If you are like most people, you probably want to present a beautiful, bright smile to the world. In fact, more than 100 million Americans have had some type of teeth whitening, either professionally or with over-the-counter products. While it’s easy to see why more than a billion dollars is spent annually to achieve this goal, teeth whitening efforts aren’t going to be effective if your diet consists of foods that naturally stain your teeth. Here are three such foods you’ll want to avoid — or least enjoy in moderation — if you want whiter teeth.

1. Foods with Rich Colors

The deep hue in blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries will stain your teeth regardless of whether you prefer your berries whole or as jelly, jam, or juice. Tomatoes, especially in the form of tomato sauce, can also darken the hue of your teeth and minimize the effects of teeth whitening. Eating clean and healthy diets like the paleo diet goes a long way. One of the few excepts is dark chocolate (but not milk chocolate), which has a chemical called theobromine that strengthens enamel. Some other richly colored foods to watch out for include:

• Red meats
• Artificially favored snacks (nachos, cheese curls)
• Dark marinades
• Chili
• Carrots

2. Darker Beverages

While coffee is the beverage most people associate with stained teeth, tea actually causes stains that are much worse. Opt for lighter green, white, and herbal teas instead. Red wine may be good for your heart, but it’s not so good for your teeth, although there is research to suggest wine minimizes the inflammation often associated with gum disease. Enjoy these potential benefits by opting for white wine or other lighter varieties instead. Soda is especially bad for teeth since it causes stains and eats away at enamel because of the phosphoric and citric acids in contains.

3. Acidic Foods

In addition to irritating your gums, acidic foods like citrus fruits (in solid and liquid form) also have a tendency to produce a yellow tinge on your teeth by eroding yellow-hued dentin (the tissue underneath enamel). Reduce the impact of acidity on your teeth by opting for cheese as an occasional snack since it increases the pH level in your mouth and reduces acidity.

Professional teeth whitening can be a safe, noninvasive, effective, and economical way to enhance your smile and boost your self-confidence. But there are some basic dos and don’ts to keep in mind if you want to see meaningful, long-term results, especially when it comes to the foods you eat on a daily basis.

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