Functional nutrition can positively influence oral health with a balanced and nutritious diet. A diet lacking proper nutrients makes your teeth and gums more susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease.
Diet and nutrition affect the health of the tissues in the mouth, and the health of the mouth affects your entire body.
Functional Nutrition and Functional Medicine are closely linked to each other. They advocate for switching to a diet free of or limited in ultra-processed foods (think refined sugars, flours, grains, seed oils, and artificial colors, flavors, and dyes). A diet rich in organic vegetables, grass-fed animal sources, wild-caught fish, pastured eggs and butter, high-quality dairy (if tolerant), healthy fats, seasonal fruits, and fermented foods can provide your body with vital nutrients and vitamins and balance the pH in your mouth and help to support optimal oral and whole-body health.
All these factors work together to make your teeth stronger and more resistant to cavities and other dental infections and help maintain good oral health.
Wellness Coaching and Functional Nutrition
Health and wellness coaches like Doctor Staci take a functional approach to nutrition, leveraging the power of nutrition (the nutrients needed by the cells in your body to function well), identifying the root causes of oral issues, and guiding a patient to health and wellness through dietary and lifestyle changes. In customizing a diet to the individual's needs, wellness coaches consider not only your diet but also your day-to-day activities, including exercise, stress, chronic conditions, physiological make-up, a sense of purpose, career, relationships, and spirituality.
In using the principles of Functional Nutrition, these holistic health coaches identify healthy food types for your body, problems caused by nutritional deficiencies, and suggest remedies.
The Foods You Choose Can Affect Your Teeth and Gums
The foods you choose and how often you eat them can affect your general health and the health of your teeth and gums. Consuming too many sugary or acidic foods and drinks puts you at risk of tooth decay, the number one chronic childhood disease.
Good, healthy, and nourishing food has the power to improve your physical, mental, and oral health.
Food is Power
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, a very prominent Functional Medicine physician, food is the most powerful medicine to prevent, treat, cure, and reverse most chronic illnesses. Food is our number one tool for creating the vibrant health we deserve.
Power Foods are Superfoods
Power foods are superfoods. Superfoods are nutritious, and they protect you from chronic disease, improve heart health, or give you more energy.
Examples of power foods (superfoods) include:
- Black Beans
- Sweet Potatoes
- Greek Yogurt
Good Nutrition and Diet Prevent Tooth Decay
Good nutrition and diet can help prevent tooth decay.
Here are some tips from Doctor Staci to help your children thrive.
Nutrition Goals To Aim For With Kids
As parents, we want our children to grow up happy and healthy, and the best thing we can do for them in this regard is to help them establish healthy nutritional habits early on.
Be consistent in whatever you do, and lead by example, as children imitate their parents.
- Stick to a daily meal plan.
- Limit ultra-processed foods (e.g., chips, crackers, pretzels, fruit snacks, juice boxes, granola bars) to only 1-2 times a day, if at all. If choosing to eat these foods, do so in measured servings (not a free-for-all out of the bag or box) and eat in one sitting, instead of sipping or snacking over an extended period.
- Offer water after snacking on ultra-processed foods. Water helps buffer acids and rinse-off oral microbiome offenders like flours and sugars.
- Teach your kids to Eat A Rainbow daily for optimal health.
Back to School Snacks
Keep back to school snacks simple. Children need nutrient-dense, whole foods to keep them engaged and stable. Blood sugar roller coasters can spike and crash from the start of breakfast, continuing throughout the day and affecting behavior, focus, attention, and the ability to learn. Read labels and try to shoot for the AHA’s recommendation of less than 25g (that’s just 6 teaspoons!) of added sugar a day for kids, teens, and most adults. Preferably, Doctor Staci feels less is more and agrees with many colleagues that school-age children should shoot for more like 15-20g or only a few teaspoons a day! Learn to read ingredient lists and the added sugar line on nutrition labels.
