Updated 13 April 2017

Smoking and diet

Smokers need to take extra dietary precautions to minimise the damage caused by smoking.


First prize would obviously go to quitting smoking, but many people find this very difficult.

So what sort of diet should smokers follow to minimise damage caused by smoking?

  • Up your Vitamin C intake drastically. Smoking depletes the body of vitamin C – an important antioxidant, which protects against diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Smokers need two to three times more Vitamin C than non-smokers to maintain normal vitamin C levels in die body. High levels of vitamin C also appear to protect against Alzheimer's disease in smokers.
    How to do it: Eat at least five to six fresh fruits rich in Vitamin C daily. Fruit such as guavas, citrus fruits and melons are the best possible sources of vitamin C. Vitamin tablets can also be taken to increase the smoker's vitamin C levels.
  • Up your intake of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful anti-oxidant, which can assist the body in its fight against various cancers, to which smokers are more susceptible than non-smokers. High levels of vitamin E also appear to protect against Alzheimer's disease in smokers.
    How to do it: The best sources of vitamin E are wheatgerm oil, sunflower seed oil, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, almonds, sweet potato, avocado, muesli and spinach.
  • More selenium. Selenium promotes healthy cell function and helps to protect the body against damage by free radicals. Selenium stimulates the working of the immune system, which helps the body fight infections.
    How to do it: Sources of selenium include nuts and raisins, fresh tuna, shrimps, sunflower seeds and white rice.
  • More Manganese. Manganese helps to control blood sugar levels, improves bone strength and may help in the healing of wounds. Women who smoke are at higher risk for osteoporosis, so they should take some manganese regularly.
    How to do it: Good sources of manganese are nuts, soya beans, chickpeas, tea and boiled brown rice.
  • More Niacinamide. Niacinamide gives cardiovascular support, reduces alcoholic cravings and may improve asthmatic conditions.
    How to do it: This B-vitamin is found in eggs, chicken, pork, beef, wheatgerm, cheddar cheese and turkey.
  • More Zinc. Zinc provides additional immune support and promotes wound healing.
    How to do it: Zinc is found in oysters, wheatgerm, corned beef, pork, lamb, beef and sardines.
  • Don’t gain weight when you quit smoking. Many people pick up weight when they stop smoking.
    How to do it: There are many things you can do to prevent this. The most important is not to eat large quantities of fatty or sugary foods and to get enough exercise. Join a walking club and make sure you get moderate regular exercise. Fight the urge to snack, as this can certainly pile on the unwanted kilos.

Read more:
Diet Centre
Abnormal fat distribution


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Mental health & your work »

How open are you about mental illness in the workplace?

Mental health in the workplace – what you can do to help

If you know that one of your colleagues suffers from a mental illness, would you be able to help them at work? Maligay Govender offers some helpful mental health "first aid" tips.

Sleep & You »

Sleep vs. no sleep Diagnosis of insomnia

6 things that are sabotaging your sleep

Kick these shut-eye killers to the kerb and make your whole life better – overnight.