Category Archives: healthy snacks

The everyday habits causing your tooth sensitivity

Jan_dental_sensitivity promo_no text.jpgEveryone knows how important it is to brush twice daily and floss for healthy teeth and gums. No doubt, your dentist reminds you at every six-monthly visit. But did you know that there are lots of things you can do to prevent the serious and growing problem of tooth erosion?

‘Your tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body and it is designed to protect the inside of your teeth’ says Dr Lincoln Law, dentist at the healthy teeth clinic in Surry Hills.

‘But acidic foods and drinks can damage the teeth by etching away at the thin layer of enamel. This leads to sensitivity and this can leave your pearly whites less than white,’ he adds.

Tooth sensitivity: why it happens

‘Teeth are made up from layers, the outer surface is enamel and when this is worn away, the dentine layer is exposed, which is a yellowy or off-white colour. Dentine has tiny holes in it and via these holes, hot and cold temperatures and even sweetness, and sour tastes can reach the nerves causing pain.’ Explains Dr Lincoln.

More and more people are being affected by sensitive teeth, a problem that can start early in life. Plus, if tooth erosion affects the adult teeth, the results are permanent because enamel doesn’t grow back!

It’s all about pH

‘Both acids and alkaline are measured via a system called pH and your mouth has a pH of around seven (a pH of one is very acidic and 14 is very alkaline). So seven is neutral because it’s right in the middle of the pH scale.

‘So, acidic drinks – such as cola which has a pH of around three – erodes enamel i.e. it dissolves the calcium salts in it. See for yourself – if you have a baby tooth to experiment with, drop it into a glass of cola and it will eventually dissolve. Foods such as pickles and vinegars, and drinks such as wine also etch away at your enamel,’ he says.

Enamel erosion can have other causes too, including:

  • Acid reflux – where acid from the stomach flows up the mouth causing the pain of heartburn). The acid usually affects the teeth at the back of the mouth.
  • Frequent vomiting – which can be caused by medicines and also the condition bulimia. This also erodes the back or chewing teeth.
  • Over-brushing or using abrasive toothpaste – both can wear down your precious enamel.
  • Physical wear and tear – including tooth-to-tooth grinding, which can lead to the gradual loss of enamel.

What you can do

‘Leave some time between eating acidic foods or consuming acidic drinks – including breakfast juices and tooth brushing. This is because the acid will have softened the enamel. And, brushing too soon can literally brush enamel away. So brush before food and rinse your mouth with water afterwards,’ Dr Lincoln advises.

Remember, it can take up to 30 minutes for the surface of a tooth to get back to normal pH after an acidic drink so wait at least this long before brushing.

 

Treatment

Sensitive teeth can be treated with high-strength fluoride toothpaste or remineralising pastes containing calcium and phosphate. If the damage is severe, though, you may need restorative dentistry.

Practical tips to protect your enamel

Don’t brush too soon after eating foods with acids in them (including pickles and ketchup) and drinks (such as juices and wine).

Eat fruits as part of a meal since chewing stimulates saliva, which is your body’s natural way to cleanse your mouth.

Avoid fizzy drinks, especially with screw caps to discourage sipping throughout the day. ‘If you want a fizzy drink, drink in one go and use a straw to reduce contact with the teeth. Rinse your mouth with water afterwards. Remember that juices and some alcoholic drinks including wine are also acidic and spirits with juices plus cider. Sparkling water has less of a damaging effect but still contains acid,’ advises Dr Lincoln.

See your GP if you are having problems with acid reflux.

See your dentist to check you haven’t cracked a tooth or filling that’s causing the sensitivity.

 

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Dr Lincoln Law, dentist at the healthy teeth clinic in Surry Hills
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Healthy eats for stronger teeth

A lifetime of healthy smiles starts in childhood. So, as well as brushing twice daily, flossing and visiting the dentist, what you give your kids to eat can dramatically affect their tooth health – and their confidence, too.

