Superfoods are all the rage these days but what are they? Well, there isn’t set criteria for what qualifies as a superfood but, in general, they’re foods that are extremely nutrient-dense and have significant health benefits. Since we’re Brooklyn pediatric dentists, we’re all about choosing food for healthy teeth and gums. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that there’s no food, no matter how super, that can improve oral health all by itself. The key to smile success is combining a well-rounded diet with brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist. That said, certain vitamins and minerals are great for giving teeth and gums a boost. Here are 8 superfoods to promote healthy teeth and kid-friendly, whole food recipes that incorporate them.
1. Almonds – Though almonds are a good food for healthy teeth and gums, because of their texture and how hard they are, they can be damaging to the enamel. To get the health benefits while protecting little pearly whites, opt for almond slivers or natural almond butter instead of whole ones. Almonds are high in protein and calcium, both of which strengthen enamel and the jaw bone, and they’re low in sugar. Almonds are also thought to help fight cavity-causing bacteria. Now, how do you get a picky eater to snack on almonds? These almond and buckwheat pancakes featured on Kidspot are one of our favorite healthy recipes for children and toddlers that utilize the superfood. In addition to your standard pancake ingredients, this wholesome version includes almond meal (ground almonds), buckwheat flour, coconut milk and coconut sugar for a healthier take.
2. Kale – No list of superfoods to promote healthy teeth would be complete without a mention of a leafy green. Kale has calcium, folic acid, fiber, iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin K, copper, potassium, vitamin C and the list could go on. The fat soluble vitamins, such as A and K, help the body utilize the calcium, which builds strong teeth and bones. Phosphorus also encourages the remineralization of teeth. Vitamin C may help zap bacteria in the mouth that can lead to gingivitis and it stimulates a healthy supply of collagen in gum tissue.
Kale can be a hard sell for a younger crowd. Enter, kale chips. In the world of kid-friendly whole food recipes it doesn’t get much easier than kale chips. You’ll need one bunch of kale, one tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a knife to cut the kale leaves from the thick stems. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and then wash them. You can either pat them and let them air dry in a single layer on a kitchen towel or dry them in a salad spinner. When they’re good to go, put them in a bowl and mix them with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake them for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the edges are brown.
3. Avocado – Avocados have healthy fats, fiber, vitamins B5, B6, C, E and K, folate and potassium along with other antioxidants and phytonutrients. Vitamin C and folate are particularly good for healthy gums. A study even linked avocados with oral cancer prevention. It’s pretty hard to find an adult who would turn down an avocado but not all kids are fans of things that are green. Oh She Glows has a solution with a fantastic healthy, kid-friendly recipe for creamy avocado pasta where the avocado stands in for a cream sauce.
4. Flaxseed – Flaxseed is another of the healthy foods for kids’ teeth. It’s chock full of polyphenols, which are thought to hinder the growth of the bacteria that leads to plaque, in turn, helping to prevent cavities, gum disease and bad breath. It also contains omega-3 essential fatty acids and these reduce inflammation, protecting the gums. For a kid-friendly superfood fix, try these flax carrot apple muffins from Super Healthy Kids
5. Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are a food for healthy teeth and gums and since they’re sweet and colorful, little ones are usually more than happy to eat them. They’re a source of vitamins A, C, B1, B2 and B6, manganese, copper, potassium, fiber, phosphorus and other key nutrients. The vitamin C keeps gums in top-notch shape without the acidity than can erode enamel that’s usually found in citrus fruits. Vitamin A is necessary to maintain the soft tissues and mucous membranes in the mouth and is also involved in the formation of keratin, which is part of the tooth’s enamel. Sweet as Honey has a recipe for gluten-free sweet potato tots that also includes flaxseed, another of our superfoods.
6. Apples – Apples aren’t usually considered a superfood and are often eclipsed by things like blueberries. However, the humble apple is up there as far as the best fruit for teeth. While it might have a lower concentration of certain nutrients, it’s less acidic than some of its friends and contains vitamin C, plenty of water and fiber. Vitamin C is excellent for promoting gum health. An apple is also one of nature’s toothbrushes. The fibrous texture of raw apples scrapes away food debris and bacteria as kids eat them. The high water content stimulates saliva, which then neutralizes plaque acids and restores minerals that were lost from the teeth during the daily acid attacks that take place in our mouths. For an easy, healthy recipe for kids that keeps the apple in its natural, toothbrushing state, slice up an apple and slather the slices in peanut butter or a nut butter alternative. To take it up a notch, sprinkle your slices with cinnamon.
7. Legumes – Legumes like lentils, fava beans, black beans and chickpeas are high in protein and fiber and also contain folic acid, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus and other nutrients. They’re super filling too, making them a great option for replacing meat in a meal. Aside from the general health benefits of legumes, these little nutritional powerhouses are among the best foods for dental health. Folic acid stimulates cell growth in the entire body, including the mouth for healthier gums. Magnesium strengthens enamel and the iron and zinc play an important role in keeping the bone that supports the teeth strong. There are a lot of healthy recipes for children and toddlers starring legumes, including these vegan lentil nuggets from Sarah Remmer.
Now that you’re well versed in superfoods to promote healthy teeth, add regular dental checkups to your child’s oral care routine to keep their smile strong and bright. For a knowledgeable, fun pediatric dentist in Brooklyn, schedule a visit at Bitesize!