6 Surprising Foods That Stain Teeth Plus 6 That Will Clean and Whiten Them

Fresh blueberries
Blueberry extracts have been shown to help prevent infectious bacteria from clinging to the walls of the gut, bladder and urethra. Madlen/Shutterstock

When you think of stained teeth, you may be quick to blame coffee. But there are other foods and beverages that could be tingeing your pearly whites. Below, we run through a few of them. But remember, prevention is simple: Drinking water or brushing your teeth after you eat can cut down on stains.


While they're antioxidant powerhouses that provide great health benefits for your body, berries aren't always kind to your teeth. They're full of chromogens, and the rich color of blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and blackberries can cause staining, whether they're eaten whole, drunk as juice or processed as jelly and jam, according to Colgate.


Which type of tea do you favor?. (Photo: Konstantin Aksenov/Shutterstock)

The most consumed drink on the planet is even more likely than coffee to cause that yellow shade on your teeth. Tea, especially black tea, contains tannins, which are plant-based compounds that make it easier for stains to stick to teeth. Green or herbal teas have fewer tannins, so they may help limit stains, but they won't eliminate them.

Red wine

One glass of wine: Friend or foe?. Tinatin/Shutterstock

Like tea, red wine also contains tannins. But unlike tea, red wine is an acidic drink with intensely pigmented molecules called chromogens, which is notorious for tooth discoloration because those pigments stick to the enamel on your teeth, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

Acidity helps to stain teeth because the acid makes tooth enamel softer and rougher, so it's easier for stains to set in. But don't think you're off the hook with white wine. It may lack red wine's intense pigment, but it's even more acidic than red, which means it can still cause stains.

Think of it this way: If a food or drink will stain your clothes or your tablecloth, it'll stain your teeth, too.

Balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar
Balsamic vinegar's natural dark color can stain teeth, but brushing after eating it will cut down on discoloration. kazoka/Shutterstock

The dark natural color of this tasty salad topper can discolor your teeth if it's not brushed away soon after eating. But there's an easy remedy here. Just make sure your salad also contains lettuce, which will help clear the vinegar off your teeth as you crunch your greens.


Drinking soda through a straw can reduce its stain-causing power.
Drinking soda through a straw can reduce its stain-causing power. punsayaporn/Shutterstock

Like red wine, dark-colored sodas contain chromogens. And all soda is acidic, which means even light-colored sodas can erode enamel and stain teeth.

Curry and tomato sauce

Chicken curry
If a delicious dark curry like this one is on your dinner table, consider brushing your teeth after the meal to get rid of the stain-causing pigments. Africa Studio/Shutterstock

The deep pigments in curries, tomato sauce and even soy sauce can yellow teeth. Plus, tomatoes are acidic. Lighter-colored sauces, such as cream sauce, are a better choice as far as white teeth are concerned (though they may not be a better option diet-wise).

Foods that help whiten teeth

Some foods can neutralize the acid in soda or wine and even clean your chompers as you eat.

Milk and hard cheese

Cheese platter
Just like us, lots of rodents love cheese and can get into your compost to eat it. Igor Dutina/Shutterstock

These dairy delights benefit your teeth in two main ways. They encourage saliva production, which neutralizes acid in your mouth, washes away stray food particles and helps prevent staining. Also, the calcium and other nutrients protect enamel from eroding.


Figure out where you're going to put the apples first, then get pull out some cookbooks and get a move on in the kitchen!. (Photo: Ohhlanla/Shutterstock)

Apples contain a substance called malic acid, which is responsible for the tart flavor. It increases saliva production, while the fruit's crunchy texture scrubs off leftover food particles that may cause stains on your teeth, according to Arizona Family Dental.


Sliced pineapple
Bromelain, an enzyme found naturally in pineapple, is used in many teeth-whitening products. rodimov/Shutterstock

Think of pineapple as a natural teeth-whitener. Many teeth-whitening products contain an ingredient called bromelain, which is an enzyme found naturally in pineapple. It has many health benefits, including stain-fighting power.


Broccoli florets being washed
Broccoli's high iron content prevents tooth enamel from decay, making your teeth look whiter. glyn/Shutterstock

Like apples, broccoli is high in fiber and can clean teeth as you eat — if you eat it raw, according to Arizona Family Dental. This cruciferous vegetable is also high in iron, which protects tooth enamel from decay.

Cauliflower, another cruciferous vegetable, requires a lot of chewing and increases saliva production, removes plaque and keeps teeth looking whiter.


Carrot and celery sticks
Crunchy, fibrous veggies like celery and carrots clean your teeth while you eat. gvictoria/Shutterstock

Sensing a pattern here? Celery is another crunchy and fibrous veggie that cleans your teeth while you munch. Plus, celery is especially beneficial for healthy gums, Arizona Family Dental says, which means whiter, healthier teeth in the long run. You'll get the same benefits from eating raw carrots.


strawberries in a glass bowl
Like apples, strawberries contain malic acid, which is good for saliva production and teeth-whitening. AnikaNes/Shutterstock

True, earlier we said berries are responsible for staining teeth. But strawberries are an exception. Like apples, they contain malic acid and are highly fibrous, says Arizona Family Dental, so they clean your teeth as you nibble.

AARP recommends using them as a natural teeth whitener. They suggest mashing up strawberries, rubbing them over your teeth, letting them sit for five minutes and then rinsing and brushing as usual.

View Article Sources
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  2. Neves, Marcos Fava, et al. “World Consumption of Beverages.” The Orange Juice Business, by Marcos Fava Neves et al., Wageningen Academic Publishers, 2011, pp. 118–118., doi:10.3920/978-90-8686-739-4_31

  3. Epple, Matthias, et al. “A Critical Review of Modern Concepts for Teeth Whitening.” Dentistry Journal, vol. 7, no. 3, Aug. 2019., doi:10.3390/dj7030079

  4. "Whitening: 5 Things to Know About Getting a Brighter Smile." American Dental Association (ADA).

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  6. Vejai Vekaash, Chitra Janardhanan, et al. “Effect of Vital Bleaching with Solutions Containing Different Concentrations of Hydrogen Peroxide and Pineapple Extract as an Additive on Human Enamel Using Reflectance Spectrophotometer: An in Vitro Study.” Journal of Conservative Dentistry: JCD, vol. 20, no. 5, Oct. 2017, pp. 337–40., doi:10.4103/JCD.JCD_197_17