We’ve all heard about what not to eat: too many sweets, soft drinks, and processed foods. Acidic sodas and refined sugar contain acids that weaken the enamel of your teeth on contact, making them more susceptible to cavities.
But even citrus fruits contain acids, and natural sugars and debris left behind from healthy grains, fruits, and vegetables can also lead to tooth problems.
But before you consider going Paleo, we thought you’d like to know that Mother Nature’s pantry provides many foods that are good for your mouth and your overall health. You might not even have to change your diet much because these common foods and drinks help keep your teeth shiny and your gums strong. Enjoy!
1. ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU CHEW A LOT
Chewing releases saliva in your mouth, which helps wash away acid and plaque-causing bacteria. Naturally, some chewable foods, like fresh fruit, are healthier than others, but the very act of chewing is beneficial.
In fact, even sugarless gum can help clean your mouth because it doesn’t contain sucrose, the natural sweetener that leads to tooth erosion. But there are still healthier alternatives, like...
What’s naturally sweeter when it’s kissed by the sun? You guessed it, raisins. Mothers have known this for years, and now raisins are part of your favorite health bar or trail mix.
Though super sweet, raisins contain phytochemicals that actually destroy plaque. Other dried fruit doesn’t. But raisins are also super sticky, so be sure to brush well later and regularly use mouthwash.
3. APPLES AND CRUNCHY FRUIT
Firm, crunchy foods that are high in water help massage your gums and naturally scrub away lodged food particles and plaque. Apples, in particular, also freshen breath. They’ve even been referred to as “nature’s toothbrush.” Other healthy crunchies include lunchbox staples like celery and carrot sticks.
4. MILK AND CHEESE
Number 4 is no surprise. Dairy products are rich in calcium and phosphorus, two minerals that protect your teeth against acid attacks.
But are all dairy products equal? A study published in General Dentistry reports that children who ate cheese directly following a meal actually had lower acid levels in their mouth than those who just drank milk. And calcium-rich cheese also makes you chew, so you get the added benefit of the natural mouthwash. That makes the cheese platter served at the end of the meal that much more appealing.
5. LEAFY GREENS (EAT YOUR GREENS)
Crunchy salads promote salivation, which is good for cleaning teeth. Also, greens like spinach, kale, and chard are high in calcium and are packed with folic acid, a B vitamin that may help treat gum disease. Other fibrous alternatives include string beans, asparagus, and broccoli.
6. BLACK AND GREEN TEA
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the benefits of green tea, but studies show that black tea is also good for you. Bitter tea leaves contain compounds called polyphenols, which help prevent plaque buildup on the teeth.
Some studies have found that rinsing with black tea helps fight bad breath, and that green tea reduces the presence of periodontal diseases. The good effects are most noticeable with fresh-brewed tea, but adding milk and sugar reduces the tea’s effectiveness at fighting plaque.
7. DARK CHOCOLATE
If everything sounded too healthy up until now, you may breathe a little easier knowing that dark chocolate is also good for your teeth. Cocoa beans contain plaque-prohibiting polyphenols alongside tooth-protecting tannins and flavonoids.
But like with tea, adding tons of milk and sugar will cut the benefits. Bars containing more than 70% cocoa, including some Lindt and Ghirardelli blends, are the least processed and therefore the best for your health.
Even if you’re not a fan of dark chocolate and this post has made you hungry for something sweeter, try washing it down with a glass of milk! The milk helps neutralize the acids to some extent, so you can enjoy more years of healthy teeth to help you chew.