Everyone knows the secret to healthy teeth and gums is brushing and flossing every day – but did you know the nutrition in your diet can also play an important role in your dental health?
When most people hear the word “diet,” they think about losing weight. But a healthy diet is about so much more! Good nutrition can lead to better moods, more restful sleep, getting sick less often, staying active when you’re older, and ultimately living longer.
What is nutrition?
Good nutrition means getting the right amount of nutrients from the foods you eat. The basic nutrients we get from food are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Nutrients are very influential in the human body.
Nutrients provide our bodies with energy. When you count the calories on the box of cereal or a fast food menu, you’re counting energy. Your body needs calories to run and jump, but also to perform basic functions like breathing and pumping blood.
They build and maintain tissues, organs, bones and teeth. Proteins are present in every cell of your body and help fight off infections. Fats are like a cushions for your cells. And minerals are what make your bones strong.
Nutrients help regulate necessary body functions. Good nutrition leads to healthy temperature and metabolism regulation, lower blood pressure and better organ function.
Which nutrients are good for my teeth?
Calcium. 99% of the calcium in your body is in bones. Calcium keeps your tooth enamel strong, which can prevent decay. Most people don’t get enough calcium in their diets, which can lead to health issues like osteoporosis later in life.
Vitamin D. Often known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is generally obtained through direct sunlight. So in the winter months, a lot of people lose out on this vitamin – which is a shame because vitamin D makes you happy! It is also important in helping your bones and teeth absorb all the calcium they need.
Vitamin C. If you want healthy gums, be sure you’re getting enough Vitamin C! Without enough of it, the tissues holding teeth securely in place weaken, teeth can become loose, gums can bleed, and gum disease could develop.
Antioxidants. Did you know you already have thousands of these things in your body right now? Antioxidants naturally exist in our bodies as well as fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, wine, and chocolate. They fight off compounds called oxidants, which are found in air pollution, cigarettes and alcohol. If you have too many oxidants in your body, it can cause cancer – so getting plenty of antioxidants will help you stay healthy longer!
Probiotics. You also have thousands of these tiny organisms swimming in your stomach too! Probiotics are healthy bacteria that benefit your digestive system.
Which foods should I eat?
Too often we hear what foods we should stay away from, like bacon, popcorn, soda, pizza and candy. But almost anything you eat is okay in moderation, especially if you have a great oral hygiene routine.
If you have a sweet tooth or love fast food, you might want to schedule a visit with your family doctor to talk about your specific health needs. But there are plenty of delicious foods you can add to your diet today that will help you have healthy teeth, while improving your overall health!
What’s inside: Antioxidants, Fiber, Vitamin C & Polyphenols
Why blueberries are good for your teeth: Blueberries have more antioxidants than any other fruit, which boost your immune system and help prevent gum disease. A cup of blueberries contains about 25% of the amount of Vitamin C you need each day and 14% of recommended fiber. They also contain polyphenols – beneficial acids that defend teeth against harmful bacteria.
What’s inside: Calcium, Protein, Vitamin B12
Why cheese is good for your teeth: Calcium found in cheese strengthens bones and teeth. Cheese also prevents plaque buildup by lowering the acidity in your mouth and might even prevent cavities. If you’re a fan of harder cheese like Cheddar, Provolone or Colby, you’re in luck – chewing produces lots of saliva, which produces helpful bacteria that naturally clean the mouth.
What’s inside: Probiotics, Protein & Calcium
Why yogurt is good for your teeth: Probiotics found in yogurt may help slow the growth of cavity-causing bacteria. And the sugar-free variety like Greek yogurt is perfect for balancing the pH levels, making it difficult for harmful bacteria to live in your mouth! Yogurt is also an excellent source of calcium, so this delicious snack just about does it all – strengthens teeth, cleans your mouth and fights cavities.
What’s inside: Calcium, Fiber & Vitamin D
Why nuts are good for your teeth: Nuts are a wonderful source of healthy fats and protein, and different types contain different benefits. So it’s not wrong to indulge in that nut mix as a healthy snack option. Walnuts are probably the most nutrient-rich nut, with fiber, folic acid, iron, thiamine, magnesium, iron, niacin, vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium and zinc. Cashews. almonds and brazil nuts are great at stimulating saliva glands, which help to clean your mouth naturally and prevent tooth decay.
What’s inside: Vitamin D, Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Why fish is good for your teeth: Omega-3 Fatty Acids are excellent at reducing inflammation, and they’ve been linked to fighting arthritis, cancer, allergies, asthma, Crohn’s disease, diabetes and periodontal disease.
Yams or Sweet Potatoes
What’s inside: Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Fiber & Potassium
Why sweet potatoes are good for your teeth: Yams and sweet potatoes are often interchangeable in recipes and can be prepared a lot of different ways — some of them more healthy than others. But at the heart of every yam or sweet potato dish is a vitamin-packed starch that is low in fat and high in nutritional value. Great at regulating blood sugar, their anti-inflammatory properties can help prevent periodontal disease. Healthy doses of Thiamine and Niacin in a balanced diet can decrease tooth decay. And Vitamin A promotes saliva production, which is crucial for cleaning away destructive bacteria and food particles from between teeth and gums.