Eat Your Way to a Healthy Smile
Healthy snacks play a key role in weight loss and maintenance, but what’s good for your waistline isn’t necessarily good for your oral health. In fact, every time you eat, you strengthen the bacteria that call your mouth a home. “Sugar and starches in food break down and feed the bacteria in your mouth,” explains Dr. Patricia Meredith, a dentist in Iowa City and a fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry. Then the bacteria produce waste, called acid, which attacks your teeth.
What’s more, the sweeter the food, the faster the bacteria multiply in your mouth. That’s why a candy bar or a can of soda isn’t a great between-meal choice. But even nutritious options can get stuck in crevices and keep the acid production going long after you’ve swallowed your last bite. “Luckily, there are other foods that keep your teeth clean and strong and provide minerals that can help prevent tooth decay,” says Meredith.
Here, four snacks for your healthiest you:
Super-snack No. 1: Apples Healthy Mouth Boost:
Apples and other cruciferous fruits and veggies act as natural tooth cleaners by scrubbing stubborn stains and plaque off your pearly whites. “Although produce can contain a lot of sugar, it isn’t as harmful to your teeth as processed sugars in candy,” says Meredith.
In a recent study at Pennsylvania State University, when people had an apple before a pasta lunch, they ate almost 190 fewer calories than those who drank apple juice, ate applesauce or had nothing beforehand. So instead of digging straight into your lunch or dinner, enjoy an apple as an appetizer.
Super-snack No. 2: Kiwi and Red PeppersHealthy Mouth Boost:
Along with guava and strawberries, these snacks are vitamin C superstars, and skimping on vitamin C can contribute to bleeding gums and loose teeth. A recent study University of Buffalo, New York, study of over 12,000 adults showed that those who consumed less than 60 milligrams of vitamin C a day (about one orange) were nearly one and a half times as likely to develop gum disease as people who had 180 mg daily (about 1/3 cup of raw red pepper plus one kiwi).
In a study at Arizona State University, people who took a vitamin C supplement burned more fat during exercise than those who were deficient. Try fueling up before your workout with red pepper strips.
Super-snack No. 3: Fortified Cereal
Healthy Mouth Boost:
Yogurt and cheese are great sources of calcium, an important mineral for healthy teeth and a strong jawbone, but if dairy doesn’t agree with you, munch on your favorite fortified cereal. (Check the ingredient list for calcium content.) A study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that women who consumed less than 500 milligrams of calcium per day had a 54 percent higher risk of periodontal disease than those who got 800 milligrams or more daily.
According to French researchers, women with low-calcium diets have more body fat, bigger waistlines and a higher level of unhealthy cholesterol than those who consume moderate or high amounts of the mineral.
Super-snack No. 4: Eggs
Healthy Mouth Boost:
Hardboiled, scrambled or in an omelet, eggs are a good choice for oral health. But don’t skip the yolk -- it’s an important source of vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium. The yolk also provides iron, too little of which can lead to sores on your tongue and inside your mouth.
Eggs are the breakfast of champions when it comes to staying slim -- research shows they keep you full all day long. In one study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, overweight and obese women ate either an egg breakfast or an equal-calorie bagel breakfast. Egg eaters were less hungry afterward and consumed fewer calories for the day.
Ella Brooks is a New York City-based health writer and editor. Her articles have appeared in such national women's magazines as Shape, Prevention, Natural Health and Woman's Day.
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