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Posted:  |  Updated: 06/12/12 09:09 AM ET

Fruits And Vegetables May Help Smokers Quit -- And Stay Off -- Tobacco

Want to quit smoking, and stay smoke-free? Eat your fruits and veggies.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo found a link between eating lots of fruit and veggies and maintaining a tobacco-free lifestyle in smokers.

"We may have identified a new tool that can help people quit smoking," study researcher Jeffrey P. Haibach, MPH, a graduate research assistant in the UB Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, said in a statement. "Granted, this is just an observational study, but improving one's diet may facilitate quitting."

The study, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, included 1,000 smokers who were age 25 and older. The researchers had the study participants answer surveys about their smoking habits and their fruit and vegetable intake. Then, they followed up with them 14 months later and asked them if they didn't use tobacco over the past month.

The researchers found that there was a relationship between the amount of fruits and vegetables the study participants ate, and the likelihood that they quit -- and stayed off -- tobacco. In fact, people who ate the most produce in the study were three times more likely to report that they'd been tobacco free in the previous month.

The researchers also found a link between increased produce consumption and taking longer in the day to have the first cigarette, smoking fewer cigarettes, and decreased dependence on nicotine (based on test results).

The results held true even after taking into account other risk factors, like education, age, gender and health.

A possible reason for this relationship may be that fruits and veggies make people feel full, so that they don't feel as big of a need to smoke, researchers said. Another reason could be that fruits and vegetables don't make cigarettes taste better (unlike some other foods), and may actually make cigarettes taste worse.

In fact, a 2007 study from Duke University Medical Center researchers showed that milk, fruits, vegetables and water seem to make cigarettes taste worse. The research, also published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research also showed that coffee, meat and alcohol made cigarettes taste better.

"With a few modifications to their diet -- consuming items that make cigarettes taste bad, such as a cold glass of milk, and avoiding items that make cigarettes taste good, like a pint of beer -- smokers can make quitting a bit easier," the researcher of that study, Joseph McClernon, Ph.D., said in a statement.

For more on natural ways to quit smoking, check out these tips from iVillage:

Switch Up Your Diet
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Certain foods make cigarettes taste tasty -- and others not so much. Researchers at Duke University asked smokers to list the foods that made them savor the flavor of cigs. Seventy percent reported that red meat, coffee and alcohol enhanced lighting up. On the flip side, about half the group said good-for-you foods, like fruits, vegetables, juice and milk, made cigarettes taste lousy.

"Loading up on fruits and vegetables even before quitting might help cigarettes seem less appealing," says F. Joseph McClernon, Ph.D., director of Duke's Health Behavior Neuroscience Research Program. Can't hurt to have your taste buds on your side.

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Filed by Amanda L. Chan  |