Plant-based diets seem to be all the rage these days. While the definition of what constitutes a plant-based diet varies, this article from Healthline outlines the basic principles. Essentially, a plant-based diet limits meat and processed food, while focusing on plants — including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts.
Health benefits of a plant-based diet include weight loss and reduced risks for developing diabetes and heart disease. But what about your teeth? A diet that minimizes processed food and added sugars will improve oral health … but as with any diet, you must choose your foods wisely.
Don’t cut the cheese
Many people following a plant-based diet also limit or avoid animal products. If you’re considering a plant-based diet, think twice before cutting dairy products out of your diet. Not only are foods like cheese and yogurt a good source of calcium, they can also help rebuild tooth enamel.
Load up on the good stuff
Eliminating processed foods like chips, cereal and granola bars will leave more room for nutrient-rich whole foods that can also improve oral health. Which whole foods are the best? One Green Planet suggests eating more mushrooms and carrots. Shiitake mushrooms contain lentinan, which helps prevent gingivitis. And carrots contain keratin, which helps promote formation of tooth enamel and prevents tooth decay.
How to satisfy your sweet tooth
While cutting out desserts and sugary drinks like soda and fruit juices are smart choices, it’s important to choose the right foods to satisfy those sugar cravings. Adding lemon or lime to your water for additional flavor, or starting the day with a pineapple smoothie is okay in moderation, but beware of eating too many fruits with a high acidic content. Fruits that are highly acidic — like pineapple, grapefruit, lemon and lime — can wear down tooth enamel and cause tooth sensitivity.
Instead, indulge in low acidic fruits like strawberries and apples which offer other benefits. Strawberries contain malic acid, which can help break down stains and make your teeth whiter. And the old “apple a day” saying applies to your oral health also; eating an apple creates saliva which helps rinse away bacteria.
Whether you follow a plant-based diet, a gluten free diet, a paleo diet or your own eating style, it’s important to eat a good mix of healthy foods to keep your mouth in check. If you have questions about how your diet impacts your teeth, your hygienist or dentist is happy to help.