When it comes to food, there’s really no end to deliciousness in Chicago. From world famous pizza to the Puerto Rican-inspired jibarito, regional specialties have prospered in the Windy City. This week, we’re going to take a look at Chicago’s three most iconic foods and see how good they are for your teeth. Let’s do this.
Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza
The most envied and renowned of all Chicago’s food offerings is by far its treasured deep dish pizza. In Chicago, pizza isn’t some sort of snack or late-night afterthought. It’s a hearty meal baked in a deep pan and piled with gooey cheese, rich tomato sauce and other delicious ingredients.
But is it good for your teeth? Yes and no. Cheese is one of your teeth’s best friends, providing your pearly whites with calcium, phosphates and vitamin D. These minerals help reduce your risk of tooth decay, guard your teeth from acid and help your enamel stabilize and repair itself.
The bad news for your teeth comes in the form of tomato sauce. Tomatoes are highly acidic. If you eat pizza too often or you let pizza sit in your mouth for a while, the acids from the tomatoes can start breaking down your enamel. The starch in pizza can also be easily converted to enamel-eroding sugars.
Conclusion: Though Chicago’s pizza has a bunch of tooth-loving cheese in it, it also has lots of starch and tomato sauce. It’s not the worst food for your teeth, but it’s definitely not the best. Thankfully, your teeth will be just fine as long as long as you eat pizza in moderation.
Chicago-Style Hot Dogs
Unlike most of the United States, it’s a cardinal sin to put ketchup on a hot dog in Chicago. The typical Chicago-style hot dog is made up an all-beef hot dog, steamed poppy seed bun, yellow mustard, tomato wedges, hot peppers, a pickle spear, chopped onions, celery salt, and relish. We like to call it a little piece of heaven.
So now let’s break it down into the good and bad for your mouth. The all-beef hot dog is all-good for your teeth. Meats are packed with phosphorus, a mineral that helps to keep your enamel protected. It also has calcium, which we know is great for our teeth. Unfortunately, the starchy bun contains sugars that will attack your enamel, and pickles are one of the worst foods for your teeth.
Conclusion: If you cut out some of the hot dog toppings that are bad for your teeth, like pickles, pickled relish and tomato wedges, you’ll have a dog that’s actually pretty good for your mouth. Some Chicagoans may call this a sin, but we call it a toothy upgrade.
In Chicago, there’s nothing juicier than Italian beef. It doesn’t get better than sandwiches packed with thin slices of roast beef on top of an Italian-style roll dripping with meat juices. You might top the sandwich off with Chicago-style giardiniera (Italian-American relish) or friggitello.
Again, the phosphorus beef is great for your teeth. But if the giardiniera or friggitello is pickled in vinegar, it’s not so good for your teeth. The acids from the vinegar will aggressively eat away at your enamel if you eat too many pickled veggies or fruits.
Conclusion: Knock off the pickled toppings and you’ve got a Chicago-style food item that’s pretty good for your teeth! Since Italian beef is mostly made up of lots and lots of beef, and beef is tooth-friendly, your teeth will happily munch on this one.
We’ll have to give the title of “worst Chicago-style food for your teeth” to Chicago-style hot dogs. The starchy bun and official toppings won’t make your pearly whites any healthier. However, as long as you don’t eat a dog a day and practice proper oral hygiene, your teeth will be just fine. Munching on these Chicago delights every once in awhile won’t do your teeth any significant harm.