A healthy diet isn’t just about limiting the amount of sugar you give them (although cutting down on sugar is better for everyone and has much wider health benefits).

Little tummies need regular feeding and healthy snacks can help to boost your child’s energy. So what are the best snacks to help your child smile?

Cheese and crackers/breadsticks

Hard cheese like Cheddar and soft cheese such as mozzarella are great for teeth because:

  1. They are rich in calcium, which is what teeth are made from. Immediately eating a small cube of cheese after a meal or a snack plugs the tiny holes in the enamel helping protect and build stronger teeth.
  2. The protein in cheese helps neutralise the acids from food and drinks, providing both protective and strengthening effects.
  3. The chewing action encourages the flow of saliva, which is the mouth’s natural cleanser.

cheddar cheese

Fruits – apples, pears, melon and more

Yes, they contain sugar and acids, but fruits are good for the teeth because they contain vitamin C, which helps to strengthen blood vessels that nourish cells with oxygen and food. Vitamin C is also vital for strengthening the connective tissue, which keeps the teeth in place. It also helps to protect gums and other tissues from cell damage and even bacterial infection. This vitamin also has an anti-inflammatory action.

Encourage fruit as part of a meal because the chewing action helps to stimulate saliva, the body’s way to wash food debris away. And offer a glass of water after they eat fruit to help wash away any acids.

Raisins

Dried fruit isn’t usually a tooth friendly snack because the drying process removes water, which concentrates the sugars. Plus the sticky texture means it can cling to the teeth for longer, providing plaque-producing bacteria plenty of time to feast on the sugar and produce acidic waste, which can damage delicate enamel.

We used to think that raisins were much like other dried fruit but recent research shows that raisins are a tooth healthy option.

Like other fruits, raisins contain protective phytochemicals, which are effective antioxidants. One of these found in raisins is called oleanolic (pronounced o-lee-an-o-lic) acid. This seems to reduce the growth of two species of oral bacteria, one that causes cavities (Streptococcus mutans) and one that causes gum disease (Porphyromonas gingivalis)[i].

raisins

Legumes

Peas, beans and lentils also contain antioxidants that help boost the immune system that in turn helps the body fight bacteria and inflammation. Try hummus with strips of pita bread/breadsticks or veggie sticks.

Crisp veggies

Crunchy carrots and celery help to clean teeth, massage gums and freshen breath. They contain a lot of water, which dilutes the effects of the sugars they contain. And, because they need a lot of chewing, crisp veggies stimulate saliva flow (which helps protect against decay by washing away food particles and buffering against acids). Plus, the folate they contain helps to build healthy blood, which delivers vital oxygen and nutrients to every cell.

carrots and celery

Sandwiches

Made with fish, lean meat, hummus, egg or cheese, small sandwiches for tiny tummies are a great choice. Although small children often don’t like the strong taste of fish, canned fish like salmon is a great sandwich filling because it is rich in tooth building calcium. Opt for wholegrain bread because it contains fibre, which requires chewing. Remember children under five don’t need as much fibre as adults so stick with white bread sandwiches for them.

Milk – cow’s milk and soy milk

Cow’s milk is naturally rich in calcium as is soy milk, if it is processed with calcium. Although it’s a tooth friendly drink, always make the last drink of the day water, as milk contains the milk sugar, lactose. If allowed to stay in contact with the teeth for long periods, it provides food for plaque-producing bacteria, increasing the risk of tooth damage.

Pumpkin and sunflower seeds

Both are rich in minerals including zinc and magnesium. Zinc plays a key role in wound healing – including little wounds in the mouth. Plus, they contain magnesium, another mineral which works with calcium to build strong, protective enamel that can resist decay. Lack of magnesium could mean that teeth become softer and more susceptible to cavities.

pumpkin seeds

With all snacks, encourage your kids to wash them down with some water afterwards. Water helps to wash away food debris, stimulate saliva production and most water supplies in Australia have added fluoride to help harden the enamel and protect teeth, too.

