Herbs are delicious, but they are also good for your health. Check out the top herbs and spices for pearly whites.
By Kim Dyoco
Fortunately, as a society, we’re returning to many of the traditional practices in food that our ancestors relied on before modern medicine. More and more, we’re looking to natural fixes to our various health and hunger issues.
For nearly every health issue out there, the world of herbs offers a natural cure. Oral health care is no exception. So, as you explore new recipes and healthier ways of cooking, try to incorporate some of these tasty, dentist-recommended herbs.
This herb, which can be somewhat challenging to find, is neither endorsed by any religious leaders nor very similar to what is commonly known as basil. It’s a rather spicy herb that is very common in Thai cuisine, but you may see it called “hot basil” in some recipes.
So, what does it do for teeth? Well, its natural astringent properties means it battles bacteria, thus preventing bad breath and cavities. You may have to track the stuff down in a specialty shop but, once you do, you can use it in a wide variety of Thai and Asian stir fry dishes.
The best part about this classic herb is that it’s a cinch to find a wide variety of delicious recipes that call for it – everything from salad dressings to breads to sauces. Plus, it’s pretty easy to grow in your own herb garden at home, so you can have a steady supply without restocking at the store.
You don’t normally think of herbs as being a good source of calcium, but just one tablespoon of dried rosemary actually has 4.2% of the recommended daily amount. Given that many people don’t get enough calcium in their daily diets, this could be a helpful way to maintain health of teeth and bones in order to combat the weakening that tends to happen as we age.
While cinnamon might not be directly beneficial for teeth, it offers an important indirect benefit. Studies have shown that consuming half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder every day helps regulate blood sugar levels and cut down on cravings of sugar and simple carbohydrates, both of which have detrimental effects on teeth.
You may need to look farther than the garden-variety cinnamon powder in your grocery store spice section though – find Ceylon cinnamon in a specialty store or online. You can easily toss a teaspoon of it into yogurt, granola, oatmeal or smoothies for a kick of spicy sweetness now and a way to prevent sweet treat temptations later.
The popular curry ingredient is also somewhat of a dental wonder-herb. Several recent academic studies have shown that the spice has many of the same properties as traditional mouthwash, and may even be more effective One study even proved that it has the power to reverse pre-cancerous conditions for oral cancer.
Now, it does the most good if it’s in your mouth for a while, but even eating it as an ingredient in recipes can be beneficial. And you should feel free to look beyond curry if you want to add more turmeric – it can be a yummy addition to many savory recipes with an Indian flair.
Technically, garlic is a bulb (like onions and shallots) but it’s usually treated like an herb or spice in cooking. You probably didn’t need another excuse to eat more garlic, but I’ll give you one anyway. It has mighty antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, so it guards against oral infections and kills bad bacteria in your mouth.
You get the most health benefits if you eat it raw, so try throwing some minced garlic into your homemade salad dressing or into a mixture of tomatoes and basil as a flavorful bruschetta topping. Garlic crosses all ethnic cuisine lines, so it should be easy to incorporate more into your diet. Just remember that it may have a negative impact on your breath – so you might want to refrain from the raw stuff before a date or job interview.
Herbal remedies are a great way to supplement your usual teeth routines, but before adding large amounts of any herbs to your diet, do some research and check with your dentist or doctor.
If you incorporate some of these healthy herbs into your cooking, you’ll enjoy both the taste and the thought that your delicious food is doing good work for your oral health as well.
Dr. Kimberly Dyoco is a top dentist in Chicago and owns One Mag Smile, a cosmetic and general dental practice in the heart of the city. Kim’s passions include caring for her patients, cooking, and exploring new cuisines on her travels abroad. She also loves writing informative articles that help people make good decisions about their oral health.