Some of Doctor Staci’s favorite back to school snacks include:
- Meat Sticks. Look for ones with no added sugars or artificial flavorings.
- Seaweed Snacks. Opt for those made with olive or avocado oil and not highly processed seed oils.
- Nut or Seed Butter and Fruit. Protein and fat added to the fruit help stabilize blood sugar and keep kids full for longer.
- Nuts and Seeds. Be sure to follow school rules regarding allergens and chop up larger nuts to avoid choking hazard situations.
- Hummus and Veggies. If you have time, make your own hummus, or look for minimal ingredient hummus without seed oil and preservatives. Also, guacamole (@primalkitchenfoods), Ranch, and tofu spreads can be fun dips. Kids LOVE dips!
- Olive and Pickle Packs. Healthy fats and fermented goodness keep kids satiated and stable throughout the day while adding beneficial bacteria to the mouth and gut.
- Cheese. If your child can have dairy, cheese is an excellent snack for cavity-free kids!
Healthier Substitutes When Craving Sugar
Kids love sugary snacks, as do adults. Here are some healthier substitutes when craving sugar:
- Dark chocolate. Doctor Staci is a big fan of @hukitchen chocolate bars. They have so many flavors to choose from, and their ingredients are paleo, vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free. (Bonus: you can use her code DOCTORSTACI for 10% off).
- Macadamia nuts. These little gems are packed with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. The healthy fats they contain make them especially filling, and their high fiber content, a prebiotic, is beneficial for gut bacteria. Strangely, nuts and seeds often satiate Doctor Staci’s sweet tooth.
- Homemade fruit popsicles. It’s easy to make a fruit popsicle at home as a treat for kids (or even parents). You can be creative mixing up yogurt, fruit, veggies, coconut water, and more.
- Apple slices with nut or seed butter. The protein, vitamins, and fiber-packed into this snack are a great alternative to a quick sugar fix, and the nut butter will keep your blood sugar balanced.
- Frozen grapes. Frozen grapes are a fun sweet treat, and their burst of flavor makes them dangerously addictive. These can be choking hazards, so cut up or avoid them for very young kids.
- Fresh berries. Nature’s candy, fresh berries, are chock-full of antioxidants, vitamin C, manganese, and more. If you’re looking to boost immunity, digestion, and more, berries are an amazing choice.
No matter how healthy your lifestyle is, sometimes you simply can’t avoid a sugar craving. You CAN still have a delicious, sweet snack while having great dental health, just control servings and frequency, and avoid excess added or refined sugar in processed foods.
Healthy Food Swap Ideas
Doctor Staci is passionate about helping families make simple, healthy swaps in their diet. A few small changes can lead to better dental health and overall wellness.
Swap flavored yogurt for plain yogurt. It often feels like a healthy choice to start breakfast off with a yummy yogurt, but most flavored yogurt is loaded with added sugars, emulsifiers, and food dyes. Some brands contain up to 30 grams of sugar per container. That’s more than the daily recommended serving for an adult woman, let alone a child! A better choice is plain yogurt, customized with your favorite fruit, nuts, or seeds for an added vitamin and mineral kick.
Swap sugary cereal for a nutrient-dense smoothie. Sugary cereal is tough to put down for most kids. If you want to sneak some veggies, fruits, nut butter, and even collagen into their breakfast menu, a green smoothie is THE way to go. These blended breakfasts pack in several servings of fruit, veggies, and protein before you even leave the house!
Swap chips for dehydrated veggies or seaweed snacks. Salty chips are brimming with starches that break down and feed bad bacterial colonies in your mouth. Plus, many are made with seed oils. Get that same salty snap and crunch with a handful of dried veggies or a superfood seaweed snack. These have a similar effect on the mouth and a much better one in the body.
Looking for some additional tips on healthy eating?
Doctor Staci is always ready to help families find resources for healthy, affordable food and help navigate oral hygiene. As a mother of two young girls, Doctor Staci has lots of great ideas, tips, and tricks to share with you!
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