scorecardThe most surprising, science-based ways to beat garlic breath — like chewing raw lettuce or mixing garlic with milk
  1. Home
  2. insider picks
  3. news
  4. The most surprising, science-based ways to beat garlic breath — like chewing raw lettuce or mixing garlic with milk

The most surprising, science-based ways to beat garlic breath — like chewing raw lettuce or mixing garlic with milk

Kelly Burch,Jason McKnight   

The most surprising, science-based ways to beat garlic breath — like chewing raw lettuce or mixing garlic with milk
Insider Picks4 min read
  • The most straightforward way to get rid of garlic breath is by brushing your teeth.
  • But you can also try tricks like chewing raw lettuce, eating apples, and drinking milk.

Unless you're a vampire, there's a lot to love about garlic, but it does have one major downside: garlic breath. Both the tasty flavor and the pungent smell of garlic is due to a sulfur compound called allicin.

When your body breaks down this compound, it produces foul-smelling gasses, says Dr. Seema Sarin, medical director of lifestyle medicine at EHE Health. Those leave your body when you exhale — causing halitosis, or bad breath, says Trista K. Best, a registered dietician with Balance One.

Since garlic's scent is so pungent, garlic breath can last for up to a day after eating it. Luckily, there's no need to give up garlic entirely. Here's how to get rid of garlic breath, while still enjoying the meals you love.

Quick tip: If you only experience bad breath after eating garlic, you can attribute it to your meal. But if you have chronically bad breath you should speak with your doctor or dentist, Sarin says. It could be a sign of gum disease or other health conditions.

1. Brush your teeth

When you brush your teeth, you clear away food particles. Brushing your teeth will help remove smelly allicin enzymes and reduce your stinky breath after a garlic-laden meal. In addition, a mint-flavored toothpaste will mask the scent.

If you're somewhere without a toothbrush handy, try rinsing your mouth with water. Although it's not as effective as brushing, it will remove some particles and improve your breath.

Floss is also a great way to remove stubborn food stuck in your teeth, plus it's more compact than a toothbrush and toothpaste.

2. Add other herbs

Eating other foods with garlic may counteract its enzymes and clear your garlic breath.

A 2016 study found that when garlic was mixed with rosmarinic acid, it decreased the sulfuric compounds responsible for garlic breath.

You'll find rosmarinic acid in flavorful herbs including rosemary, sage, basil, oregano, and marjoram.

So, the next time you are craving garlic, opt for a recipe that also contains herbs with rosmarinic acid.

One tasty example is Chrissy Tiegen's 10 minute gourmet steak, which is seasoned with garlic and rosemary.

3. Eat raw fruits and vegetables

In the same 2016 study, researchers had participants eat garlic and then consume apples or lettuce. They found that eating these foods raw (as opposed to cooked or juiced) had the biggest effect on reducing garlic breath — probably because the enzymes in the raw foods had a deodorization effect.

For the greatest effect, snack on raw fruits and vegetables immediately after eating garlic — that's what participants in the study did. An apple or a salad without strongly-scented dressing may do the trick.

4. Sip a glass of milk

Although wine might pair better with a plate of ravioli swimming in garlic butter, sipping milk could prevent bad breath.

A 2010 study found that milk reduced garlic scent on the breath. The researchers found that this trick works best with higher fat milk, like whole milk. They believe the mixture of fat and water in milk deactivates the pungent compounds in garlic.

According to the researchers: "To enhance the deodorizing effect, deodorant foods should be mixed with garlic before ingestion."

But if a cocktail of garlic and milk doesn't sound appealing to you, you can try sipping milk with your garlicky meal. Or, indulge in garlic with a creamy dish like fettuccine alfredo.

5. Chew gum

In a pinch, chewing gum might help with garlic breath. When you chew gum, the stickiness captures food particles and removes them from your teeth. In addition, the minty scent of gum can help cover up garlic breath.

For the best results, try chewing one piece of gum for a minute or two to trap and remove garlic particles. Discard that, and chew another piece to freshen your breath.

When to see a doctor

If your bad breath occurs within a day of eating garlic, you can likely blame it on garlic breath. It's also entirely normal to have bad breath in the morning, Sarin says.

However, if you have chronically bad breath or notice a white film on your tongue, gums, or teeth, contact your doctor or dentist. That could be a sign of gum disease, plaque buildup, or other illnesses.

Your doctor or dentist will evaluate your symptoms and help you find a cause of and treatment for bad breath, Sarin says.

Insider's takeaway

Garlic causes bad breath because it contains allicin and other sulfur compounds. When those break down, they release smelly compounds that linger on your breath.

Brushing your teeth, chewing gum, drinking milk, and eating fresh raw fruits and vegetables can help reduce garlic breath, but the only guaranteed way to avoid garlic breath is by skipping garlic.

"If you've cut garlic out of your diet and your bad breath persists, you should seek medical attention," Best says.