Remember, children’s milk teeth are much more delicate than adult teeth – as well as being smaller, the layer of enamel is thinner so small children are especially at risk of decay and damage. And, if baby teeth are removed because of decay, there’s more risk that the adult teeth will grow into abnormal positions.

So help them snack smarter and enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles!

Ravinder Lilly
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

 

[i] WebMD. Raisins May Help Fight Cavities. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/20050608/raisins-may-help-fight-cavities

 

Best vending machine snacks

vending machine_blogYou’ve been there before – dreaming of a snack to tide you over until your next meal. But there’s nowhere to turn except a row of vending machines. So what can you do to curb your hunger without overdoing the kilojoules, fat, salt and more? And, can your choice of machine cuisine ever be healthy?

Vending machine snacks don’t have the best reputation – they’re often processed to the max and loaded with additives. This is to make sure that the food lasts and doesn’t spoil. So, if the vending machine is often your only option, smarter choices can mean a lot to your health.

Pick peanuts …

Or almonds, or cashews. Although they’re rich in kilojoules thanks to the mono-unsaturated (healthy) fats they contain, all nuts are also rich in protein and fibre, so they can be really satisfying, too. Protein acts like a chemical appetite suppressant, signalling from your stomach to your brain that you’ve eaten. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water, which the fibre absorbs to help you feel physically fuller. Remember, salted snacks can contribute to higher blood pressure so unsalted are your best option.

Pepita perfectionpumpkin seed

Packed full of protein these little gems are full of minerals such as magnesium, which most people don’t get enough of. Twitches are a sign that you might benefit from more magnesium and this major mineral is lost from your body during times of stress. Popping some pepitas (pumpkin seeds) may even help to boost your feeling of calmness since magnesium helps to relax your muscles. Pepitas also provide zinc, iron and vitamin E plus they contain a plant sterol (phytosterols), which binds to cholesterol helping to lower it.

Trail Mix

When it comes to trail mix, not all are equal. Opt for the kinds that contain unsalted nuts and dried fruit combinations for a sweet/savoury hit. Nuts, again, provide protein and fibre, which will keep you feeling fuller for longer. The dried fruit will provide you with vitamins and minerals. Steer clear of mixes made up of cereal, chocolate and other sugary treats.

Chocolate covered raisins vs. banana chips?

Surprised to learn that the choc option is a better one? Despite the sugary chocolate, raisins provide iron compared with the saintly sounding banana chips which are actually deep fried and sugared. Chocolate raisins are an even better option than yoghurt covered raisins – which pack a much heavier fat punch.

Baked wholegrain potato chips

You can now get wholegrain versions of chips marketed as healthier alternatives to potato chips. They use better oil, contain more fibre and less salt. But, they are still dense in kilojoules and easy to overdo. So enjoy occasionally but always opt for small packs to help prevent mindless eating.

Wholegrain cereal bars

Although some options can contain more fat and sugar than a doughnut, some varieties are much better. Look at the label to make sure your bar of choice contains whole grains, and that sugar (anything ending in ‘ose’ as well as sugar, malt and honey) comes much lower down in the order of ingredients. Look for packs that are portion-sized and usually under 870 kilojoules (around 200 calories) per bar. Look for bars that contain some form of whole grain, like oats or flax, and nuts, to provide a healthy hit of fibre and protein.

Air popped popcorn

As well as packing a fibre punch, popcorn is a wholegrain that is low in kilojoules and great if you sometimes just want to chew and chew and chew. Go for air-popped varieties and avoid the sweetened, buttered products.

Go with the least altered

Try and opt for products that are as much like the original food as possible. So for example, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that after fresh apple, dried apple comes a close second and apples squished with other fruits are healthier than apple puree or apple cake. So, make the best choice out of the options you have.

