Typically, bad breath stems from bacteria growing on food that accumulates between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums, but it can be exasperated from some of the following foods:
- As you all know never eat garlic or onions on a first date! These foods, although super healthy for your immunity, have sulfur compounds that linger in your mouth and are absorbed into the bloodstream then expelled when you exhale or sweat.
- Alcohol is one of the worst foods for your breath because it’s a drying agent which inhibits the flow of saliva and depletes the oxygen content of your mouth. Coffee also has a similar effect. Dry mouth is actually the leading cause of halitosis.
- Foods containing sugar cause anaerobic bacteria to become more active in your mouth and create sulfur components producing bad breath. Thus, sweetened gum and mints can actually make your breath worse. Remember when you used to chew pink bubble gum as a child?!
- Acidic Foods cause bacteria to reproduce much faster and give way to bad breath. The mouth has a normal pH level of 6.5. In the pH scale 7 is considered neutral so foods with a pH lower than 7 are considered acidic. Watch out for foods like tomato juice, pineapple juice, sodas, pasta sauce, ketchup, pickles, fatty meats, beef, olives, butter, and chocolate.
- Dairy can be problematic because naturally occurring bacteria from your tongue feeds on the amino acids in milk and cheeses, resulting in a foul odor.
- Tuna is the worst fish for your breath because the fishy smell is enhanced by the tuna oxidizing due to the canning process.
But don’t be alarmed because beyond proper dental care (and avoiding the above common culprits) the following foods actually help manage bad breath:
- Drinking water might sound pretty simple but water combats dry mouth, which creates an environment where bacteria thrive. Water also acts as a cleanser that encourages saliva production, needed to cleanse the mouth of food particles and bacteria. Thus, be sure to stay hydrated!! The Institute of Medicine recommends roughly 13 cups (3 liters) of water per day for adult men and 9 cups (2.2 liters) per day for women.
- GO for fruits and veggies with high water content. Berries, melons, and citrus fruits have a high water content, keeping your mouth hydrated and bacteria at bay. Plus, these fruits (like strawberries) are high in vitamin C which help fight gingivitis. Veggies, like cucumber and celery, also give your mouth some extra hydration since you need to chew them. For an added breath-fighting bonus, flavor a pitcher of water with these fruits and veggies (strawberries-cucumber, watermelon-mint) to keep your mouth super satiated all day!
- Green tea is high in antioxidants (namely polyphenols) that fight the growth of bacteria and also help reduce sulfur compounds
- Fennel tea neutralizes odor, fights off germs and helps aid digestion. You can easily get fennel tea at a local health food store. In addition, chewing fennel seeds (or similar tasting anise seeds) will increase saliva and wash away bacteria.
- Ginger tea or fresh ginger also neutralizes odor and aids in digestion. A thin slice of fresh ginger is a yummy addition to a green smoothie (or juice) and treats halitosis all at the same time!
- Raw veggies and fruits: Raw crunchy foods, like carrots and celery, will scrub away the bacteria on your teeth, as well as bell peppers and broccoli which are also full of Vitamin C, making them unappealing to bacteria. In addition, apples are great at pushing plaque away from your teeth and have polyphenols that break down the smelly sulfur compounds.
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce, and kale act as natural deodorizers in your mouth because they contain high levels of chlorophyll. Spinach, in particular, is another polyphenol-rich food that is good at breaking down sulfur. Greens also aid digestion and detox the body while balancing pH levels preventing dry mouth. In a jiffy stop at your local juice bar and grab a shot of wheatgrass!
- Parsley (and basil) also contains chlorophyll which deodorizes the mouth and can be added to MANY foods or just chewed in a pinch.
- Probiotics, like yogurt or quality supplements, help your body better digest foods, repopulate the gut with healthy flora and fight off yeast. Specifically, yogurt may lower the levels of odor-causing sulfide compounds. Fermented foods, like sauerkraut and kefir, contain healthy good bacteria which may also be helpful in preventing bad bacteria from being over populated in your body.