Good afternoon and happy Friday! This weekend I have absolutely NOTHING planned for the first time in months and I could not be happier.
I wanted to share some healthy tooth tips since I have been getting a lot of dental work done lately (I’d been putting it off for a long time – bad idea, don’t put it off!).
1. Get regular cleanings & checkups. This is probably the most important because if you do have an issue you can catch it early and get it taken care of. Also, if you know you are going to the dentist every 6 months you may be more inclined to take care of your teeth because you don’t want your dentist yelling at you. Please don’t be scared – it’s really not as bad as you think it is, even if you have cavities. You’ll feel so much better when you know your teeth are all fixed up and in good health.
2. BRUSH & FLOSS after meals if the food gets easily stuck in your teeth – think chewy foods that you really use your molars for (worst offenders for this in my experience – sweets, fruits, breads & grains). Make sure you are brushing so that the brush gets in between the teeth as much as possible (kind of like sweeping from the bottom of the tooth up to the top – if that makes sense).
(Kinda like this – Source)
3. Don’t snack frequently (especially on sugary stuff – even fruit!). The most common cause of tooth decay (aka cavities) is from acid that dissolves the tooth enamel. This acid comes from the breakdown of refined sugars by bacteria.
The output of this breakdown is acid –> enamel erosion –> cavities. (Going back to #1 – it’s really important to remove plaque because plaque is just a sticky deposit on your teeth made up of bacteria, food, and other debris. It causes cavities.)
Studies show that how often you have sugars in your mouth is much more predictive of your dental health than how much sugar you have. This means that the person who eats 5 apples slowly throughout the day is in worse shape than the person who quickly eats 5 apples in 10 minutes (god knows why this person is eating 5 apples in one day, but it gets the point across).
(Apples! Good – in moderation.)
Worst offenders – sticky foods like caramel, gummies, jams and jellies. These stay on your teeth even after you stop eating them. Surprisingly, chocolate is not necessarily so bad because the sugars are coated in fat and they leave the mouth quickly. (Not the case though if you see chocolate sticking in your molars – brush that stuff out!) Bottom line – if you’re snacking throughout the day on sugary foods or soda (even diet soda – it’s acidic) – your teeth are under under attack from acid.
4. Eat for healthy bones. Your teeth, even though it may not seem like it, are living parts of your body. They are very much like bones. If you are not eating enough, you could be at risk for osteopenia/osteoporosis. These conditions can not only cause weakened bones, but also weakened teeth. The weaker the teeth, the more susceptible to decay. Not eating enough can also decrease saliva production which is another potential cause of tooth decay.
5. Good foods for healthy teeth are: fiber-ful veggies, unsweetened full-fat dairy products (milk, cheese – cheese also makes you produce more saliva which is good for the mouth), green and black tea (polyphenols kill/minimize bad bacteria), meats, and nuts. (Hey this sounds like the paleo diet doesn’t it?)
Great PDF I found while researching: Dental Tips by Delta Dental.
Do you have healthy teeth? What are your healthy teeth tips?
Food & Health Links
Life Links (err, images…)
What I Did This Weekend
- Sacred Chow (Saturday lunch)
- Chelsea Market (Chelsea Thai for dinner)
- Ping Pong @ Fat Cats
- Looooots of walking (Saturday and Sunday)
- Apartment hunting (Sunday)
- Aroma Espresso Bar (Sunday lunch)
- Family-style dinner @ a friend’s (smoked ribs, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes; cream puffs and fruit for dessert!)
^Big Beautiful Salad^
How was your weekend?
I got this question at work the other day (we’re a fairly healthy-minded bunch):
What are complex carbs vs simple carbs?
This question seems complex, but the answer is quite simple. Simple carbs and complex carbs end up in the same place of the nutrition facts label, but they are most certainly different.
Are all carbs bad?
