When you think of the most unbeautiful thing you can do for your body, what do you imagine? For me, it’s smoking. We’ve known for years that cigarettes decrease our lifespan, increase our risk for cancer and respiratory conditions and make our skin wrinkled and dull looking. In essence, they age us. If I were to put cigarettes on a spectrum of aging, I’d have cigarettes on one end and fruits and vegetables on another.
A new study in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research looked at fruit and vegetables consumption in relation to quitting smoking and found that eating healthy produce helped with not only quitting smoking but staying smoke-free as well.Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may have increased satiety in smokers, making them less likely to smoke (smokers often confuse hunger with cravings to smoke), according to the researchers. This study and previous research have shown that fruits and vegetables actually make the taste of cigarettes worse. A 2007 study published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research surveyed smokers on their food preferences in relation to their smoking habits and found that dairy products, fruits and vegetables made cigarettes taste awful, while red meat and alcohol made them taste great.
That means, when you’re itching for a craving, try some string cheese, apples or sweet potatoes before you reach for a cigarette or chew and avoid meat and alcohol. The former food options will make you strong and beautiful while the latter will not only encourage you to smoke more, but they’ll also hurt chances of living a long and healthy life.
Omega-3 fatty acids—another component to great skin and hair—has also been associated with decreasing the negative effects of smoking. In April, researchers presented data showing that short-term treatment with omega-3 fatty acids improved arterial stiffness and decreased the acute smoking-induced vascular damage. Great sources of omega-3’s include wild salmon, flax and chia seeds, canola oil and soybeans.Certain food textures can also help smokers fight the craving to smoke. Crunchy foods tend to be more satisfying for the quitter, so focus on fuel that provides some exercise for your jaw muscles such as carrots, celery, apples, red pepper sticks, nuts and plain popcorn.
Of all of the resources available for people to quit smoking, it’s great to know that a few of these tools involve foods that for centuries have been making us as beautiful as we can be.