In recent years we’ve been fed a lot of conflicting information about diet, food and what we need to consume in order to live a healthy lifestyle. Sugar, especially in the shadow of the recently introduced sugar tax, has now become enemy number one. Whilst this is, in my opinion, the right way forward in many scenarios, what we mustn’t forget is that not all sugars are created equal.
What I am referring to, of course, is the difference between natural and added sugars. Natural sugars occur in produce such as fruits and vegetables, whilst added sugars are pumped into products such as fizzy drinks, sweets and crisps to give them a sweeter flavour.
So should we be vilifying foods that contain natural sugars as well? The case really goes two ways. On one hand, it is true that all sugars are damaging to our teeth. Even natural sugars such as fructose change the pH of our mouths and make them more acidic, encouraging decay.[i] This is further substantiated by research that found that by drinking water with even a slice of lemon in it, as well as fruit teas and fruit juices could considerably heighten the chances of tooth decay.[ii]
But does this mean that we should avoid sugary fruits like berries entirely if we want to preserve our teeth? According to new research carried out by the Oral Health Foundation, berries should still be on the menu.
Scientists have found that berries such as cranberries and blueberries contain polyphenols – natural compounds that help to fend off harmful oral bacteria.[iii] These compounds combat the build up of plaque by helping prevent the bacteria stick to teeth and gums. Cranberries have been found to be especially beneficial, as even after they have been eaten the polyphenols in them stay in our saliva, offering lasting benefit.
In light of this research it’s clear to see that to get the benefits of berries in our diet it’s important to exercise moderation. By eating a handful of cranberries you’re likely to be doing your teeth good rather than harm – but these berries still contain 4 grams of natural sugar, so it’s important to keep an eye out on your recommended daily allowances and not exceed these. By striking this balance you can help save your teeth from decay and reap the rewards of the antioxidants, fibre and other nutritional value that these delicious fruits provide.
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[i] EBPCOOH. Fruit – Can It Harm your Teeth? Link: https://ebpcooh.org.uk/fruit-can-harm-teeth/ [Last accessed January 19].
[iii] Oral Health Foundation. Cranberries and Blueberries – Why Certain Fruit Extracts Could Provide The Key To Fighting Tooth Decay. Link: https://www.dentalhealth.org/news/cranberries-and-blueberries-why-certain-fruit-extracts-could-provide-the-key-to-fighting-tooth-decay [Last accessed January 19].