5 Foods That Can Help Your Diabetes and Your Mouth

How we chew also makes lasting impact on oral health

Dr. Michael J. GoldbergBy Dr. Michael, Goldberg, D.M.D.

As a dentist, I am concerned (and you should be too) with 3 things to help you maintain oral health and overall health.  All are important, but all are even more important for people with diabetes.

1.  Infection/ Inflammation
2.  Acid
3.  Force control (chewing, speaking, swallowing, smiling)

What we eat and how we chew are important components of all the above, so let's look at some specific foods to see how and why they impact the mouth and diabetes.

Dark Chocolate (70% cacao or more)
Just the thought makes my mouth water. That, in and of itself, is a good thing because your saliva not only helps digestion, it helps fight bacteria, reduces the acidity of your mouth, and brings immune components that fight infection and inflammation.

Researchers in Japan have concluded that, at least from a decay standpoint, antibacterial agents found in the cocoa bean offset the sugar levels and may help prevent decay. High levels of cacao also contain flavonoids, which have been shown to help control insulin sensitivity.

So dark chocolate can help fight inflammation, prevent cavities, and help control diabetes. It's a miracle food, but only if used in moderation.

Suggestion: Shave some 70% or greater dark chocolate over some raspberries or strawberries for a treat once in a while.

According to the ADA, sweets can be eaten in small amounts as long as they're part of a healthy meal plan, combined with exercise, and saved for special occasions.

You probably won't have to use your chewing muscles a lot when you're eating your dark chocolate, but you will if you eat raw celery. Chewing, as long as you're bite isn't off (we'll talk about that in a future installment) is important in maintaining the flow of saliva. Having the proper flow of saliva, as we mentioned, is important in controlling acidity and inflammation in the mouth.

Raw celery has other benefits.  Aside from being fibrous, raw celery requires you to chew well. It's fibrous content is also good for helping reduce plaque on your teeth. Plaque is the film (we call it BIOFILM) on your teeth and is full of bacteria that can cause gum irritation. If you have diabetes, plaque is more likely to cause inflammation and gum disease. Chewing celery can help reduce plaque.

Celery's other benefits include it's low glycemic index value, vitamin C, and flavonoids, which help the body respond to inflammation. There's evidence that the pthalides in celery also help lower blood pressure. Pthalides are active compounds that have a relaxing effect on artery muscles, naturally dilating vessels and increasing blood flow. There's calcium and magnesium too, which help bone regeneration, something your teeth will benefit from as well.

Parsley too is best eaten raw to get the maximum oral advantage, which comes from it's fiber, folic acid, vitamins A and C, magnesium, and iron.  All these are necessary for healthy gums and teeth.  

Parsley also contains "volatile oil," which are known to neutralize certain types of carcinogens. Since oral cancer is on the rise, this should be of particular value. Parsley also has flavonoids, which are antioxidants that help the body fight inflammation such as gum disease.

Parsley is NOT a cure for bad breath. Parsley, like all green plants, contains chlorophyll, which can temporarily mask odors. But it will not have a long-term effect on reducing sulfur compounds that cause bad breath or "halitosis" (yet another future column).

Parsley does have some negatives. It is high in oxalates, which may be a problem if you have impaired kidney function or gallbladder problems. Oxalates are organic acids found certain foods that can initiate free radicals and promote tissue damage if not properly removed from the body. So proceed with caution and moderation if you suspect you have theses issues or just ask your physician.

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Last Modified Date: December 04, 2013

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