When it comes to the health of your teeth, you really are what you eat. Sugary foods, such as candy and soda, contribute to tooth decay. Use this healthy foods list to improve your diet and to keep your teeth healthy.

Water

The best thirst quencher is also the smartest choice for your teeth. Water helps wash acid-producing foods from the mouth.

Sugar-free drinks

If you like your water sweetened, choose sugar-free drinks. Because sugar-free drinks wash acid-producing food from the mouth, they may help reduce cavity risk.

Cheese and milk

Cheese and milk protect tooth enamel and ward off cavities in several ways. First, they encourage saliva production, which neutralizes acids in the mouth. The protein, calcium and phosphorous in cheese and milk also buffer acids, protecting enamel from erosion. Studies suggest that cheese and milk may even help strengthen the protective minerals in teeth surfaces.

Fish and flax

By far the biggest threat to healthy teeth is gum disease. It occurs when bacteria collect in pockets. This causes inflammation that can damage the connective tissue anchoring teeth to bone. Foods that reduce inflammation may protect against gum disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids are the most potent anti-inflammatory nutrients. This form of fat is found in fish, fish oil, and flaxseed.

Cocoa

Good news for chocoholics: Substances found in cocoa appear to dampen inflammation and may help protect against erosion and decay. Even chocolate milk, although it contains some sugar, doesn’t seem to increase the risk of cavities compared to snacks like cookies, chips, and raisins. Dark chocolate is a good choice since it is lower in sugar than milk chocolate.

Yogurt

Like cheese, yogurt is high in calcium and protein, which makes it a good pick for the strength and health of your teeth. The probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, found in yogurt also benefit your gums because the good bacteria crowd out bacteria that cause cavities. If you decide to add more yogurt to your diet, choose a plain variety with no added sugar.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens typically find their way onto any healthy foods list. They’re full of vitamins and minerals while being low in calories. Leafy greens such as kale and spinach also promote oral health. They’re high in calcium, which builds your teeth’s enamel. They also contain folic acid, a type of B vitamin that has numerous health benefits, including possibly treating gum disease in pregnant women. If you have trouble getting leafy greens into your diet, add a handful of baby spinach to your next salad or throw some kale on a pizza. You can also try adding some greens to a smoothie.

Apples

While the ADA recommends steering clear of most sweet foods, there are some exceptions. Fruits, such as apples, might be sweet, but they’re also high in fiber and water. The action of eating an apple produces saliva in your mouth, which rinses away bacteria and food particles. The fibrous texture of the fruit also stimulates the gums. Pack either a whole apple or apple slices in your lunch to give your mouth a good scrubbing at the end of the meal.

Carrots

Like apples, carrots are crunchy and full of fiber. Eating a handful of raw carrots at the end of the meal increases saliva production in your mouth, which reduces your risk of cavities. Along with being high in fiber, carrots are a great source of vitamin A. Top a salad with a few slices of raw carrots, or enjoy some baby carrots on their own.

Celery

Celery might get a bad reputation for being bland, watery and full of those pesky strings, but like carrots and apples, it acts a bit like a toothbrush, scraping food particles and bacteria away from your teeth. It’s also a good source of vitamins A and C, two antioxidants that give the health of your gums a boost. Make celery even tastier by topping it with cream cheese.

Almonds

Almonds are great for your teeth because they are a good source of calcium and protein while being low in sugar. Enjoy a quarter cup of almonds with your lunch. You can also add a handful to a salad or to a stir-fry dinner.

Along with adding leafier greens, dairy products, and fibrous vegetables to your diet, pay attention to what you’re drinking. Since it has no calories or sugar, water is always the best pick, especially compared to juice or soda. Your diet makes a big difference when it comes to a healthy smile.

What are you waiting for? get out there and start eating healthy foods, for bright shiny teeth!