Do you want to quit smoking? Eat more vegetables and fruits!

If you’re trying to quit smoking, eating vegetables and fruits can help you quit and stay tobacco-free, according to a new University of Buffalo study published online.

The study, published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, is the first long-term study of the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and nicotine addiction recovery.

Authors from the University of Buffalo Institute of Public Health and Health Professions surveyed 1000 smokers aged 25 and over across the country using random telephone interviews. They contacted respondents 14 months later and asked if they had abstained from tobacco the previous month.

“Other studies have taken a one-shot approach, asking smokers and nonsmokers about their diet,” says Dr. Gary A. Giovino, chair of the Department of Public Health and Healthy Behavior at UB. “We knew from previous work that people who abstain from tobacco for less than six months eat more fruits and vegetables than smokers. What we didn’t know was whether those who quit smoking started eating more fruits and vegetables, or whether those who started eating more fruits and vegetables ended up quitting.”

The study found that smokers who ate more fruits and vegetables were three times more likely to go without tobacco for at least a month than those who ate very few fruits and vegetables. These results persisted even when adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, educational attainment, income, and health preferences.

It was also found that smokers who ate more vegetables and fruits smoked fewer cigarettes per day, waited longer before lighting their first cigarette of the day, and scored lower on the overall nicotine addiction test.

“We may have discovered a new tool to help people quit smoking,” says Jeffrey P. Haibach, MPhD, first author of the study.

“Of course, this is still a survey study, but better nutrition can help you quit.” Several explanations are possible, such as being less addicted to nicotine or the fact that eating fiber makes people feel fuller.

“It’s also possible that fruits and vegetables make people feel full, so their need to smoke is reduced because smokers sometimes confuse hunger with a desire to smoke,” Haibach explains.

Also, unlike foods that enhance the taste of tobacco, such as meats, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol, fruits and vegetables do not enhance the taste of tobacco.

“Fruits and vegetables can make cigarettes taste bad,” Haibach says.

Although the number of smokers in the US is declining, Giovino notes that the decline has slowed over the past ten years. “Nineteen percent of Americans still smoke cigarettes, but almost all of them want to quit,” he says.

Heibach adds: “Maybe better nutrition is one way to quit smoking. We need to continue to motivate and help people quit smoking using proven methods such as quit plans, policy tools like tobacco tax increases and anti-smoking laws, and effective media campaigns.”

The researchers caution that further research is needed to determine if the results are repeatable. If yes, then you need to determine the mechanisms of how fruits and vegetables help to quit smoking. You also need to conduct research on other components of nutrition.

Dr. Gregory G. Homeish, Associate Professor of Public Health and Healthy Behavior, is also a co-author.

The study was sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  


Leave a Reply