We all know eating our veggies is good for us … but why exactly? Sure, they’re colorful, and taste yummy (they do, right?), but what is it about the chemical compounds found in vegetables that make them good for our teeth? And, why worry about it now? Well, because it’s Eat Your Veggies Day on June 17th, and we thought we’d share with you a cornucopia of knowledge as to what makes veggies tick. Ready? Here we go!
Protein: We tend to think of protein as something we get from meat, but ask a vegetarian (or vegan!), and you’ll find there are plenty of plant sources chock-full of protein. Protein helps strengthen our teeth, helps keep our immune system robust (good with all that bacteria we’re inhaling all day long), and aids in mucosal and connective tissue development. Favorite sources:Peas, spinach, potatoes, broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts
Calcium: Kale, broccoli, garlic, spinach and okra each pack a mean calcium-punch: an essential nutrient for healthy teeth.
Phosphorus: Like calcium, healthy teeth also need phosphorous. Seeds and nuts are the winners here, and as you know, not vegetables. But they are healthy, so we thought we’d include them! Broccoli and garlic are the big veggie winners.
Zinc: Our immune system, as well as our mucosal and connective tissues (gum tissue) love zinc. That’s why veggies rich in this mineral are a must-have for a healthy mouth. Favorite sources: Peas, shiitake mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and napa cabbage.
Antioxidants: Hmmm… antioxidants. How about all vegetables under the sun?! Consume away, and juice ‘em every once and a while as well. Antioxidants are great for maintaining healthy mucosal and connective tissues and, as just about everything else on this list, a healthy immune system!
Folate: Asparagus, broccoli, collard greens, peas, spinach and endive are your folate friends. Eat them with much joy and your gum tissue will thank you.
Iron: If you’re looking for more iron to boost your immune system, look no further than dark green leafy vegetables. They’re packed with the stuff, and our bodies absorb it readily when coupled with vitamin C (antioxidant!). What area of our mouth likes iron? Gum tissue!
Vitamin A: Gum tissue needs Vitamin A to remain healthy. Carrots, cabbage, collard greens, lettuce, spinach and sweet potatoes are all good sources.
Vitamin C: Peppers, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, top the favorite list of vegetables packing a lot of vitamin C. Some of these guys even have more Vitamin C than oranges! Your mouth thrives on Vitamin C for collagen development, to maintain the integrity of the periodontal ligament; mucosal and connective tissue development, as well as overall immune health.
Omega-3 fats: Yummy fat. Do veggie sources have fat? Yep! Gum tissue needs fat to stay healthy, and it helps temper inflammatory response. Of course, as with most of these, our immune system gets a boost as well. So, go ahead and eat fatty vegetables! Here’s a huge list! P.S. Avocados and olives are fruit!
Vitamin D: Do you like mushrooms? Great! Cause they’re your go-to source for Vitamin D when it comes to veggies. Healthy gum tissue, a good immune system, and enamel remineralization are the gifts they provide.
B vitamins: Like all the cells in our body, the epithelial cells in our mouths have a regular rate of turnover where old cells are replaced by new ones. Helping that process along are the B vitamins we can find in sweet potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, winter squash, lettuce, spinach and artichokes. Make a salad!
So, there you have it – tons of info on how those veggies you’re consuming contribute to your overall oral health. Eat well and be well!
We’re indebted to the Precision Nutrition’s “Dental Diet,” which served as inspiration for this article. Please visit their site for even more amazing insight into eating for your teeth!