reasons why this happens so often to people who “kick the habit”?
There are a lot of people who smoke out there who, among other reasons, are afraid to try to quit smoking cigarettes for the fear of what they think is inevitable weight gain.

Almost everyone they know who has successfully quit smoking really packed on the pounds and they don’t want this to happen to them. So, does the connection between quitting cigarettes and weight gain have to do directly with the cigarettes themselves, or are there other, outside reasons why this happens so often to people who “kick the habit”?

Lets take a look at what all of the factors are that cause such weight gain in people who quit smoking and see if maybe this weight gain may be able to be controlled to where it does not have to be a factor when you decide to put the cigarettes down for good.

The fact is you do not have to gain weight when you quit smoking. There are a lot of people who quit smoking who don’t gain any weight at all. On average, people who quit smoking gain only up to 10 pounds. Studies have shown that people who have smoked for 10 to 20 years or more, or who smoked one or more packs of cigarettes a day have a higher tendency to gain weight than short time smokers and those who smoked less than one pack a day.

Nicotine, which is a chemical found in cigarettes, does to a small degree keep your body weight down. When you quit and the nicotine begins to leave your body, you may see a marginal amount of short term weight gain, but usually it will be no more than 3 to 5 pounds, mostly due to water retention.

The major reason why so many people will gain a significant amount of weight however, has more to do with replacing the smoking habit with excessive eating habits. Many will substitute sucking on hard candies all day to replace the cigarettes.

Others will begin to simply snack on various foods throughout the day as a replacement for the old habit. The cigarette break at work becomes a snack break. The after lunch cigarette becomes the after lunch snack. It is this new habit, which is done almost unconsciously, that is mostly responsible for excessive weight gain when people quit smoking.

When you quit smoking, keeping aware of what you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat along with some physical activity will keep that weight gain to a minimum and may keep you from gaining any weight at all. You also must consider that even if you do gain 5 to 10 pounds from quitting smoking, the risks of smoking cigarettes are far greater than a 5 to 10 pound gain in weight.

Smoking is the cause of more than 400,000 deaths every year in the United States. It would take a weight gain of over 100 pounds to equal the health risks of smoking cigarettes. Smoking causes your heart rate to increase, and you have twice the likeliness to suffer a heart attack than that of a nonsmoker.
You inhale around 4000 chemicals from cigarette smoke and 40 of these chemicals are cancer causing. Men are 22 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers, and women are 12 times more likely.


Most smokers gain weight immediately after they quit. Current evidence suggests that the average weight gain for both men and women who quit smoking is about 6-8 pounds. The more you smoke, the higher the risk of weight gain when you quit. This weight gain is due to the decrease in metabolic rate and an increase in appetite experienced when you quit smoking. This weight increase is perfectly normal, and need only be a short term event.


There is no single diet which will prevent weight gain once you quit smoking. Your best option is to focus on healthy eating combined with regular vigorous exercise (within your fitness capacity) and let Nature do the rest. As a general guide, follow these suggestions.

First, cut down on caffeine. Nicotine withdrawal makes us jittery and nervous. So it’s important to avoid coffee and caffeine-rich soft drinks which may increase this nervous tension.

Second, increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables. Studies show that an increased intake of fruit and vegetables can help to minimize weight gain after you quit smoking. Eat them for snacks, add them to meals, eat them as starters and/or desserts. Eat them on car journeys instead of sweets or candy.

Third, eat little and often. Avoid the temptation to linger over your meals. Get into the habit of eating smaller meals at more regular intervals. Aim to eat something, no matter how small, every 2-3 hours. This helps to maintain a regular rate of calorie-burning.

Fourth, take steps to learn more about nutrition and choose nutrient-dense foods whenever possible. (See above for information about antioxidants, and healthy fats, carbs and protein.)


Make physical exercise a top priority in your daily schedule. Ideally join a gym or fitness center and get into shape. Research evidence demonstrates a clear link between exercise and weight control after you quit smoking. Choose both cardio-aerobic and strength-training exercises, as both play an important role in raising metabolic rate.

Also, make sure you get enough sleep. Research evidence shows that lack of sleep may lead to weight gain, as well as an increased craving for cigarettes and food.

Quit Smoking With Exercise

When you finally decide to stop smoking, you’ll bring on other positive changes in your life as well. Smoking is a
very addictive habit, meaning that it is very hard to quit. There are a lot of changes that take place,
although exercise can be a big help to you when you decide to quit.

Try to set a new routine, such as working out or going to the gym. If that isn’t possible, you should try waking up earlier and going for a short walk. If you can turn that walk into a run or a jog, it is going to be very stimulating and the best way that you can start your day.

Keep in mind that exercise doesn’t really mean pumping metal. If you don’t have the time to stop
by the gym every day, then it isn’t really that big of a problem, as you can always choose to workout
at home.

Whether you choose to workout at home or at a gym, you should always remember that regularity is the
key. It isn’t getting started that’s the difficult part, it’s sticking to a regular exercise program that is difficult and proves to be stumbling block for most people.

Some people have a great start. They will buy track suits, gym wear, running shoes, and a lot of other gear, so their first day at the gym is almost like a celebration. As the days go by,  they find it very difficult to meet the demands
and their routine will slow down a lot and finally come to a complete exercise burnout.

One mistake that several people make is choosing the evenings to exercise. If evenings fit your
lifestyle, then it’s fine. For most people however, the evening hours are when they are completely
pooped. By the evening most of us are drained, and simply too tired for exercise. Therefore, it
is always best to set some time aside for exercise in the morning.

In the morning, wake up a half an hour or so earlier, put on your shoes, and hit the road. Most roads are less crowded in the morning and less polluted as well, making it a wonderful and relaxing
way to start the day.

You should also steer clear from the coffee and try tea instead. If you are moving around in the house,
try playing music. You can also redecorate your room by adding a few pictures around. When you
redecorate, you should get rid of everything  that reminds you of smoking.

In Conclusion;

With a little effort on your part to keep your eating habits in check and incorporate some exercise into your daily routine, weight gain can and will be at least kept down to a minimum when you quit smoking. You will be in better health, feel better, and have a more positive outlook on life when you make the decision to put those cigarettes down  once and for all.


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