Foods smokers must eat if they can't kick the habit

Kavita Devgan
Kavita DevganFeb 06, 2017 | 15:55

Foods smokers must eat if they can't kick the habit

Recently, while researching for a story on healthy ways to eat greens, I stumbled upon the unexpected benefit of sarson ka saag (mustard greens).

Besides its well-known benefits, sarson is very good for the smokers, as it helps prevent lung inflammation and reduces the chances of emphysema, severe breathlessness that smokers are prone to.

This information egged me on to find out more about the special nutritional needs of those who smoke.


After skimmed research, I realised that there are indeed foods that can help smokers thwart danger.

Sarson ka saag, a winter staple, is good for smokers.  

These foods are not an alternative to quitting the butt, but any help is big help, so here’s to-do list:

Eat at least one variety of cruciferous vegetables - kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, watercress, arugula, radishes and bok choy - every day!

Why? Because they are the only natural dietary source of isothiocyanates - compounds that effectively prevent the development, growth and spread of cancers that smokers are prone to.

Unexplained aches and pains are common ailments for regular smokers.

Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower can help cut risks.

Not that difficult to understand as smokers are deprived of a lot of nutrients and antioxidants that lead to severe deficiencies and, thus, such symptoms over time.

These aches are possibly due to low B 12 levels (in fact, most B vitamins level and smoking have an indirect correlation).

Smoking ups the toxin levels in the body, and these interfere with adequate absorption of nutrients in the body.

So it is important for smokers to get enough B 12 via eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt and fortified cereals in their diet, failing which they must consider supplementation.

It's important for smokers to get Vitamin B 12 - abundant in yogurt and other healthy dairy products.  

They also need to focus on getting enough B 6 (fish, meat, potatoes and whole grains) and B 9 (fruits and green leafy vegetables, dried beans, lentils, broccoli).

It’s widely-known that carcinogens in cigarette smoke lead to vitamin A deficiency. Thus sarson ka saag, a valuable source of vitamin A (carotenoids) becomes an important food for smokers.

Pulpit is high in Vitamin C and magnesium too, which are important to keep asthma away, and also help smokers' lungs stay relaxed and non-constricted.

Other good sources of Vitamin A are pumpkin, corn, red bell peppers, tangerines, oranges and peaches.

Focus on getting enough B 6- readily available in whole grains.

Pumpkins and carrots are, in fact, rich in betacryptoxanthin, an orange carotenoid that has been found to reduce the risk of lung cancer.

Vitamin C (amla, citrus fruits, lemon, pineapple, guava) is important for smokers too, as it can effectively help neutralise the free radicals that smoking creates in the body — and help maintain immunity.

Studies have shown that smokers who increase their Vitamin E intake show improved elasticity and function of their blood vessels. So they must include vital sources of the vitamin — nuts, seeds, egg and wheat germ — in their daily diet.

Zinc-rich mushrooms can help strengthen bones.

In fact, all cruciferous vegetables deliver Vitamin C, Vitamin E and beta carotene (Vitamin A).

The kiwifruit is another food that delivers all three of these vitamins.

There is some evidence that a phytochemical catechin helps extensively too as it is effective in inhibiting the activity of free radicals.

Tea, black grapes, blackberries and dark chocolate are good sources of catechin.

One can't get enough of Vitamin C - vital for immunity.

Amino acid methionine is important for our lungs too, and is present in various seeds, nuts, cereals, fish and meats.

Onions and garlic, owing to being rich in sulphur compounds, also help combat respiratory problems and clearing out the lungs.

Onions (also beans and apples) also deliver quercetin, which again helps the lungs stay healthy.

Cranberries contain a chemical called non-dialyzable material (NDM), which actually fights the flu and various other viruses that can affect the lungs and also has cleansing properties.

Pomegranate reverses cell damage, including in lungs. 

Pomegranate delivers Ellagic acid, a chemical that has powerful antioxidants which neutralise damaging free radicals in the body and help reverse cell damage, including in the lungs.

Finally, a smoker's bones tend to weaken, so enough zinc (mushrooms, seeds and nuts), magnesium (seeds, brown rice), calcium (dairy, sesame, anjeer) and Vitamin D (spending time in the sunlight or supplementation) are crucial.

Drinking enough water is extremely important as smoking dehydrates the body, and water help drain out nicotine.

Last updated: February 06, 2017 | 20:04
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