what to eat for healthy teeth
I’ve teamed up with Dental Surgeon, Maria Papavergos to learn more about what to eat for healthy teeth. When we think about health we all imagine big, bright smiles, but in the wellness sphere, teeth don’t get much coverage when it comes to what to eat for healthy smile. To learn more about looking after your smile I am so excited to have collaborated with Maria, an established dental surgeon and passionate advocate for holistic wellbeing, to clear up how our diet really affects our dental health.
Know your sugars – intrinsic vs. extrinsic sugars
In terms of dental health, sugar is seen as the greatest enemy and yet sugar is present in so many of the foods we enjoy. There is one distinction that’s worth noting, sugars which are present naturally within a fibrous matrix of cells, for example in whole fruits, are intrinsic sugars. This structure means that our dental health is protected even when we consume natural foods with sugar present. Where it gets a little more complicated is that processing these foods, whether that’s juicing, blending or drying, the fibrous structure is broken down, releasing the sugars into extrinsic sugars that are more damaging to dental health. In order to protect your pearly whites, enjoy naturally sweet fruits in their most whole state whenever you can and if you love smoothies and juices, why not go for more vegetables to lessen the load of extrinsic sugars for your teeth and avoid having them in between mealtimes.
Get label smart
Sugar can be described in an abundance of ways, from syrups to concentrates, nectars to glucose – be aware of these terms so you can be conscious of your sugar intake. Even check where you wouldn’t expect, like plant-based milks. Dairy milk contains lactose, which does not have the same damaging potential to our teeth due to the presence of a protective protein called casein. Animal milk is also naturally rich in fat-soluble vitamins, as well as calcium, phosphorus and iodine – all essential for holistic health. Calcium and phosphorus are essential building blocks for dental health, so if you choose a dairy-free alternative, always check the label for what it has been fortified with, along with any added sugar. Other plant-based sources of calcium and phosphorus include green leafy vegetables (except spinach which has low bioavailability), nuts and seeds, especially almonds and poppy seeds.
Be mindful when choosing baby food
Making the right choices as a parent is tricky enough with fussy little eaters and peer pressures to boot! We are inundated with claims for healthy and organic baby food, the word ‘fruit’ being marketed as synonymous with healthy, yet often the sugar content will negate the nutritional benefit. So where do we start?
Fruit purées are high in sugar and should be consumed sparingly to protect your precious little one’s pearly whites. Packaged baby meals are occasionally sweetened with apple juice, not only nasty for baby teeth, but enhancing sweet taste preferences early on may create an increased preference for sweet foods and an avoidance of other flavour profiles including sour and bitter ones. First foods should be focussed on introducing a variety of taste profiles to our little one’s palate to nurture adventurous eaters so that we can avoid the all too familiar – ‘eat your broccoli and then you can have pudding’ conversation later on.
For many, a slice of lemon in a glass of water is seen as a healthy routine to start the day, yet whilst lemons may provide benefits such as vitamin C, it is important to remember their acidic quality can erode your teeth. For a more tooth friendly morning routine, why not add fresh herbs such as mint to your water instead?
Other seemingly healthy practices such as juicing diets can have a similar effect, so limit your intake of acidic foods to ensure happy, healthy teeth and prevention of enamel erosion.
Another hot topic when it comes to big, beautiful smiles… tooth whitening. It is a safe process when prescribed by a dentist and can have lovely results. However it is worth being mindful to many an online offer or ‘do-it-yourself’ kits which are usually unregulated and likely to be unsafe. There are also some unqualified practitioners out there, so make sure you visit your dentist to be sure. Be kind to your teeth and invest in their wellbeing and they will be kind to you.
Maria’s top tips for happy teeth:
- Indulge knowingly; sugar can be hidden in loads of foods, instead of accidentally eating sugar throughout the day become aware of its presence in your diet and indulge accordingly.
- Choose whole fruit whenever possible, when you enjoy smoothies try and add more vegetables and stick to mealtimes.
- Always check the ingredients list for any processed food/drink – remember less is best and avoid those with added sugar.
- Add cucumber or mint to your drinking water – stay clear of citric fruits.
- Choose baby food which blends vegetables rather than pure fruit purées.