As children, most of us were told to drink our milk; that it would help us to grow strong bones and healthy teeth. The fact that the calcium found in dairy products helps to build strong teeth and bones is nothing new. But there is new information about the benefits of drinking milk that has only recently been published in The Journal of the American Dental Association. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Dentistry have found that if a person drinks milk after eating sugary foods, the milk can help to reduce the amount of damage done by the sweet food.
Here’s how it works. When you eat food with sugar in it – candy, cookies, or pastry, for example – it feeds bacteria that live in the plaque on your teeth. When that bacteria is fed by sugar, it creates acids in the plaque that erode your teeth and cause tooth decay. In their study, researchers conducted tests to see whether drinking milk, water or apple juice after eating sugar would impact the acid in dental plaque. The results showed that drinking milk was the most effective means of reducing the acidity of plaque.
Benefits of Calcium
Our bones and teeth need calcium to stay strong and healthy. That fact is true for from the time we are in the womb, after we’re born and throughout our entire lives. Expectant mothers are often told to consume dairy products to help their unborn babies develop strong bones and teeth. Infants, children and teenagers continue to benefit from the calcium they consume in milk and other dairy products. And in old age, consuming calcium-rich foods and beverages helps to prevent osteoporosis.
Considering that just a single glass of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium, it’s easy to see why doctors and dentists recommend that we drink milk on a regular basis. But if you’re not a fan of milk, or if you have difficulty digesting the lactose in milk, there are other options. Nut “milks,” such as beverages made from almonds and cashews, for example, contain a great deal of calcium. There are also lactose-free milk products available in most supermarkets. If you simply don’t like the taste of milk, you can try other dairy products that also contain calcium, such as cheese, yogurt, or cottage cheese, for example.
No matter where you choose to get your daily dose of calcium, just remember that it is essential to keep our bones and teeth strong and healthy. And if you choose to enjoy the occasional sweet treat, remember to wash it down with a glass of cold milk to help fight tooth decay! Cookies and milk, anyone?