Clearly not all carbohydrates are bad. We need carbs to live – glucose (what carbs break down to in your body) is what your body uses for energy. That’s why when you eat a candy bar you get hyper for a little while – your body just got a big dose of easy-to-use energy because the carbs were partially processed before they got to your stomach. Simple carbs and complex carbs both turn into sugar in the body; the process just happens faster for simple carbs.
I’m pretty sensitive to sugar (too many sweet treats = too many pimples). In addition to my skin sensitivity to sugar, I also seem to have either a mental or physical reaction to eating it – once I start it’s hard to stop! If I have a McD’s cone as a snack I also want one for dessert that night, for a snack the next day, and forever more. So I try to avoid sugar to avoid sugar cravings and bad acne. When it comes down to complex versus simple carbohydrates, complex is what I choose, especially complex carbs from veggies.
Which carbs are bad for us?
Most scientists agree that the faster carbs (simple, or white carbs; meaning they convert to sugar quickly) are the worst type of carbohydrate. This is mainly because they spike blood sugar, which has a number of negative long-term effects including a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. These carbs include (and thus I try* to avoid…):
- Processed carbs like white bread, white flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup (also regular corn syrup)*
- Processed carbs like candy, cookies, most baked goods*
- Fake sweeteners (not technically carbs because they have no calories – but they give me a stomachache, a headache, and it’s probably not good to eat frankenfood chemicals)
I love muffins!
*I still eat these things, but in moderation when I want them. Artisan bread with smooth creamy butter? On occasion, yes please!
Which carbs are good in moderation?
There is definitely a middle ground when it comes to complex versus simple carbs, and that middle ground is whole grain-y things (for me). They’re not the easiest foods to digest (see IBS), but they certainly are delicious. These guys include:
- Unprocessed grains like rice (white or brown).* (I grew up hating rice but now I LOVE it. I usually have it several times a week. It’s especially good with ghee, aka clarified butter.)
- Oatmeal (steel cut, regular – preferably not instant).
- Winter squash (these are my favorite foods, but it’s easy to get a stomachache if you eat too much of them; squash also has lots of beta-carotene – but beware the orange glow).
I love having rice with veggies, like in bi-bim-bap (pictured above – veggies, egg, beef over rice). In fact, I just like mixing foods together in general. Mix-it-up bowls are possibly the greatest invention ever.
Which carbs are good for us?
Most vegetable carbohydrates are good for our bodies. Some of my favorite carbs are…
- Root veggies like carrots, parsnips, winter squash (kabocha, acorn, spaghetti, butternut, etc…)
- Non-root veggies like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, peppers, yadda yadda yadda… Veggies are a diet staple.
- Fruits (but not too much). Fruit makes me break out as well in large (more than 1 a day) quantities. Some lower-sugar fruits that I really like are: papaya, blueberries, berries in general, cranberry juice (without sugar) and spritzer, lime/lemon juice and spritzer, melons (cantaloupe, honeydew).
Do you eat a lot of carbs? Do you avoid any? Which are your favorites?
When it comes down to complex carbs vs simple carbs, it’s probably better to choose the complex ones. But remember to include healthy fats (including saturated fat – it’s good for the brain) and protein. Out of the simple carbs, sugar is probably the worst. At least that is what works for me!
A few weeks ago, raw food was abuzz in blogland. I gave it a try to help my digestion, but that way of eating didn’t work for me. Now that it’s fall I’ve noticed less and less talk about raw food, and more and more posts about oatmeal, baked squash, and delicious apples. It’s propitious that Bobby alerted me to this article yesterday… Did Cooking Give Humans An Evolutionary Edge? – a transcript of an NPR talk from Science Friday. It has to do with the differences between humans and other primates (like this gorilla that lives in the San Francisco zoo)…
I thought the transcript was incredibly interesting. You can also listen to the program (it’s just under 30 minutes). If you don’t have time to read or listen though, I’ll summarize here…
- It’s an interview with Dr. Richard Wrangham, a primatologist (someone who studies primates = humans, apes, monkeys, and prosimians) who wrote Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human.
