Think back to the last snack that you ate – did you choose it for its low fat content, nutritional value, or just because you fancied it? Chances are, you probably didn’t think about your teeth. Henry Clover from Denplan says it’s time that changed.
In a national survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Denplan, the UK’s leading dental payment plan specialist, only 28 per cent of adults said they usually consider their oral health when they choose their snacks, potentially putting their teeth at risk.
There are two things to consider when you snack: what you’re eating and how often. Every time you eat or drink something sugary, the bacteria in your mouth produce acids that attack your teeth. Your saliva will naturally neutralise acid within an hour to help protect your tooth enamel, but your teeth can only withstand a few of these acid attacks a day before the enamel becomes damaged, which may lead to tooth decay. Continual snacking or “grazing” puts your teeth at risk. To help avoid this, it’s important to choose tooth-friendly snacks that are kind to your teeth in between meals, as well as reducing the overall number of times you snack each day. Three main meals a day and two snacks in between are ideal.
While most of us probably recognise that cakes, biscuits, sweets, and fizzy drinks are not tooth-friendly snacks, there are also some “healthy” snacks that can be bad for your teeth that might surprise you.
Most dentists would agree it’s important to choose snacks that are at once healthy for your body and teeth-friendly. There are a lot of “healthy” snacks that are actually packed with hidden sugar that might not be so great for your teeth.
“Healthy” dental offenders:
From a nutritional point of view, dried fruit is often thought to be healthy snack because it’s low in fat and 100 per cent natural, but many people are probably unaware of the effects it can have on your teeth. Dried fruits contain natural sugars – fructose and glucose – and although these naturally occurring sugars are better for you than highly refined sugar, they can still cause tooth decay if snacked on frequently.
In terms of your oral health, there is little difference between snacking on raisins and jelly sweets or caramels – they’re both sugary, and their sticky texture means that they cling to teeth for a long time. For example, a standard 14-gram pack of raisins contains two teaspoons of sugar, which is probably a lot higher than most people realise. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy dried fruit, though – just keep it as part of mealtimes rather than as a snack.
Snack swap: In between meals, swap dried fruit for whole fresh fruit; snacky vegetable sticks such as carrots, cucumber and pepper; and nuts.
Smoothies and fruit juices
While it’s true that smoothies and fruit juices contain nutritious vitamins, they are very high in natural sugars and acids and can be harmful to your tooth enamel if consumed frequently between meals. Some supermarket smoothies contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar per 250ml serving, which is actually higher than full sugar cola.
Only one small 150ml glass of juice per day counts towards one of your “five a day”, so you’re much better off eating whole pieces of fruit and gaining the fibre value. If you’re giving fruit juice to children, always dilute one part juice to one part water and only offer it during mealtimes, in moderation.
Snack swap: In between meals, swap juices and smoothies for water and milk to drink, and eat whole fresh fruit to gain the full nutritional and fibre value.
Cereal bars and yoghurts
Many foods, such as cereal bars and flavoured yoghurts, are marketed as low fat but can contain very high levels of added sugar. We found one fat-free brand of yoghurt that contained a heaping five teaspoons of sugar per 150ml serving. It’s always important to check the label, even on low fat foods.
Snack swap: In between meals, swap snacks with high amounts of added sugar for natural or Greek yoghurt with a mix of fresh berries stirred in, such as blueberries.
For more information, check out: www.denplan.co.uk
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