Do you ever wonder what it takes to have a bright and healthy smile? We’re always encouraging our patients to take their oral hygiene seriously. While brushing regularly is an absolutely essential part of maintaining good dental health, we often overlook the importance of nutrition.
To keep cavities at bay and your teeth looking their best, you should focus on incorporating specific food groups into your diet.
What is a Food Group?
A food group is a classification of foods that share similar nutritional characteristics. The five main food groups are fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. These groups are chosen based on the macronutrients they provide, such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, as well as the micronutrients they supply, like vitamins and minerals.
Each food group plays a unique role in providing the necessary nutrients for a balanced diet and maintaining overall health. From there we can identify food subgroups that provide unique nutrients and can have different recommendations for intake.
The five food groups:
- Fruits – Fruits are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. They are low in calories and high in antioxidants. Examples of fruits include apples, bananas, oranges, and berries.
- Vegetables – Vegetables are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. They are also low in calories and high in antioxidants. Examples of vegetables include broccoli, spinach, carrots, and peppers.
- Grains – Grains provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are the main source of energy for the body and are found in bread, rice, pasta, cereals, and other grain-based foods.
- Proteins – Proteins are essential for the growth and repair of body tissues. They are found in meat, poultry, fish, beans, peas, and nuts.
- Dairy – Dairy products are the main source of calcium, phosphorus, and Vitamin D. They also provide other important nutrients, like protein, and can also be a source of probiotics. Examples of dairy products include milk, cheese, and yogurt.
What Foods Should I be Eating?
Optimal oral hygiene requires thoughtful consideration when selecting which foods to include in your diet. Here is a breakdown of the best and worst food choices for each food group that will help you maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Fruits and vegetables
- Apples, pears, and other crunchy fruits and vegetables contain high levels of water and fiber. They can help to stimulate the production of saliva, which can help to neutralize the acid in the mouth and protect the teeth from decay.
- Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and broccoli are rich in calcium and Vitamin K, which are essential for healthy teeth and gums.
- Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons are high in Vitamin C, which can help to strengthen the gums and promote healing in the mouth.
- Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, and cranberries contain antioxidants that can help to protect the teeth from damage.
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn can cause plaque build-up if they are not properly cleaned from the teeth after eating.
- Fruits and vegetables that are high in sugar such as grapes, bananas, and dried fruits should be limited as they can contribute to tooth decay if consumed in large amounts.
- Fried fruits and vegetables should be avoided as they are high in fat and calories which can lead to weight gain and other health problems such as heart disease. Additionally, Fried food particles can get stuck in the teeth, promoting plaque and bacteria growth which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
- Whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, and brown rice, are a good choice for oral health. These types of grains are high in fiber, which can help to scrape plaque and bacteria off of teeth. They also contain vitamins and minerals that can help to strengthen teeth and promote healthy gums.
- Refined grains such as white flour, white rice, and sugar, should be avoided or consumed in moderation. These types of grains are typically low in fiber and nutrients and can contribute to tooth decay. Processed foods made with refined grains such as white bread and sugary breakfast cereals can stick to the teeth and promote plaque growth, leading to tooth decay.
- Lean meats: lean cuts of beef, chicken, turkey, and fish are all good sources of protein and are less likely to stick to the teeth than other meats. They also contain essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 which are important for maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds are all good sources of protein and are also rich in vitamin E and magnesium. These nutrients help to keep gums healthy and can reduce inflammation.
- Processed meats: processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and deli meats often contain added sugars, which can promote tooth decay. They also tend to stick to the teeth, which can promote bacteria growth.
- High-fat meats: meats that are high in fat, such as ribeye steaks or pork chops, can increase the risk of plaque buildup and gum disease.
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt can be part of a healthy diet and can have positive effects on oral hygiene. Milk and cheese contain calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for maintaining strong teeth and bones.
- Cheese, in particular, can also help to neutralize the acid in the mouth and promote the production of saliva, which can help to rinse away bacteria and food particles.
- Dairy products high in sugar and saturated fats, such as ice cream and whole milk, should be consumed in moderation as they can contribute to tooth decay and poor oral hygiene.
- Hard cheeses: Hard cheeses like cheddar or parmesan, can be abrasive on tooth enamel.
A balanced diet from the 5 major food groups can have a remarkable effect on your oral health, and ultimately your overall well being. Taking mindful care of the foods you consume will improve not only your teeth and gums, but also give you an emotional boost. You should always try to stick to the healthy foods in each group, but there is nothing wrong with indulging in the yummy foods. While they aren’t great for your oral health, when consumed in moderation they can be the perfect reward when maintaining a balanced diet.