World No Tobacco Day 2022: How To Eat Healthy If You're a Smoker

On World No Tobacco Day, Author and nutritionist Kavita Devgan tells you how to eat right if you smoke.

3 min read

There are enough compelling reasons to quit smoking. No more dirty ashtrays. No more standing out in the cold and searing temperatures. No more cigarette burns in your furniture. Plus, food will taste better, you smell better, your wallet is happier, and your breathing becomes easier. While many of the benefits of quitting smoking are immediate, the long term benefits are even more immense.

Smoking threatens the heart by increasing the blood pressure, it increases the tendency for blood to clot, leads to higher LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lower HDL (good) levels. So when you quit smoking the risk for heart disease goes down, along with the risk of stroke, osteoporosis, loss of vision, and myriad cancers.

Last but not least when smokers quit, they gain a sense of control, a sense of empowerment, life gets happier, healthier, and so much better then on.

31 May is World No Tobacco Day. While quitting is the primary focus, it’s important for smokers to begin by looking closely at their plates and focusing on foods that can offset common deficiencies that plague smokers.


Smokers need more than the normal amount of antioxidants and nutrients to undo the damage that toxins in smoke cause at a cellular level (by upping the free radicals in the body).

But in reality, the levels of a lot of nutrients tend to be low, as the presence of these toxins interfere with the absorption of these nutrients, leading to severe deficiencies. That is why focussing on right foods and nutrients is paramount. Below are 8 food steps to follow.

Focus on vitamin B 12. Due to increased urinary output of this vitamin (hydrogen cyanide in the cigarette smoke tends to interfere with this vitamin’s absorption) its deficiency is extremely common.

Weakness, fatigue, constipation, heart palpitations, and numbness in hands and feet are some common symptoms of B 12 deficiency and in the long run it may even lead to depression, memory loss, anaemia, and nerve and brain damage. Good sources of B12 are eggs, cheese, milk, yoghurt, and fortified cereals.

Eat more cruciferous vegetables. Kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, watercress, arugula, radishes and bok choy are the only natural dietary source of isothiocyanates - compounds that can help to effectively prevent the development, growth and spread of cancers that smokers are at risk of.

Vitamin A deficiency is common. Sarson ka saag, a great source of vitamin A (carotenoids). Other good sources of A are pumpkin, corn, red bell peppers, tangerines, oranges, and peaches. Carrots and pumpkins also deliver beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange carotenoid that has been found to reduce the risk of lung cancer.

Focusing on Vitamin C helps. Antioxidant powers of this vitamin can effectively help neutralize the free radicals that smoking creates in the body. Good sources include oranges, limes, lemons, pineapples broccoli, green pepper and watermelon; make sure you have at least two vitamin C rich foods daily.


Cigarette smoking adversely affects calcium and vitamin D absorption in the body. Both the nutrients are essential for bone health, therefore chances of early osteoporosis skyrocket. That is why vitamin D supplementation, spending 15-20 minutes under sun everyday and focussing on including enough calcium rich foods like dairy products becomes important.

Cut down on saturated fats. Smoking lowers HDL, or good, cholesterol levels and increases the risk of blood clots, so if you smoke make sure you eliminate saturated fats from your diet and focus instead on healthy fats (unsaturated) from sources like fish, nuts (walnuts, almonds and pine nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.

Have lots of fruits. Focus on pomegranate, grapes, cherries and strawberries. They deliver ellagic acid, a chemical that has powerful antioxidants which neutralize damaging free radicals in the body and help reverse cell damage including those in the lungs.

Low levels of vitamin E are linked to cancers and atherosclerosis (hardening of coronary arteries), and smokers unfortunately have low levels of E in their body. So zero in on green vegetables like spinach and broccoli, peanuts, almonds, egg yolks, sweet potatoes, oats, vegetable oils, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ (sprinkle some on your oats daily)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More