An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but what keeps you out of the dentist's chair? There are many tricks of the trade, such as brushing, flossing and routine check-ups, but eating your vegetables ranks high on the list for good oral health.
It's no secret that veggies are good for you, but how can they improve your dental visits? According to a 2010 New York Times article, around 75 percent of American adults have had some type of gum disease. Vegetables possess many of the nutrients that can prevent and treat this prevalent condition. So, read on to find out why more broccoli and spinach can put a better smile on your face!
The human mouth is a petri dish of bacteria, and problems arise if we don't control these bacteria. Gingivitis, aka gum disease, is a perfect example. Gingivitis is a bacterial infection around the teeth, caused by accumulation of plaque and tartar -- symptoms include swollen, bleeding and irritated gums. The bad news is that untreated gingivitis can lead to advanced gum disease, or periodontitis, which is linked to numerous health issues. The good news is that gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease, and changes in your diet can reverse it. Enter your green, leafy vegetables.
We're told to eat our vegetables for numerous reasons but how does it help gingivitis? Nutrients in the vegetables are the key. For example, Vitamin C has a plethora of benefits for the gums. It helps produce collagen which helps form body tissue. Vitamin C also repairs damaged gums and helps the gums become more resistant to oral bacteria.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, or a free radical fighter. Free radicals aren't crazy activists, but cells damaged by oxidation, or a natural exposure to oxygen. A certain amount of free radicals are normal, but antioxidants like Vitamin C, help minimize the damage they have on healthy cells and their ability to reproduce. While Vitamin C may be the star of the show, Vitamin E, calcium and folic acid also can control gingivitis. Folic acid, a B vitamin, helps your mouth's cells stay healthy. Vitamin E is another antioxidant, fighting the war against free radicals. And, calcium helps with strong teeth, bones, and gums.
Vegetables provide the vitamins our mouth needs, but they do even more. The chewing action alone, involved in eating raw veggies, strengthens your gums, encourages blood circulation and builds strong teeth. Additionally, vegetables are a key source of fiber, which builds a strong immune system.
Now you know what you need. How do you find it? Here's a vegetable cheat sheet for you:
- Vitamin C: red and green peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and tomatoes
- Vitamin E: Spinach, turnip greens, collards, along with oils (vegetable, seed and nut)
- Folic Acid: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, and spinach
If you'd like to get in a number of vegetables at once, try this vegetable soup recipe from TLC Cooking.
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- Chicago Tribune. "Vegetables for healthy teeth and gums." (September 6, 2011). http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/chi-keeping-teeth-healthy-with-vegetables-20110506,0,1713175.photogallery
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