Something to smile about.

By Kim Rose, RDN, LD, CDE
June 10, 2021
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Coffee with milk
Credit: Victor Protasio

Eat the rainbow - or so the saying goes. While that's certainly good advice, some not-so-colorful ingredients can be especially good for your pearly whites (and the rest of your mouth).

In fact, milk and other dairy products are high in vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus - the trifecta of nutrients that work together to build strong teeth. If you're drinking three cups of milk a day, you're well on your way to the recommended 1,000 milligrams of calcium. But it's smart to spread your servings throughout the day - the body can only absorb about 500 milligrams of calcium at a time. And if you prefer something more spoonable, promising research shows that probiotics (good bacteria) like those in yogurt and kefir may fight off inflammation and bad breath caused by harmful bacteria.

If dairy isn't your thing, snack on phosphorus-rich almonds and peanuts. Add in white beans, such as navy beans. (One cup provides 13 percent of your recommended daily calcium.) And stir some mushrooms into pasta, salads, or soups. Tip: Buy mushrooms treated with ultraviolet light (check the package label). UV rays allow mushrooms to provide vitamin D - just 1 cup contains almost 100 percent of the recommended daily dose. Serve mushrooms with a glug of olive oil or another fat to help your body better absorb the vitamin D.

To protect gums, reach for foods rich in vitamin C. A cup of cauliflower florets contains 45 percent of the daily dose, and a cup of chopped turnips has 30 percent. Note: High-heat cooking can diminish vitamin C, so consider steaming these vegetables rather than roasting them.

Not all white foods are good for your teeth, of course. Foods and beverages sweetened with sugar may cause cavities and gum disease. And poor gum health affects more than your mouth: It's linked to heart disease. That's why the American Heart Association recommends no more than six and nine teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and men, respectively. So trade the sugar in your coffee for a splash of milk, and you'll give your mouth double the reason to smile.

Kim Rose, RDN, LD, CDE, has more than a decade of experience in nutrition education and is on a mission to make healthy eating easy for all people. Connect with her at kimrosedietitian.com.

This article originally appeared in the June/July 2021 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.