nutrition

Halloween and Holiday Treats Debunked

Halloween through Thanksgiving typically marks a time to enjoy and indulge in seasonal fare that can cause cavities and tooth decay.  We would like to recommend some tips for enjoying your all the delectable treats the season brings while still remaining healthy.

The Real Story on Chocolate

With Halloween, comes chocolate.  It’s impossible to avoid, whether sitting in a bucket in the office, or at home in your child’s trick-or-treat stash.  Dark chocolates can actually be good for your mouth.  Cocoa contains three antioxidants – Tannins, polyphenols and flavonoids – that are beneficial for oral health:

  • Tannins help prevent cavities by inhibiting bacteria from sticking to your teeth
  • Polyphenols limit the effects of bacteria, meaning they work to neutralize the microorganisms that cause bad breath, prevent infections in your gums and battle tooth decay
  • Flavonoids work to slow tooth decay, among other things

Dark chocolate typically has the highest cocoa content, and hence is the healthiest chocolate for your teeth and overall health.

With all these benefits one may wonder why not eat more dark chocolate. Like milk chocolate and white chocolate, dark chocolate also contains plenty of fat and sugar.  Hence, it should be eaten in moderation.

Pass the Cheese, Please

Cheese plates frequently make cut for hors d’oeuvres served at Holiday parties.  Cheese contains several ingredients that are beneficial for your oral health.  The calcium and phosphorus in cheese help facilitate teeth remineralization – a process that strengthens teeth.  Cheese also contains casein, a protein with protective properties that helps fight cavities.

Winter Squash is Great for Healthy Gums

Squash’s, such as butternut squash are great for health gums.  Squash contains large amounts vitamins A and C.  Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that helps with synthesizing collagen, a process that helps maintain healthy gums.  Vitamin A helps keep mucous membranes healthy. It prevents dry mouth and helps your mouth heal quickly.

 

Cranberry Sauce with the Turkey – Good or Bad?

Like dark chocolate, cranberries also contain antioxidants, including polyphenols.  This makes them a great option not only for oral health, but overall health, especially in preventing cardiovascular disease.  However, cranberry sauce typically contains significant amounts of sugar.  If cranberry sauce is a must at your Thanksgiving table, we recommend a recipe low in sugar, and preferably naturally sweetened, rather than sweetened with refined sugar.

Dried Fruit – A healthy snack?

Many holiday gift baskets come with dried fruit.  Dried fruits like raisins and prunes are also found in some holiday stuffing recipes.  Though dried fruit isn’t the worst snack for your health, it is terrible for your teeth.  Dried fruit tends to stick to your teeth, which can lead to bacteria build up and eventually tooth decay.  If you do have a hankering to break into the Holiday food basket, we recommend eating nuts with dried fruit.  The nuts will act to scrape off some of the dried fruit residue that sticks to your teeth.

Go Nuts for Nuts!

Nuts also contain phosphorus and calcium that can help with tooth re-mineralization. Not all nuts are created equally though – at least from a health perspective.  Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews and pecans are among the healthier varieties.  Many fear their teeth may crack or break when eating nuts, and hence try to avoid them.  However, However, healthy teeth are definitely strong enough to eat nuts.  That said, if you are undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces, nut should be avoided as they may damage the braces.

How about a Drink?

Alcohol may help us relax and endure company or family holiday gatherings.  But, to be clear, alcohol provides absolutely no nutrients for your body.  That said some studies have shown that certain alcoholic beverages, like red wine, in small amounts (1-2 glasses), may have potential health benefits.

Alcohol has a negative effect on oral health.  Red wine may be high in antioxidants, but also will stain your teeth.  Most alcohol and mixers contain large amounts of sugar.  In addition, mixers may also be acidic.  When sipped over time the sugar brings decay-causing bacteria to your teeth, and the acid works to break down tooth enamel.  Alcohol also causes dehydration, and therefore decreased saliva flow.  Saliva functions to wash the bacteria off the teeth, but with less saliva, bacteria can hang around longer, leading to greater risk for tooth decay.