Ravinder_1
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

Stress busting snacks and supplements for FIFOs and DIDOs

Stock-image-truck-driver-in-truck_xxl-15If you fly in and fly out or drive in and drive out, you’ll know that your job has some pretty specific challenges. Take stress, for example – although it’s a regular part of life for most, the emotional aspects of being away from home and the desire to do your best when you’re working can challenge both mind and body.

What you eat and drink can have a real impact on your wellbeing and may even help to curb stress. So when you’re getting ready to go on your way, what stress busting snacks can you pack?

Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian from Australia’s only dedicated health fund for people who work in the transport and energy industries has these top snack and supplement tips.

  1. Boost your Bs!

B vitamins are essential for healthy nerves and healthy blood and low levels of B vitamins, especially folate (folic acid) and vitamin B12[i] have been linked with low mood. So to get your intake on the go, try Vegemite (reduced salt variety) or Marmite on wholegrain toast or crackers.

  1. Oats are awesome

These ancient grains are a complex carbohydrate and are digested slowly, providing long-term energy. They also trigger your brain to produce the feel-good chemical serotonin. You know that relaxed, soothed feeling you have after enjoying a good meal? That’s partly down to the serotonin. Oats really are an awesome breakfast choice!

  1. Pile on the veggies and fruits

Stock-image-bowl-of-fruit_xxl-15Research suggests that a diet rich in antioxidants may influence positivity. In a recent study, scientists found that people who ate two portions less of fruit and vegetables a day were significantly less optimistic than those who ate three or more[ii]. Opt for bright coloured produce such as oranges, veggie juices and snack on small amounts of dried fruit like apricots, mango or peaches.

  1. Make more of minerals

Low zinc levels have been linked with anxiety and depression and your body can’t hang onto this mineral, so try to get some daily. Cashews and Brazil nuts are great zinc providers, as are pumpkin seeds and canned crab. Try crab on wholegrain crackers as a quick snack. Magnesium is another mineral that you may be short on – your body uses up stores of it in times of stress. Involved in the production of the feel-good chemical serotonin, magnesium may help regulate emotions. Pumpkin seeds are again a great option.

  1. Put fish on your dish

White fish contains some long chain omega-3 fats and oily fish is especially rich in these essential fats. They’re called essential because your body can’t make them for itself. Needed for many functions including helping to moderate your body’s stress response i.e. when stress hormones like adrenalin and cortisol are surging, omega-3 fats may even contribute to helping the heart beat mental stress according to a small US study[iii]. Try canned tuna or salmon – an easy meal on the go!

  1. Pack some probiotics

Ever wondered why when you feel stressed your gut sometimes gets affected? And when your gut is stressed you can feel emotionally frazzled? Recent research shows that we have a complex set of nerve cells along the length of the gut and billions of beneficial bacteria live there – they have many functions and are vital for life.

Taking probiotics have been shown to boost mood – scientists from the UCLA School of Medicine showed that taking supplements could relieve anxiety and stress by decreasing activity in the emotional area of the brain[iv].

As well as probiotic supplements, you can find the good guys in fermented foods like sauerkraut and miso soup (have this tepid and not too hot or you’ll kill the beneficial bacteria). Get a tub of miso paste and just add warm water for a quick snack.

It’s bound to be stressful when you’re working away from home and sticking to a rigid working schedule. But feeding your body and mind with the good stuff can make a positive difference to your outlook. Why choose smarter snacks? Because you and your family deserve it!

Ravinder_1
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

[i] Psychology Today. Vitamins: Get Your Bs. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200401/vitamins-get-your-bs.

[ii] PubMed. Association between optimism and serum antioxidants in the midlife in the United States study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23257932.

[iii] American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. Fish oil and neurovascular reactivity to mental stress in humans. http://ajpregu.physiology.org/content/304/7/R523.

[iv] UCLA. Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function, UCLA study shows. http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/changing-gut-bacteria-through-245617.