Quitting Smoking? Now What?
If you're quitting smoking for National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, bravo! You're doing the single most important thing you can do to immediately lower your cancer risk and gain tremendous health benefits.
At the same time, quitting smoking sometimes drives people to eat more to maintain the oral habit that smoking established. And that often leads to gaining too much weight, leading to overweight and obesity, which increases your risk for many cancers.
But you can sidestep weight gain with these helpful tips from AICR.
Enjoy tasting fresh healthy foods again
If you were a heavy smoker, your tastebuds may be desensitized, driving you to seek satisfaction from highly salty, spicy and sugary foods.
According to Mehmet Ozdener, PhD, at the Monell Chemical Senses Laboratory in Philadelphia, "Chemical compounds in tobacco smoke not only impair the recognition of taste but also damage the olfactory receptor cells in the nose where the aromas of food are recognized," he told AICR. "It has been demonstrated that nicotine, a major compound of tobacco smoke, suppresses taste-induced nerve activity.
"We also observed significant reduction in the number and size of tastebuds in the human tongue in biopsies obtained from subjects who smoke cigarettes," he added.
"Quitting smoking/using tobacco products recovers the sense of taste and smell in a few months. It is because tastebuds and olfactory cells are very sensitive and resilient. Improvement of olfactory function is important since the aroma of food contributes a lot to the pleasures of eating," notes Dr. Ozdener.
Once you’ve quit, you may find that many healthier foods like fresh vegetables and fruits taste better. That makes it a good time to switch to some healthier snacks.
According to AICR registered dietitian Alice Bender, “You can make the transition away from sugary and salty foods easier by boosting the flavor of vegetables and fruits. Try pairing carrots, celery and other veggies with small amounts of dips like hummus, and serve berries and other fruits with a yogurt dip.” Visit AICR's Foods That Fight Cancer™.
Try limiting alcohol
Alcohol often goes hand-in-hand with smoking and by itself is linked to risk for several cancers. If you're quitting smoking, limiting alcohol or not drinking it at all may be a good idea. Drinking alcoholic beverages may weaken your willpower not to smoke and it contributes non-nutritious calories. Keep extra weight at bay by choosing water, tea, coffee and sugarless nonalcoholic drinks. You can find a list of delicious non-alcoholic beverages in our free brochure, the Facts about Alcohol.
Get up and move around.
If stress makes you want to grab a cigarette or if not smoking lessens your energy, go for a brisk walk to get your blood circulating and your lungs breathing more deeply so you get an energy boost. Following AICR's advice to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day can prevent cancer as well as manage weight and immediately make you feel better. Find out more ideas for taking small steps toward getting more physically active.
Keep It Up
Scientists estimate that approximately 1/3 of most common cancers could be prevented if we all made healthy changes to the food we eat, increased our physical activity and maintained a healthy body weight. And that's apart from not smoking.
So get help from AICR's resources at www.aicr.org to learn about cancer-fighting foods, cook up some delicious healthy recipes from the AICR Test Kitchen, get moving more throughout each day and manage your healthy body weight.