Healthy Fruits and Veggies for Your Mouth
Eating more fruits and veggies can benefit your health in many ways, including promoting strong teeth and healthy gums. Learn which produce items help out your mouth the most in honor of National Fruit and Veggie Month this September.
They say “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but this crisp, nutritious fruit is also great for promoting healthy teeth. The crunchy texture of apples allows them to mimic a toothbrush, scrubbing your teeth to remove plaque. The chewing required to eat an apple also increases salivation, which helps neutralize the citric and malic acids that may stick to your teeth after eating fruit. Apple-chewing even stimulates your gums to help keep them healthy.
To be clear, apple juice contributes to tooth decay because it’s high in sugar and doesn’t have the scrubbing or saliva-increasing effects of eating fresh apples. Juice also lacks fiber, which is found in the skin of the fruit. To maximize the benefits, choose fresh fruit instead of juice whenever possible.
Produce Rich in Vitamin C
Many fruits and veggies are high in vitamin C, an antioxidant which helps protect the gums and other soft tissues from cellular damage and bacterial infection. Foods rich in vitamin C include apples, pears, strawberries, pineapple, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapefruit, and oranges.
As a quick note, citrus fruits are a rich source of vitamin C, but they are also highly acidic. Shortly after enjoying the taste and health benefits of a grapefruit or orange, brush your teeth or swish with water to prevent citric acid from lingering.
Carrots, Celery & Other Fibrous Vegetables
Healthy gums are vital to your overall oral health. Chewing on raw fibrous or hard vegetables stimulates the gums, generating higher saliva flow in the process.
Carrots and celery are particularly beneficial for your teeth because they are also a good source of beta carotene. This relates to oral health because your body needs beta carotene to create vitamin A, an essential nutrient for building strong teeth.
Eating salads regularly helps you get more folic acid in your diet. This type of B vitamin promotes a healthy mouth by supporting new cell growth in and around your teeth. In general, the darker the leaf, the more nutrients it contains. Some of the best leafy greens for a healthy mouth include spinach, kale, chard, and green and red leaf lettuce. Cruciferous vegetables, such as asparagus and cabbage, also rank high on the list.
Nutrients found in leafy greens include vitamin A, vitamin C, beta carotene, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Your body stores phosphorous in your teeth and bones, which helps increase the absorption rate of calcium and magnesium.
Blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, and more are high in anthocyanins. In fact, that’s what gives berries their vibrant colors. Anthocyanins are thought to prevent pathogens from attaching and colonizing on host tissues, including teeth. Then, cranberries, in particular, contain compounds that have been shown to disrupt the enzymes that allow tooth decay-causing bacteria to form.
The only problem with berries is that their rich colors can stain teeth. Remember to brush shortly after eating a handful of berries, or at least swish with water, to help prevent staining.
When to Eat Healthy Fruits and Veggies
Many fresh produce items are considered “functional foods,” which means they offer additional biological benefits beyond just their nutritional value. To get the most out of functional foods, you must eat them at the right time.
For instance, the tooth-scrubbing, gum-stimulating benefits of apples benefit you the most if you eat them last. This way, you help remove food particles from your teeth and get a gum massage at the end of your meal. It’s also helpful to eat acid-neutralizing foods after enjoying citrus fruit, such as milk, cheese, or unsweetened tea. This way, you get all the benefits of eating foods high in citric acid without the tooth decay to go with it.
How to Get More Fruits and Veggies in Your Diet
Sometimes, including enough fresh produce in your diet is easier said than done. Follow these tips to increases your daily fruit and veggie intake:
- Add strawberries, bananas, or blueberries to your waffles or oatmeal.
- When you need a snack between meals, reach for an apple or carrot sticks.
- Freeze fruits and veggies to use in smoothies.
- Set produce out on the counter where it’s easily visible.
- Buy ready-made salads for a fast, convenient lunch.
- Add spinach, tomatoes, and other favorite veggies to your pizza.
- Stir vegetables into noodle dishes and soups.
- Have fruit for a healthy, sweet dessert.
Maintain Good Oral Health with Regular Dentist Visits
Eating plenty of fruits and veggies helps to strengthen your teeth, promote healthy gums, and prevent cavities, but just because you have a healthy diet doesn’t mean you can skip routine dental exams and cleanings. If it’s been six months since your last trip to the dentist, consider scheduling an appointment with our Boulder dentist, Dr. Ania, by calling (303) 872-9940. Our team will help you achieve a healthy, beautiful smile you can be proud of!