You Should Fill Up Your Plate With These Foods If You’ve Ever Smoked
If you’ve ever smoked, you might want to pay extra close attention to your diet if you want to protect your lungs. That’s because eating a good amount of foods high in plant pigments called carotenoids—which provide the bright orange, red, or yellow hues—can reduce your risk of lung cancer, a study in Frontiers in Oncology suggests.
The researchers analyzed data from a Canadian study of 1,105 lung cancer patients and 1,449 healthy controls, who were interviewed about how much they ate 49 fruits and vegetables. They discovered that those whose diets were richest in carotenoids were much lower to develop lung cancer than those who didn’t eat as much.
In fact, compared to those who ate the least, people who consumed the most beta-carotene reduced their lung cancer risk by 34 percent. The risk reduction for eating the most alpha-carotene, lycopene, and vitamin C was by 30 percent, 25 percent, and 26 percent, respectively.
Then, the authors analyzed the data by gender and smoking habits, and found that the carotenoids seemed even more protective in guys who have smoked. Eating the most beta-carotene reduced the lung cancer risk in male heavy smokers by 51 percent. Consuming the most alpha-carotene and lycopene slashed their lung cancer risks by 47 percent and 52 percent, respectively.
The authors think carotenoids’ antioxidant properties may be to thank for their cancer-fighting power. Smoking causes oxidative stress, which can damage your cells, possibly leading to lung cancer. Scientists believe antioxidants can combat that oxidative stress.
Don’t take this as a reason to go out and buy vitamins, though. The study looked at people who got these nutrients from their diets. Beta-carotene and alpha-carotene are found in produce like carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash, and lycopene is in red foods like tomatoes and watermelon.
Another recent study in Thorax found that the more fruits and veggies guys ate, the lower their risk of respiratory conditions that stem from smoking, as we recently reported. So, while the effects of smoking can’t be undone, a healthy diet appears to lessen them.