Whether you eat to live or live to eat, the month of March is special. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics designated March to be National Nutrition Month®, a time when everyone is encouraged to learn about making informed food choices. They also promote the development of healthful eating and good physical activity habits during this time.
National Nutrition Month is not new. In fact, it began in 1973 as National Nutrition Week. Within seven years, the interest was so great, it expanded from one week to the entire month of March. It began as a means to promote the profession and to educate the general public about nutrition. The message is still being delivered almost 50 years later.
Making healthy food choices is good for your body and for your teeth. For decades, refined sugar has been in the limelight as one of the main culprits for dental problems. Unfortunately, it still is in the forefront as a serious problem affecting the oral health of millions. On the positive side, there is a significant connection between eating healthy food and maintaining good oral health. National Nutrition Month is the perfect time to get serious about eating healthy foods that can improve your oral health at the same time.
Every week in March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a different focus geared to help people make healthy choices that amount to lifestyle changes for some. This year’s topics include:
- Week One: Eat a variety of nutritious foods every day!
- Week Two: Plan your meals each week!
- Week Three: Learn skills to create tasty meals!
- Week Four: Consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Every week has suggestions on how to be more intentional about your food intake. For example, week one recommends including healthful food from all food groups, hydrating healthfully, learning how to read the nutrition panels on packaging, avoiding distractions while you eat and taking the time to enjoy your food.
Know What Is in the Food You Eat
Reading the labels on the packages is important if you are planning on cutting down on your sugar intake. If you are one who reads the labels but only checks the grams of sugar, you may not be getting the entire story. Where is the sugar coming from? If sugar is not one of the first 5 ingredients on the label and the sugar is from fruit, then you have a green light.
Simple sugars include high fructose corn syrup, sugar, sucrose and brown rice syrup. These sugars have no nutrients to benefit your body. They get absorbed quickly and lead to a crash. These are also the type of sugars that most easily feed the harmful bacteria in your mouth.
If you are going to eat packaged foods with sugars, the better choice is to choose those which have the kind of sugar that comes from fruit, dates, raw honey or molasses. These sugars are sweet and they have nutrients for your body.
When you learn to read the labels on packaging, you can make healthier choices about what you are putting into your body. Not all packaged foods are bad for you, but once you begin to take notice of the ingredients in the food you eat, you will be surprised at what is actually in those processed foods; and it is not very pretty, in many cases. If you cannot pronounce the ingredients, chances are they do not belong in your body. The closer the food is to its natural state, the better it is for you.
You Are What You Eat
No doubt you have heard that saying before and when it comes to your teeth and gums, that adage speaks volumes. The starchy, sugary foods we have grown to love so much feed the bad bacteria in the mouth more than they feed our bodies. These foods cause tooth decay and gum disease.
Even when you practice good oral hygiene, if the foods you eat are not healthy, your teeth and gums will suffer at some point. On the other hand, when you eat a diet rich in foods that are full of nutrients your body, the teeth and gums benefit. Maintaining a balanced diet means eating fruits and vegetables, protein-rich foods, calcium-rich foods and whole grains. These are the ingredients that will keep your smile healthy, along with your body.
Healthy Foods for a Healthy Smile
Fresh fruits and vegetables have two major benefits for healthy smiles. They have high nutritional value, which is important for your body, teeth and gums. Additionally, they have teeth cleaning benefits. When you eat crisp, crunchy fruits and raw vegetables, they help clean away plaque from your teeth while they freshen your breath. Fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, jicama and celery are stars in this department. Crunchy foods also increase saliva production, which helps wash away plaque-causing bacteria and food particles.
Foods that contain antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C and other nutrients protect your teeth and gums in other ways as well. They ward off bacterial infection and give protection from cell damage. The antioxidants and other nutrients in healthy foods help to strength the body’s immunity and work to improve your body’s ability to fight off bacteria and inflammation. Eating high quality foods is in essence a form of preventive dentistry. In this sense, high quality foods are those that are high in nutrition.
It is widely known that milk and dairy products rich in calcium and vitamin D help promote healthy teeth and bones. Cheese plays a special role in reducing dental decay. It provides a burst of calcium that mixes with plaque and sticks to the teeth and in so doing, it protects the teeth from the acid that causes decay and helps rebuild tooth enamel. The casein, a protein in cheese, helps fortify tooth enamel. The high phosphate content in cheese helps balance the pH levels in the mouth, which also helps preserve tooth enamel.
If you like nuts, you will love hearing about their health benefits for your teeth. Nuts are known for their nutrition benefits. They have calcium and phosphorus that helps protect the tooth enamel. Brazil nuts, cashews and almonds fight against the bacteria that lead to tooth decay. Peanuts are a good source of calcium and vitamin D. Walnuts contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that are healthy for your teeth.
Healthy Whole Grains
Simple carbohydrates will stick to your teeth and promote dental decay. Whole grains, however, are healthier choices. The complex carbs in whole grains are not as digestible for harmful bacteria. Additionally, they provide a variety of other nutrients that help keep teeth and gums healthy.
Take advantage of National Nutrition Month and learn more about the great foods that will keep your body, teeth and gums healthy. Try new recipes. You may even want to try new foods that you have not had before. This is the month to delve into new tastes with healthier, more nutritious foods.
Instead of the usual snacks that can lead to weight gain and poor oral health, discover new and nutritious snacks. Explore the healthy foods in other cuisines. Be adventurous and keep your teeth, gums and body in good shape by eating nutritious, healthy foods.
Contact Aesthetic & Implant Dentistry of Atlanta for all your dental needs. We will help you keep your smile healthy and looking beautiful.