Believe it or not, your teeth have a lot to do with your health. Poor nutrition and a lack of certain key nutrients increase the risk of developing oral diseases, but there is also a direct link between periodontal disease and chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
A well-balanced diet can help strengthen the immune system, promote healing and contribute to healthy teeth and gums.
So, what’s the best diet for oral health?
» Choose calcium-rich foods like milk; yogurt; cheese; almonds; dark, leafy green vegetables; calcium-fortified nondairy drinks; and tofu.
» Choose vitamin C-rich foods. Vitamins help combat bleeding and swollen gums, loosening of teeth and tooth decay. Vitamin c-rich foods include oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, tomatoes, bell and hot peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
» Check your vitamin D. Have your doctor do a blood test to find out your vitamin D levels. You may need a supplement. Make sure to eat vitamin D-fortified foods such as dairy products, orange juice and soy milk.
» In between meals or snacks, chew sugarless gum to prevent cavities.
» Reduce your intake of sugary beverages and sticky foods. Soda, juice, energy drinks and sweetened coffee drinks all can contain hefty amounts of sugar. Sticky foods like raisins can stick to your teeth and gums.
» Choose water or milk for beverages.
The bottom line? Your plan for healthy eating, based on the Agriculture Department’s MyPlate — half your plate fruits and vegetables, one-fourth lean meat and one-fourth whole grains — just happens to be a great plan for good oral health as well.
Oh, and don’t forget to brush twice a day, floss once a day and see your dentist regularly. You’d make Mom proud.
Q: What is chlorella, and can it really do any of the things they say it can?
A: Chlorella is a type of algae. It is harvested and processed into nutritional supplements, according to the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. It can provide nutrients such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals, however, the actual amount isn’t known.
Like all supplements, it’s difficult to know exactly what you’re getting — and how much — because supplements aren’t regulated by the Food & Drug Administration. While supplements such as chlorella are marketed to increase energy, help with joint pain and digestion, and maybe even improve mood, there is insufficient research to back those claims.
It’s always best to get your nutrients from real food rather than supplements. Choose fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and lean dairy for a healthy diet.
Shrimp and Egg Fried Rice
I love to cook a quick dinner in my wok. Here’s a favorite recipe for Shrimp and Egg Fried Rice. Typically, leftover rice is used in fried rice, but this recipe cooks it with the other ingredients. The recipe is from Diabetic Living magazine.
» 1 cup unsalted chicken broth
» ½ cup water
» ¾ cup long-grain brown rice or jasmine rice
» 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
» 1 tablespoon minced garlic
» 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
» ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
» 1 cup carrots, diced into ¼-inch pieces
» 1 cup shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
» 4 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined, cut in ½-inch pieces
» 2 cups sugar snap peas, halved and trimmed
» 2 large eggs, beaten
» 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
» ⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper
Bring broth and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add rice. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is tender and liquid absorbed (about 17 to 20 minutes for jasmine rice; 40 minutes for brown). Fluff with a fork.
Heat a 14-inch wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a drop of water sizzles. Swirl in oil. Add garlic, ginger and crushed red pepper; stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add carrots and mushrooms; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add shrimp; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add sugar snap peas; stir-fry until bright green, about 1 minute. Add eggs, stir fry about 1-2 minutes until eggs are set. Remove from heat.
Add the hot rice, soy sauce and white pepper; continue stir-frying off the heat, until shrimp are just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes.
Serves 4 (about 1½ cups each)
Per serving: 301 calories; 14 grams protein; 38 grams carbohydrates (5 grams sugars); 10 grams fat (2 grams saturated); 138 milligrams cholesterol; 3 grams fiber; 512 milligrams sodium
— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.