If your teeth aren’t as white as they could be, you’re likely aware that your morning cup of caffeine isn’t helping things. (Neither is that glass of red wine, can of soda or handful of blueberries.) But as much as certain foods and drinks are to blame for stains, other ones can actually help counteract the effects. If you’ve ever balked at the price of professional whitening, or gotten the shakes at the mere thought of kicking your coffee habit, keep reading to discover what you can snack on to naturally brighten those (soon-to-be) pearly whites.
An apple a day keeps more than the doctor away—it also keeps teeth debris and gum bacteria at bay. Their crisp texture and high water content increase saliva, washing away harmful bacteria that creates plaque and leads to discoloration over time.
Like apples, munching on nuts such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, and sesame seeds stimulates saliva which can help wash away bacteria. What’s more, nuts’ abrasive texture can also work at removing existing surface stains, says cosmetic dentist Joseph Banker, D.M.D.
Foods that are high in fiber and slightly coarse act as a scrubbing agent for teeth, says Banker. Much like a kitchen scouring pad gets pots clean, the florets of vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower can help do the same to teeth. Added bonus: The high iron content in dark greens like broccoli also helps form a thin coat that protects teeth from enamel-eroding acids found in soda and carbonated drinks. And good news for celery lovers: Because it’s so difficult to chew, it increases saliva production and polishes teeth for a natural surface clean.
Shiitake mushrooms contain a tooth-friendly compound called lentinan, which inhibits the growth of damaging bacteria that cause tooth decay and discoloration. If you’re not fond of fungi, try mixing them into a stir-fry for more masked consumption (but remember to skip the soy sauce, or else you’re in stain territory).
Strawberries contain malic acid, which acts as a natural astringent to help break down and remove surface stains. Eating them will do the trick, but if you want an even better dose of the berry, Banker suggests crushing a few up, combining with baking soda and brushing with the mixture.
They may not do great things for your breath, but onions contain antibacterial sulfur compounds that prevent plaque from forming on your teeth. And their lingering flavor helps whiten teeth indirectly: You’re more likely to brush your teeth after eating them. Unfortunately, onions must be consumed raw to reap the anti-plaque benefit, so include them on sandwiches and in salads whenever you can.
The acids found in citrus fruits are effective teeth whiteners. Additionally, their tart taste enhances saliva production for a natural rinse and polish. Pineapples specifically contain an enzyme called bromelain that can assist in removing stains.