Eating healthy, wholesome foods is crucial for your health. Choosing foods and beverages that provide sustainable energy (no crashes!) and nutrients fuels a healthy body, including improving oral health. You can improve your physical and oral health by knowing what kinds of healthy foods to eat, what foods to avoid, and learning healthy eating habits.
How Eating Healthy Impacts Your Oral Health
A nutritious diet includes a balanced mix of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Have you heard the saying 'everything in moderation?' Even healthy foods can become unhealthy if eaten too often in big servings.
To figure out proper serving sizes and food groups, the U.S. Department of Agriculture created MyPlate. MyPlate provides education and examples of food groups, including fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy. It is easy to get overwhelmed in the grocery store when faced with dozens of options of fresh, canned, frozen, and dried foods. You can learn how to read a nutrition label from the CDC so you can track the number of carbohydrates, fats, and other nutritional data.
A poor diet can lead to your body, not replenishing its energy stores. You feel fatigued and tired, and a poor diet can deplete your immune system, so you are more at risk for illness. You may not know that diet can also affect your oral health. By eating unhealthy foods such as candy, processed fatty foods, or acidic beverages, you are at a higher risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
Certain foods can harm your oral health. Sugary and starchy foods like candy, bread, and chips can stick to your teeth and provide the naturally occurring bacteria there a huge meal—encouraging the bacteria to grow. Also, acidic foods can start to erode the enamel. So, it's crucial to brush your teeth at least twice a day and remove that sugar and acid from your teeth. You can brush after meals or snacks, floss, or even using mouthwash to clean your teeth after eating. It is important to clean the mouth after eating or drinking to prevent oral health issues. If you aren't able to brush your teeth, chewing sugar-free gum can promote saliva production, helping your body rinse the remaining food away.
Beyond your daily oral care routine, keeping your bi-yearly dental cleaning appointments will help your teeth stay healthy over the long-term, preventing gingivitis and other dental problems.
What you drink is just as vital to your health as what you eat. Drinking enough water is crucial for your health. Water helps digest and absorb the nutrients in your food, supply needed hydration to your organs, and help moisten your mouth to flush plaque and bacteria from your teeth.
Soda, alcoholic cocktails, sports drinks, and energy drinks often contain sugar, artificial colors, flavors, and acids that can damage your teeth. These ingredients can erode tooth enamel, contributing to tooth decay. Limit soda and other sugary drinks to mealtimes and drink water afterward to help wash away those harmful ingredients from your teeth and stay hydrated.
Our bodies are not able to create all the nutrients we need without help. That's why we have to ensure we eat food or supplements that contain those nutrients. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises eating the following each day for a 2,000-calorie diet:
- 6 ounces of grains, including whole grains and refined grains
- 2-1/2 cups of vegetables
- 2 cups of fruits
- 3 cups or equivalent of dairy products like milk or yogurt
- 5-1/2 ounces of protein from meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, or nuts
- Limiting calories from other sources to 270 kcal per day
A balanced diet consists of the following nutrients:
- Some carbohydrates
- Essential fatty acids found in fish and nuts
- Essential amino acids (found in proteins)
- Vitamins from vegetables and fruit
You can learn more about these essential nutrients from MyPlate or speak with a dietician for a unique diet customized for you!
Fad diets pop up all the time but replacing starchy or sugary food with fruits, vegetables, and lean protein are excellent choices for your health. Here are several eating habits to practice:
- Snack in moderation, keep most eating to mealtimes
- Snack on nutritious foods such as fruit, vegetables, and nuts
- Eat sweet treats with meals if you must indulge
- Avoid stocking your pantry with starchy or sugary foods
- Eat various vegetables
- Eat fruits instead of candy or sweets
- Pack your diet with lean proteins such as poultry, reduced-fat beef, or fish
Eating healthy may seem overwhelming, but making just one or two changes in your diet can improve your health. Like making any goal, make your nutritional goal attainable and realistic. Once you achieve that goal, you can make a bigger one. Before you know it, you'll be healthier and feel a lot better about your overall health.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.