- Dr. Wrangham proposes that cooking has actually been a key aspect of evolution and our bodies have changed over the years due to the fact that we can cook our food. It’s given us a huge evolutionary advantage because we have more time to use our brains instead of foraging and chewing all day long. (This is called biocultural evolution, when you evolve along with the tools/methods of your culture.)
- Apes show either a preference for cooked food over raw food, or they are neutral… they never prefer raw to cooked food.
- A human’s digestive system is 2/3rds the size of an ape’s (if you adjust for the size of the ape versus the size of the human) and we have small teeth and small mouths – not ideal for lots of chewing.
- We’ve adapted to a “high quality” diet. (High quality meaning mostly cooked and easy to digest… not talking about the processed, industrial “food” crap that most people live on.) Cooking is what increased the “quality” of our diet.
- We don’t have to eat large amounts of food and we don’t have to retain and ferment food for many many hours to digest it.
- The changes to our digestive system happened about 1.8 million years ago.
- Cooking our food increases the proportion of nutrients and energy that we’re able to digest. While a cooked carrot may technically have the same number of calories as a raw one, we are able to access more of the calories from the cooked one. Another example – when you cook an egg and eat it, you can digest about 94% of the protein. A raw egg? You digest about 60%. That’s a big discrepancy.
- Why does cooking make things easier to digest? For protein, the process is called denaturation. The protein cells are kind of like a big ball of yarn; cooking unwinds the yarn so it’s easier to digest. One way to denature something is to put it in acid. So our stomach acid can do some of this, but cooking makes it that much easier for our bodies to digest protein. A similar process happens with starch – chains of sugars open up during cooking so that they are more readily available to absorb.
- Humans are one of the only species that typically does not thrive on a raw diet… about half of women following a raw diet stop menstruating and most people lose weight (due to an energy shortage = significant calorie/nutrient deficiency).
- Now this doesn’t mean that a raw diet can’t be beneficial – a lot of people are eating too much currently, so a raw diet may help them reduce the amount of food they eat (because it’s so limiting) so they can maintain their weight and feel better. A lot of the benefits that come from a raw diet are due to cutting out processed foods and chemicals. Many people have undiagnosed food allergies (gluten, wheat, dairy, etc…) and since those foods aren’t common in a high raw diet, people will feel better since they’re not eating them anymore.
- Again, eating more raw food is not necessarily bad or unhealthy, but you should not follow a high raw diet. If you live in a place where food is scarce, you should especially *not* follow a raw diet… if you live in the US or another developed country, incorporating more raw foods into your diet is a fabulous idea if it will help you eat less and eat fewer processed, industrial foods.
- Many people think that following a raw food diet is the most “natural” way to live… not true. We have evolved away from eating raw food. And one of the major reasons that we’ve been able to advance so far in terms of knowledge and technology is due to the fact that we are NOT like other primates – we don’t have to eat all day to get enough food, giving us time to use our gargantuan brains.
I’m learning about some similar concepts in my anthropology class. There is the idea of biocultural evolution, which basically says that our culture (using tools, cooking food, etc…) has a large influence on our evolution. The invention of tools allowed us to evolve away from huge teeth. The cultural idea of wearing clothes might be the reason that we aren’t covered in hair. And maybe cooking is responsible for changing our digestive system, our mouths, and our teeth.
What works best for me is a fairly natural diet (no processed foods) with a little bit of raw food. I am influenced by macrobiotics (completely cooked, nearly vegan but with fish, and very Japanese). I’m also influenced by the paleo diet (limited grains and carbs, lots of animal fat and protein, lots of veggies – mostly all cooked). When I eat fruit it’s usually raw I do snack on raw veggies sometimes. I love salad (obviously, again) but I don’t eat salad every day unless it’s the summer. I love my oatmeal, oat bran, baked and steamed squash, and many other cooked foods, especially in the cooler months.
What works for you? What do you think of the ideas that this guy is proposing?