Foods to Love or Limit for a Healthy Smile this Holiday Season

foods to love or limitMiami and Coral Gables, FL

The holidays are coming, and so are the delicious foods and special treats. Although most people try to be careful through the holidays about what they eat and not to “pack on the pounds,” some seasonal bites can still cause damage to your teeth and gums.

In 2015, a report by the National Center of Health Statistics stated that 27 percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have cavities or tooth decay. Most of the damage is caused by the foods we eat as they slowly wear away the enamel that coats the surface of our teeth. Unfortunately, you can easily find these foods on platters at holiday parties and gatherings.

Of course, not all food is bad for your teeth, and there are some healthier options for your waistline, as well as your oral health. Below is a list of “Love” or “Limit” foods that will guide you through what’s good and bad for your dental health.

LOVE: Green, Leafy Veggies

Although a salad and other leafy greens may not be #1 on your list of holiday foods, they are actually very healthy for your teeth. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens are not only healthy for your body but your teeth and gums, too. They require more effort to chew, which stimulates saliva flow, the natural lubricant for our teeth.

LIMIT: Oranges, Grapefruit, Limes, and Lemons

Citrus foods are highly acidic, and you guessed it, these fruits are included in the citrus category. Since these fruits are acidic, large consumptions of these fruits can erode the enamel on your teeth, making decay more likely. A little squeeze of juice in your water is fine, but it’s recommended to consume larger quantities of these acidic fruits during a regular meal. When you combine the fruit with your meal, the rest of the food you eat can help wash away the acid, so there is less exposure to your teeth.

LOVE: Cheese

Pass the cheese, please! Cheese contains calcium and phosphorus, which promote teeth re-mineralization through a natural process that will help you prevent cavities. Also, cheese contains the protein casein, which provides protection that will also help fight cavities. There are many dairy products in general, including yogurt and ice cream, in addition to cheese, which promotes overall bone health due to the calcium content.

LIMIT: Candy

All sugar and nothing but sugar. Unfortunately, candy is a treat you should limit. When you eat candy that has a high sugar content, the bacteria in your mouth will throw a party and feed on it. While it’s feeding on the sugar, the bacteria will also create an acid that can harm your teeth by attacking the enamel. Some of the holiday favorites you will want to make sure you avoid are toffees and candy canes as they are typically sticky and will remain on your teeth unless removed by brushing and flossing. So, if you decide to indulge in the sweet treats this holiday season, drink a glass of water along with it, or brush and floss to reduce any potential damage.

LOVE: Berries (in Moderation)

Full of nutrients and great for your overall health, berries are plentiful through all seasons. With blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries in the summer, cranberries in the winter, and huckleberries in the spring, you are sure to get plenty of vitamins and minerals all year long. Since they are naturally sweet, they are great to help soothe a sweet tooth craving, and they’re high in antioxidants too. Just remember that berries can be acidic and have small seeds too, so it’s highly recommended to drink water or brush and floss your teeth after eating them.

LIMIT: Dried Fruit

Dried fruits can come in many forms during the holiday season. Sprinkled in a salad, given as a gift, or in a staple holiday dish, these tasty yet sticky nibbles are a hazard for the enamel on your teeth. Dried fruits will stick to your teeth, and that creates a breeding ground for bacteria, which erodes tooth enamel, eventually causing cavities. So, if you choose to eat dried fruits such as apricots, raisins, or prunes, it’s recommended to eat them as a trail mix with nuts. The salty-sweet mix will help scrape the dried fruit off your teeth.

LOVE: Nuts

Served as a snack, used in a traditional holiday cake, or roasted on an open fire, nuts seem to show up for any occasion. These tasty tidbits are full of nutrients like calcium and phosphorus and provide a healthy dose of protein. There’s no need to avoid nuts due to a fear that your teeth may chip or crack. Your teeth should be strong enough to chew nuts and get the satisfaction from the salty snack as you chew. Remember to shell your nuts before eating them so you won’t cause any unnecessary damage to your teeth.

LIMIT: Alcohol and Coffee

The holidays are a time where you may go to several parties and have a few cocktails or a time when you are so busy you are stopping at the local coffee shop for a mid-day pick me up just to finish the day. It can be difficult to limit these beverages during the holidays, but both drinks can stain your teeth and dry out your mouth. When your mouth dries out, it becomes a breeding ground for more aggressive bacteria growth. If you drink alcohol on a regular basis, the ADA says that, over time, it could lead to a much drier mouth and increases the possibility of gum disease and cavities. Since alcohol already has a high level of sugar, adding a citric mixer to your beverage will only compound the potential damage. Also, if you drink coffee and add sugar, you could damage your teeth even more.

LOVE: Fruits and Veggies

Apples are a staple during the holiday season. They are good for your teeth and can even help scrub them of other stuck-on foods. Broccoli, celery, cauliflower, and carrots are healthy for your teeth when they are consumed raw. These, along with leafy greens, are high fiber foods that will help clean your mouth by stimulating salivation. So, the more fruits and veggies, the better!

Moderation is Key

There is no need to completely lay off all the good holiday treats and festive foods. Just make sure that you are sensible in your food choices, and that you make sure to brush and floss at least twice a day to keep the cavities away.

For more information on maintaining a healthy smile during the holidays, just contact Miami Designer Smiles today by calling (305) 595-4616. We provide complete oral care to the areas of Coral Gables and Miami.