What is a superfood?
Superfoods are nutritionally dense foods, like blueberries, kale, and salmon, that are good for one's health. They don't have a category of its own and is more of a buzzword than anything, but these foods are rich in nutrients, fibre, and healthy fats. So which one of these foods are specifically great for your teeth?
There are a few factors that can make a superfood good for teeth, but what we look for are foods rich in calcium and one's that help to neutralize the acid levels in our mouths.
A rich source of Vitamin C
Vitamin C, or ‘ascorbic acid’, produces collagen, a protein that helps to fight gum disease. Without it, gums are more sensitive and susceptible to harmful bacteria. Vitamin C helps to keep bones and teeth strong, and to maintain a healthy immune system.
Though it has many other nutrients, peppers, and specifically red peppers, contain almost 300 percent of our vitamin C requirements. Fun fact: green, yellow, and orange peppers are just less ripened red peppers. Peppers are also less acidic than citrus fruit, making them the ideal superfood to get your vitamin C from that will benefit your dental health.
Other vitamin C rich superfoods: strawberries, kiwis, and sweet potatoes.
Calcium-rich hard cheeses
Get out the charcuterie, because cheese is good for your teeth. Specifically hard cheese contain calcium and phosphorous - two key elements to building tooth enamel. Most people will get enough of their phosphorous intake from proteins like red meats, tofu, and eggs, but getting enough of your daily calcium takes more conscious effort. Cue the cheese!
Hard cheeses, consumed in moderation, are an especially good source of calcium and it helps to reduce the acid levels in your mouth. Chewing hard cheeses in particular also increases saliva production, which reduces bacteria.
Also good sources of calcium and phosphorous: milk, yogurt, and tofu.
A rich source of Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps to regulate the calcium and phosphate in your body (from all that hard cheese), and these nutrients are necessary to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. That's why it's essential to producing enamel (the layer that covers sensitive parts of your teeth and helps to fight tooth decay). Weak enamel leaves your teeth more susceptible to rot and cavities. But don't worry, weakened enamel can be strengthened again.
A superfood that's packed with vitamin D and especially good for your teeth are Shiitake mushrooms - they also contain lentinan, a compound that inhibits plaque formation (a 2-for-1 superfood).
Other superfoods packed with vitamin D: wild salmon, fish, and egg yolks.
Bacteria are typically the villains of the mouth – largely responsible for bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay. But not all bacteria is bad bacteria. Probiotics have been shown to help reduce gum disease and plaque formation. Kefir is a superfood that’s not only high in probiotic content, but also contains calcium. That’s a dental double threat.
Other great probiotics: yogurt, sauerkraut, and miso.
Green tea and other polyphenols
What are polyphenols? They act as antioxidants and aid in reducing inflammation (thought to be the root cause of chronic illnesses). Polyphenols help to slow the growth of plaque-causing bacteria and green tea is an excellent source of it.
You likely drink your green tea at the end of a meal - this is perfect timing to fight the food-hungry bacteria that are left in your mouth afterwards.
Fresh cranberries and flax seed are also great sources of polyphenols.
Celery (and other crunchy watery fruits and veggies)
The abrasive texture of these superfoods help to gently scrub teeth, like a natural toothbrush. Their chewiness also helpfully increases saliva production. Celery, being especially fibrous, is an ideal superfood that benefits your teeth.
Apples, cucumbers, and carrots are other crunchy fruits and veggies that help to scrub those teeth!
Dark chocolate is good for your teeth
Yup, you read that right. Dark chocolate has been long identified as a superfood that has lots of benefits and is great for your teeth!
Chocolate, made from cacao beans, are naturally rich in antioxidants too that help to keep bacteria from sticking to your teeth and neutralize bad breath and infections. Cacao beans also contain CBH, which hardens enamel and fights against decay and cavities. CBH strengthens enamel in a similar way that fluoride does (some studies show that it's even more effective in preventing cavities than fluoride).
And before you reach for that milk chocolate, the darker the chocolate (at least 70% cacao and more), the less sugar, and healthier.
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