Healthy Diet Healthy Teeth You may have something…

January 4, 2007

Healthy Diet Healthy Teeth

You may have something unique in common with numerous famous people including Paul McCartney, Hank Aaron, Mr Rogers and Candice Bergen. No, it’s not that you are all left-handed or snore or share a birthday. Actually, all of you chose a vegetarian lifestyle.

You might think that vegetarians are only a minority of people; however, studies show that there are over six million adults who consider themselves vegetarians.

Some might think that vegetarians are poorly nourished and unhealthy. That couldn’t be further from the truth. As with any diet, it is a matter of choosing foods that adequately nourish your body and which keep you healthy and strong. That being said, however, vegetarians need to be more cautious about the foods they eat. They need to make sure they eat foods high in iron, vitamins B12 and D, calcium, protein, iron and zinc.

For example, studies indicate that teens today drink twice as much soda—no calcium—than milk—good calcium source. Girls who consume large quantities of soda are getting maybe 800 mg calcium each day. The US Department of Agriculture recommends that teen girls get 1300 mg calcium each day. Boys who drink soda face the same health risks as girls. In fact, males 12-29 years old drink more soda than any other group according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Growing bones need a diet rich in calcium, otherwise osteoporosis, broken bones and tooth decay could be imminent.

According to the Center for Disease Control:

1-3 year olds need 550 mg calcium each day
9-18 year olds need 1300 mg calcium each day
31-50 year olds need 1 000 mg calcium each day
51-70 year olds need 1200 mg calcium each day.

The American Dietetic Association states that a vegetarian’s diet can provide adequate nutrients to have a healthy body and teeth. It is extremely important for vegetarian children to eat enough of the essential ingredients such as zinc, iron, vitamins D and B12, and calcium.

Good sources of calcium include broccoli, tofu, fortified soy milk, fortified orange juice, breads and cereals fortified with calcium yogurt, cheese & spinach.

One of the foremost victims of inadequate nourishment are your teeth. Teeth fall prey to the sugar in soda and other foods when the sugar converts to acid. The acid dissolves the calcium out of the tooth enamel; then bacteria can cause serious tooth decay.

Vegetarians can be particularly vulnerable to tooth decay if they are not including foods high in calcium in their diet. They need to carefully read food labels and count the percentage of calcium they eat each day.

To prevent periodontal disease, the Academy of General Dentistry recommends that vegetarians monitor their intake of vitamin D and calcium and consult a dentist about their diets and oral health.

I remember the days when I counted each cereal box top to know when I had enough to send away for a Captain Midnight Secret Decoder Ring. Now I have to count nutrients! All these years later I wish I still had that ring to help me understand exactly what I am buying at the grocery store. If you are like me, you ponder over each nutrition label to determine whether a product is healthy for you based on your dietary needs. How much is a serving of fruit? A slice of bread? One potato? It boggles the mind.

Consider how much more complex this head scratching gets if you have decided to embrace a vegetarian lifestyle. Not only do you need to monitor the animal products that may be lurking in that food, but you also have to be more careful to eat foods that are higher in certain nutrients such as calcium.

Source: The Nassau Guardian

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