There are many moments in life when you want to look and feel your best. Before a big interview or a date, you’re ready to let your inner confidence shine, so the last thing you want to think about is the fact that you decided to chow down on a garlic-infused fish sandwich at lunch and now, your breath is anything but minty fresh. There are just certain foods that are reserved for a special time and place because otherwise, they will make your breath extra smelly.
Read on to find out the best foods that will score you major fresh breath points on your interview or date—and the absolute worst foods that won’t do you any favors. Plus, keep an eye out for these foods that stain your teeth, too.
And for more, don’t miss these 15 Classic American Desserts That Deserve a Comeback.
First, The Best Foods For Your Breath
An apple a day may help keep the doctor away, but it won’t accidentally keep away friends and colleagues; apples are a powerful ally in the fight against bad breath! This due in part to their natural detergent properties. “Apples have been shown to be one of the best foods for breaking down odorous compounds, thanks to their polyphenols,” says Abbey Sharp, R.D., and blogger at Abbey’s Kitchen. “They are also one of the best foods for collecting anything stuck in your teeth that may collect bacteria.”
“Fresh herbs like parsley, basil, and mint can help mask bad breath with the strong oils that they contain,” says Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN of Leah Kaufman Nutrition. She explains that the strong oils contained within them help to overpower nose-offending scents. Sally Cram, DDS, a Washington, DC-based periodontist and spokesperson for the American Dental Association, backs up Kaufman. “These herbs can act as a mouthwash to temporarily mask odors,” she says.
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While ginger is great for settling the stomach, it also has the powerful effect of neutralizing bad breath. Eating a piece of ginger after your meal can cleanse your palate, leaving your mouth feeling fresher. It’s one of the most underrated foods if you ask us!
The dream team of spinach, lettuce, and kale are great for fighting bad breath. They help balance your internal pH levels and keep alkaline levels low, which in turn helps prevent dry mouth (another cause of bad breath).
Melons provide a great deal of vitamin C, which creates a not-so-friendly environment for the bad bacteria in your mouth to thrive. Not to mention, it’s high in water content, which hydrates the mouth and keeps bacteria at bay.
Cinnamon oil has been found to break down volatile sulfurous compounds—aka the cause of your stinky breath in your mouth, says Sharp.
Seriously, what can’t this superfood—er, drink—do? Research shows that green tea contains deodorizing properties that can help banish smells in your mouth. A study from 2012 found that green tea’s polyphenols also work to kill any bad bacteria in the mouth. And it just doesn’t destroy stinky breath; green tea can also protect your chompers from tooth decay and against certain times of mouth cancers. Oh yes, and it’s a weight loss superstar, too.
A bad breath remedy in India is to chew on some fennel seeds. The act of doing so not only increases saliva that washes away bacteria from your mouth, but the seeds also help neutralize offensive odors and aid digestion. That’s not all: Fennel oils have antibacterial properties as well, fighting germs that cause bad breath.
“We found that drinking beverages with high water and some fat content, like milk, may help reduce garlic breath and mask the garlic odor during eating,” says researcher Sheryl Barringer, Ph.D. It was found that both fat-free and whole milk reduced the sulfur compounds in garlic that are the cause of its strong smell; whole milk got the best results. It’s thought that this may be because fat is more effective at neutralizing odors. Dairy can be a problem, though; keep reading to find out why it’s on the worst list!
“Usually, the bad bacteria are kept at bay because we have a lot of salivae constantly cleaning out the mouth,” says Alexandra Napoli, a certified holistic health coach. One of the biggest culprits of bad breath is a dry mouth, which is when bad bacteria thrive. Guzzling down water will not only keep your saliva production going, but it can also wash away any pieces of food that are lingering in your mouth. And for your H2O information, stop worrying that drinking water will put on water weight.
“Sugar-free yogurt has a probiotic effect that helps the [good] bacteria in your mouth flourish,” Napoli says. And we have the science to back it up: A study back in 2005 found that participants who ate sugar-free yogurt for six weeks saw a decrease in levels of volatile sulfide compounds and plaque and gingival indices.
Foods rich in vitamin C, such as strawberries, and oranges, are great for defeating stinky breath. According to Napoli, the vitamin C is so powerful that it creates an environment that’s bad for bacteria to grow.
Now, The Worst Foods For Your Breath
Garlic’s strong smells don’t just immediately impact your mouth; it can make your bad breath linger. It’s high in sulfur, which can also enter your bloodstream after eating, and exit through your lungs, which is why some people feel like they taste garlic for days after eating it.
Yep, it’s another vegetable that’s notorious for causing stinky breath. Onions also contain high sulfurous compounds that can give you bad breath for days, similar to garlic. “When these sulfurous compounds enter your blood system, you can get a double whammy of bad breath coming from your mouth and lungs,” Napoli says.
As life-changing as coffee may be, chugging it before a big interview or meeting is a major no-no. Coffee has a powerful smell that sits in the mouth, says Napoli. So skip the cup of joe and opt for green tea instead.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which can dehydrate your body. Meanwhile, it decreases your levels of saliva, leaving your mouth the perfect environment for bad bacteria to hang. However, vodka has properties similar to mouthwash that can kill bacteria, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Yes, protein is good for you, and that’s why we rave about it all the time. But eating too much of it can cause your breath to smell baaaad. “When you don’t eat enough carbs, the body burns fat and protein for fuel. It does so by a process called ketosis. Unfortunately, ketones have an awful smell that cannot be masked by brushing or flossing,” says Isabel Smith, RD. Cutting back on your daily dose of protein and upping your carbs can remedy the issue, as can doubling your water intake.
Better hold off on that Trident. According to Napoli, sugar is a really easy fuel source for bacteria, causing it to multiply (and stink up your mouth). So, unless those mints or gum say “sugar-free” on the label, they’re not going to keep your breath smooch-ready.
It turns out that wine and cheese aren’t as sexy as they sound. Dairy products are packed with sugar—and when you eat a lot of sugar-filled dairy products, that can cause a lot of unwanted odors in the mouth.
Any fish that comes out of a can is going to carry a stench. And when you lunch on tuna, that smell isn’t going to disappear. When fish gets tinned, it begins to oxidize, which is why they have a scent. This smell clings to your mouth, giving your breath an unpleasant fishy odor. No thanks!
This is probably one of the worst foods you could eat before a makeout session. Horseradish contains a super pungent chemical called isothiocyanate which has an, um, unique odor.
Foods high in acid can do some serious mouth sabotage. “Odor-producing bacteria thrive in an acidic environment, so it’s best to avoid eating an excessive amount of acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes if you can’t wash out your mouth soon after,” says Sharp.
And for more, check out these 108 most popular sodas ranked by how toxic they are.