Remember the old saying: “You are what you eat”? A balanced diet is one part of creating and maintaining strong, healthy teeth and teaching your children habits that will last throughout their lives. You know that sugar promotes cavities and gum inflammation (gingivitis) by attacking tooth enamel, but what else? Are there actually Super Foods that should be part of your child’s diet to promote the highest possible quality of both dental and general health? According to WebMD and other sources, there are. Below are eight foods particularly beneficial for dental health. (PS: Some of them will surprise you!)
Almonds contain lots of vitamin E, which has been shown in studies to prevent inflammation. These little nuts are packed with calcium, manganese, magnesium and fiber, too. Because they’re quite hard, I recommend that you chop them up when serving them to your children, as in salads or as toppings on hot cereal or yogurt, or soak them overnight to soften them, which won’t eliminate their health benefits!
Is there a child who doesn’t like carrots? Loaded with nutrients such as beta carotene, fiber, vitamins A, C, K, and B8, pantothenic acid, folate, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese, these crunchy root veggies are also antibacterial scrubbies for teeth that help remove stains and stimulate saliva, which helps clean teeth.
The same kiddos that love carrots likely avoid leafy greens, either because they dislike the taste and texture of salad dressing and/or the strong flavor of greens like kale and spinach. It might surprise you to know that folic acid (aka folate), found in abundance in leafy greens, is a type of vitamin B believed to fight gum disease. Leafy greens are also rich in calcium! Not sure how to get your kids to eat leafy greens? Here’s a link to 10 Kid Friendly Spinach and Kale Recipes from MomToMomNutrition.com.
Did you know that red peppers contain almost 300% of your daily vitamin C requirement? Vitamin C protects the immune system, aids in the absorption of iron and protects the gums from oral bacteria. Red peppers are also loaded with folic acid, fiber and Vitamin A.
Interesting fact: Except for the Permagreen variety, all green peppers become red when allowed to fully ripen.
Most kids like animal protein, such as beef and chicken. Red meat in particular is loaded with iron and Vitamin B12, deficiencies of which can cause tongue inflammation and oral sores. You may wish to consider organic and/or grass-fed meat to avoid exposing your family to the hormones and antibiotics in mass produced meat.
Kids love cheese and its level of calcium, great for bone and dental development, make it a high quality food for them. Cheese also raises the pH in the mouth, which lowers the risk of tooth decay. Several European cultures understand the benefit of eating cheese at the end of a meal: it promotes saliva production which helps wash away food particles and bacteria!
Yogurt is an excellent source of both protein and calcium but kids aren’t in love with the plain variety, and yogurts with fruit are loaded with sugar. What to do? Add frozen, unsweetened fruit to plain Greek yogurt plus milk or almond milk to create smoothies. An alternative is to add jam or jelly made without extra sugar.
Certain varieties of fish, such as tuna and salmon, are considered “fatty fish.” The fat in these fish helps the body absorb calcium and provides vitamin D. If your kids aren’t fans of fish unless it’s breaded and deep fried, check out this page of Martha Stewart “Kid-Friendly Fish & Shellfish Recipes.”
In general, consuming more of the foods above, especially raw veggies, will protect the health of your children’s teeth and gums as well as the rest of their bodies! Appropriate diet plus twice-yearly visits to our NYC pediatric dental office will help your children maintain beautiful and healthy smiles!