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Happy New Year!

As it’s the new year, it’s time for fresh starts, beginning with our diet and dental health. Everyone knows that a balanced, nutritious diet is essential to healthy living. But did you know that eating patterns and food choices play an important role in preventing tooth decay and gum disease, too?

So here are foods that should appear in your New Year’s healthy, balanced diet:

1.       Make sure you eat fruits and vegetables each day. Combined, these should cover half your plate at meals, or you can measure them by the ‘5 a day’ method.

2.       Grains. At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread and brown rice.

3.       Dairy. Cheese, milk, plain yoghurt, leafy greens and almonds. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy foods most often. These promote tooth health thanks to their high amounts of calcium and other nutrients they provide.

4.       Protein. Make lean protein choices, such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish. Vary your protein choices to also include eggs, beans, peas and legumes.

5.       Vitamin C (important for healthy gums and quick healing of wounds) and vitamin A (another key nutrient in building tooth enamel).

6.       Hands down, water—particularly fluoridated water—is the most tooth-friendly beverage.

Of course, not all foods available in grocery stores are good for your health or your dental health. So here’s a list of foods to avoid this year:

1.       Snacks like sweets and crisps; these are foods that harm teeth by promoting tooth decay. If you do snack, make it a nutritious choice—such as cheese, yogurt, fruits, vegetables or nuts.

2.       Empty calorie foods such as candy (especially hard or sticky candies like lollipops, mints, and caramel), cookies, cakes and muffins, and snack foods like crisps are a cause for dental concern, not only because they offer no nutritional value, but because the amount and type of sugar that they contain that can adhere to teeth. The bacteria in your mouth feed off these sugars, releasing acids, and that’s what leads to tooth decay.

3.       Sugar-containing drinks—soda, lemonade, juice and sweetened coffee or tea are particularly harmful because sipping them causes a constant sugar bath over teeth, which promotes tooth decay.