Fruits VeggiesHere’s some good news you can sink your teeth into: kids today are eating more whole fruits, and the most popular whole fruit is the apple, according to results of a recent survey.

This is good news, because fruits and vegetables aren’t only good for overall health; certain fruits and vegetables are particularly beneficial when it comes to oral health.

But before I delve farther into that, I want to share more details of this recent study:

Whole fruit consumption among children increased by 67 percent between 2003 and 2010, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. However, only approximately 40 percent of American children eat enough fruits to reach the target for consumption on a daily basis. The CDC defines that target as one to two cups of fruit and one to three cups of vegetables daily.

While the apple was the most popular, representing about 20 percent of total fruit intake, here is how other fruits fared in the study:

  • 10 percent – citrus, apple and other juices
  • 7 percent – bananas
  • 6 percent – melons
  • 5 percent – other fruits or fruit salads

The apple’s popularity is due to being easy to pack, palatable, and the fact that applesauce is introduced early on, says the study’s lead author, Kirsten A. Herrick of the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland, in a Reuters article.

While there is room for improvement, I was happy to see a study showing that children are eating healthier. If your children are among the 60 percent who still aren’t getting the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day, you might have to get creative to entice them to eat more of these beneficial foods.

The Today show had a great segment a while back on how to trick your kids into eating their veggies. CBS Sunday morning did a story in August on one dad who artfully arranged fruit on plates to get his children to eat it. Then he turned it into an art exhibit.

However you accomplish the task of getting kids to eat their fruits and veggies, I dovetail your efforts by promoting healthy diets to our patients of all ages when they’re in my office. A healthy diet helps keep your teeth healthy. And healthy teeth and gums are easier to shift into proper alignment.

Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals. Following are some foods you should incorporate into your diet due to their health benefits.

Apples
Let’s tackle this one first, since it’s popular among kids. There’s a reason behind the popular saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apples contain a lot of good ingredients that are beneficial to your health.

They are rich in antioxidants, which are disease-fighting compounds. Eating an apple increases saliva production, which helps wash away harmful bacteria in your mouth to promote good oral health.

The apple’s high fiber content also is believed to help protect against Parkinson’s disease, according to some research. A separate study found that mice who were fed an apple-enhanced diet performed better in maze tests, which led researchers to believe drinking apple juice could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and fight the effects of aging. Other studies have shown that apples are good for fighting diabetes, stroke and cancer.

Give in to the temptation of red apples if you want to boost your immune system. They contain the antioxidant quercetin, which boosts the immune system, particularly when you’re stressed.

If you have braces, remember to cut your apples and other crunchy fruits and vegetables into bite-sized pieces to avoid damage to your brackets and arch wires. Keep dental floss, soft picks and proxy brushes handy so you can remove pieces of food from around your orthodontic appliances after you’re done eating.

Strawberries and Citrus Fruits
Strawberries are packed with Vitamin C, which is necessary to produce collagen, a key protein that maintains strong gums.

Citrus fruits such as oranges help keep your gums healthy by strengthening blood vessels and connective tissue, including the connective tissue that holds your teeth in your jaw, says Joy Bauer, the nutrition expert on the Today show. The vitamin C in citrus also helps reduce inflammation, which may prevent or slow the progression of gum disease.

Green Leafy Vegetables
Kale and turnip greens are great sources of Vitamins A, C and K, as well as calcium. Spinach is packed with folate, Vitamin A and Vitamin C.

Other green vegetables that are great to include in your diet are collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, broccoli, cabbage and Romaine lettuce. Green leafy vegetables tend to be high in nutrients and low in calories, which is attractive to those who are watching their waistlines, in addition to their gumlines.

Braces wearers should remember that the green leafy vegetables can embarrass you by lodging themselves between teeth and around orthodontic appliances. Partake in them, but you might want to keep a toothbrush handy for afterward so you can smile without fear of your friends seeing greens in your teeth!

Celery and Root Vegetables
Gums that are red and inflamed make it harder for me to guide your teeth into proper alignment. If you want to help make sure your treatment goes as quickly and smoothly as possible, make sure you have celery, carrots, turnips, radishes, rutabagas and other root vegetables in your diet. Fibrous, hard vegetables stimulate your gums.

Carrots and celery also contain beta carotene, which is necessary for your body to create vitamin A, an essential nutrient for building strong teeth.

You can add another layer of protection to your teeth by saving raw foods such as carrots and celery for the end of meals. The water content in these vegetables helps clean teeth and gums.

More Healthy Foods
I’ve barely scratched the surface of healthy fruits and vegetables that are good for you to consume. Now it’s time for you to put on your research hat and go on a hunt for additional fruits and vegetables that promote oral health before, during and after orthodontic treatment.

Here’s a tip: search for fresh fruits and veggies that contain the following:

  • Calcium – a building block of teeth and bones
  • Iron – to promote tongue health
  • Vitamin C – to promote healthy gums
  • Vitamin D – to help teeth and bones absorb calcium

Happy hunting, gathering and eating!