According to a new study, if you're trying to quit smoking, eating more fruits and vegetables may help you quit and stay tobacco-free for longer.
The study, published by researchers at the University of Buffalo, is the first longitudinal study on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and smoking cessation.
The scientists surveyed 1,000 smokers aged 25 and older from around the country. They followed up with the respondents fourteen months later, asking them if they had abstained from tobacco use during the previous month.
Previous work has found that people who were abstinent from cigarettes for less than six months consumed more fruits and vegetables than those who still smoked. What wasn't known until now was whether recent quitters increased their fruit and vegetable consumption or if smokers who ate more fruits and vegetables were more likely to quit.
The current study found that smokers who consumed the most fruit and vegetables were three times more likely to be tobacco-free for at least 30 days at follow-up 14 months later than those consuming the lowest amount of fruits and vegetables. These findings persisted even when adjustments were made to take into account age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, household income and health orientation.
Smokers with higher fruit and vegetable consumption also smoked fewer cigarettes per day, waited longer to smoke their first cigarette of the day and scored lower on a common test of nicotine dependence.
Several explanations are possible, such as less nicotine dependence for people who consume a lot of fruits and vegetables or the fact that higher fibre consumption from fruits and vegetables make people feel fuller.
It's also possible that fruits and vegetables give people more of a feeling of satiety or fullness so that they feel less of a need to smoke, since smokers sometimes confuse hunger with an urge to smoke.
And unlike some foods which are known to enhance the taste of tobacco, such as meats, caffeinated beverages and alcohol, fruits and vegetables do not enhance the taste of tobacco.
Foods like fruit and vegetables may actually worsen the taste of cigarettes.
The researchers said it's possible that an improved diet could be an important item to add to the list of measures to help smokers quit.
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