We all know that sugar is bad for our teeth and that certain beverages such as coffee and wine can stain our pearly whites (sure, take away everything we love!), but not all foods should be frowned upon. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) has compiled several studies in a new free e-book, "Recipes for a Healthier Smile," that show certain foods are actually chockfull of beautifying benefits for our teeth and gums.
For example, did you know that basil can reduce bacteria (think: bad breath) in your mouth? Or that cheese can prevent tooth decay?
"A lot of people separate the mouth from the rest of the body," explains Shawn Frawley, general dentist in Beverly Hills and co-author of AACD's e-book, "but the mouth is really connected to the body."
That means the same types of foods that can help stave off cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease can also help prevent common oral health problems, like tooth decay, gum disease and cavities.
"What's basically good for the body as a whole is good for your mouth, too," says Dr. Frawley. "That means, plant-based foods, like vegetables, whole grains, legumes and beans, which are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants."
Most foods in a plant-based diet are beneficial. Take celery and kale. "Celery is very helpful because its fibers have that stringiness to them," he says. "Chewing it helps to clean the teeth — almost like the bristles of a toothbrush." As for kale, it's loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, which promote gum health.
Calcium-rich foods are also good for your teeth, but don't be fooled by the myth that milk is best, according to Frawley. Although it's true that foods high in calcium prevent decay, milk can have a lot of natural or added sugar in it. Other good sources of calcium include tofu, calcium-fortified soy milk and collard greens, according to the USDA.
Adds Frawley: "We look at food to get us by, but it can really help benefit us and heal the body from a lot of chronic diseases and infections. A lot of medical providers look to drugs to do that, but we have those healing powers right in front of us with the foods we eat."
Ready to get a brighter, healthier smile? Try these three recipes from the AACD to boost your oral health:
Breakfast: Kaleberry Smile Booster Smoothie Recipe
Recipe by Dr. Shawn Frawley
8 ounces brewed green tea (plain, chilled)
4 ice cubes
1⁄2 cup frozen blueberries
1⁄2 cup frozen strawberries
4 kale leaves
1⁄4 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon xylitol (can be bought in most health food stores, such as Whole Foods, and is available online)
Brew green tea and chill. In a blender, add ice, green tea, Greek yogurt and kale. Blend until no large pieces of kale are visible. Add the other ingredients and blend until all ingredients are well incorporated.
Lunch: Crunchy Chopped Salad Recipe
Recipe by Karen D. Krchma
1 cup celery, chopped
1⁄4 cup red pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon onion (red, green or white) finely chopped
4 leaves fresh basil, chopped, or 1⁄4 teaspoon dried basil
2 drops stevia, or 1 teaspoon honey, to taste
1 teaspoon raspberry vinegar
1 teaspoon cold pressed extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Sea salt, a pinch or two to taste
Fresh ground peppercorn, a pinch or two to taste
Chop the vegetables and basil, if using fresh, and place in a medium bowl. If using dried basil, keep in a separate bowl.
In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, stevia (or honey), salt, pepper, olive oil (optional), and 2 teaspoons of water. Add dried basil if using this instead of fresh. Stir and pour over vegetables. Toss well to coat.
Dinner: Shiitake Mushroom Chicken with Millet Recipe
Recipe by Karen D. Krchma
1 1⁄2 pounds chicken breast (preferably, organic, hormone- and antibiotic free)
2 teaspoons sea salt, Himalayan or Celtic
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped, or 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, washed, trimmed and patted dry. (Remove the tops and slice; finely chop the stems.)
1 small onion, chopped
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, removing the leaves from the stem, or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
3 - 4 green onions, trimmed and sliced diagonally, or increase onion to 1 medium onion
1⁄2 cup fresh pea pods, washed, trimmed, sliced diagonally (optional)
1⁄2 cup sliced red pepper (optional)
1⁄4 cup white wine, dry preferred
1 cup fresh or prepared chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter, organic preferred, or Ghee (clarified butter)
2 tablespoons, fresh coarsely chopped parsley, or 1 scant tablespoon dried parsley
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Wash and scrape chicken (scrape a sharp knife over the chicken while rinsing under running water). Place chicken breasts on a glass cutting board. With a sharp knife, pierce each chicken breast 10 - 12 times. Using a wooden or stainless steel meat tenderizer (mallet), pound each chicken breast down to 1⁄4 - 1⁄2-inch thickness, as evenly as possible. Tent a paper towel over the mallet to prevent “chicken splash” when pounding. Never use plastic wrap when pounding chicken. Cut each breast in half, or palm-size pieces. Sprinkle chicken with sea salt and garlic powder if using.
Heat coconut oil in skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot add chicken, mushrooms and onions, as well as fresh garlic if using. Sauté chicken about 5 - 7 minutes or until lightly brown, stirring mushrooms and onions to brown evenly. Turn chicken to brown both sides, cooking for an additional 5 - 7 minutes, making sure juices in the thickest part run clear. Place chicken breasts in a baking dish and cover to keep warm.
In your skillet with the mushrooms and onions, add rosemary, green onions, pea pods, and red pepper. Add the wine, stirring to loosen cooked juices in the pan. When the wine is slightly reduced, add the broth, and then continue to cook until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in butter or Ghee. Add the chicken and bring back to serving temperature. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and parsley and serve.