To restore health in their bodies, there is of course only one thing smokers should do. Quit. This goes without saying. Smoking is the number-one cause of preventable death in the world. Its negative influence goes well beyond the lungs, where it does its worst damage.
Still, researchers have uncovered specific ingredients within specific foods that can boost the health of everyone. Most pertinent here, they boost the health of smokers who have impaired blood vessel function. These ingredients are called “phytochemicals” and are found in plant foods.
Most directly, the keys are “flavonols,” which are found in heaping amounts within fruits, vegetables, and dark chocolate. It would be wise for cigarette smokers to, aside from quitting, boost their intake of these foods because researchers have found that they can increase levels of nitric oxide in the bloodstream. This could actually help reverse some of the damage to blood vessels caused by the toxins in tobacco. So says the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology,” a well-known expert on the topic of the heart.
The new research concludes that cocoa (rich in flavonols) could significantly improve a major part of the heart’s health among people who are at high risk for cardiovascular problems. The blood vessels of smokers respond poorly to changes in blood flow, which raises the risk of heart disease. Researchers found that flavonols boosted nitric oxide levels and improved blood vessel responses in 11 adults. They consumed two cocoa beverages: one rich in flavonols and one with low levels. The former influenced the nitric oxide system to a great extent while the latter did very little. This was the first study ever to find that a smoker’s endothelial function (i.e. blood vessels) improved after drinking cocoa with high flavonoid levels.
The point of all this isn’t as much chocolate as it is flavonols. To up your intake of dark chocolate significantly, you’d have to remove other calorie-laden foods at the same time; otherwise you’d be taking in too many calories. And you shouldn’t have more than a small piece of dark chocolate each day. A better idea would be to stock up on flavonols found in other foods, including green and black tea, red wine, apples, apricots, red grapes, blackberries, raspberries, sweet cherries and legumes.
The study proved that flavonoids have a direct effect on the
exact nitric oxide system that is damaged by smoking.