If your goal is to have a white, bright smile, you may be driving yourself crazy brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist. But it turns out that for a healthier smile, you can do more than follow basic oral hygiene practices — research suggests reaching for certain foods can help whiten your teeth, and remove stains and plaque.
An obvious option is cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino Romano and cheddar induce saliva, which helps remove food from your teeth. They also contain calcium and lactic acid, keeping teeth strong and protecting against tooth decay.
But if you aren’t a dairy fan, you can still eat your way to a brighter smile.
Here are five non-dairy products that can help you get a whiter smile:
Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme with stain-removing and anti-inflammatory qualities, making it a natural antidote for plaque-ridden smiles. A healthy and delicious way to add more pineapple to your diet is to pair diced pineapple with low-fat cottage cheese for breakfast. Opt for your own DIY bowl with 1 cup of fresh-cut pineapple and 1 percent cottage cheese, which contains only about 7 grams of sugar compared to the nearly 15 percent in store-bought varieties.
An apple a day doesn’t just keep the doctor away — it can keep the dentist away too. Apples contain malic acid, an enzyme and natural astringent that helps remove surface stains from tooth enamel. Not to mention, apples’ fibrous peels help scrub surface stains and remove bacteria from your mouth.
Searching for an excuse for sushi night? Now you have one. The bacterial enzymes in seaweed can help fight plaque and produce a whitening effect on teeth. If you don’t like sushi, you can nosh on baked seaweed snacks to get the same benefit — and enjoy a healthier alternative to traditional potato chips, which are packed with sodium and oftentimes artificial ingredients.
Carrots and celery
Raw veggies are one of the healthiest types of snacks out there, and now, you can reach for your crudités knowing your smile will benefit too. Grab-and-go-friendly vegetables — like green beans, broccoli, celery and carrots — contain saliva-stimulating nutrients that help prevent plaque buildup and whiten your teeth. What's more, biting into crunchy vegetables gently scrubs your teeth and can help lift surface-area stains. Convenience and whiter teeth? Talk about functional foods!
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.