9 Foods That Fight Bad Breath

Woman with bad breath
If you're brushing and flossing and still can't get rid of bad breath, check with your dentist to find out if GERD might be the cause. (Photo: pikselstock/Shutterstock)

While savvy Casanovas may know to avoid garlic and raw onions before a hot date, there are other factors beyond pungent foods that contribute to a malodorous mouth. The two key things leading to breath worthy of a dog or a dragon are oral hygiene and gastrointestinal health. Brushing and flossing after every meal can address the first issue; a good diet and healthy gastrointestinal tract can help with the second.

But for the times when you can’t brush or the diet’s not up to snuff, there are some great quick fixes that are as close as the refrigerator. Some actually work to clean your mouth, while others help neutralize the stomach to help quash the stench. Consider these edible remedies and breathe easier.

1. Fresh herbs

A collection of herbs in a basket
If you don't like the taste of eating herbs by themselves, you can steep them in hot water. Dejan Stanic Micko/Shutterstock.com

Parsley is one of the better-known bad breath fighters, but that doesn’t mean that other fresh green herbs aren't effective as well. Cilantro, spearmint, tarragon, rosemary and other chlorophyll-rich herbs all do wonders for sticking it to the stink. You can chew on them as is, or make a rinse by steeping them in hot water and drinking like a tea.

2. Yogurt

A daily serving of yogurt has been shown to reduce the level of odor-causing hydrogen sulfide in the mouth, as well as diminishing unhealthy bacteria; one study showed a reduction in plaque and gum disease in yogurt eaters as well. The American Dietetic Association confirms this by recommending vitamin D from yogurt, cheese and milk for fighting halitosis because it creates an unpleasant environment for bacteria growth. Just be wary of brands with an ungodly amount of refined sugar, and make sure that active cultures are listed on the label.

3. Apples, celery and other crunchy foods

Carrots come in other colors besides orange. Elena Dijour/Shutterstock

If it comes from the produce aisle and provides an audible crunch, it will probably work as an effective weapon in fighting bad breath. Think apples, carrots, celery and the like, which work to increase saliva production and help keep the mouth rinsed and scrubbed.

4. Ginger

Ginger has long been used as a natural remedy for upset stomachs; in the same vein, it is often used for knocking out halitosis. To make a homemade ginger rinse, dice fresh ginger and mix with lemon and hot water.

5. Peppers, papayas and other vitamin C-rich foods

Bad-breath producing bacteria does not get along well with vitamin C, which is an important dietary component for preventing gum disease and gingivitis. While many people take vitamin C supplements, they can cause gastrointestinal problems that can further add to bad breath. Oranges have a good reputation for their remarkable levels of vitamin C, but other foods like bell peppers, papayas and strawberries have even more.

6. Green tea

cup of green tea
Green tea is thought to lower the risk of some cancers. (Photo: Sea Wave/Shutterstock)

While the acids and enzymes in coffee might make your mouth smell like a mix of dirty socks and an outhouse, green tea actually prevents bad breath. According to MSN.com, the flavonoids in green tea prevent bad breath and help keep harmful bacteria from sticking to teeth, among its many other health benefits.

7. Fennel seeds

Fennel seeds have been appreciated by many cultures as a digestive aid; they are similarly employed as a remedy for bad breath because they help neutralize unpleasant odors. Like crunchy foods, they encourage the production of saliva, which helps rinse bacteria way. The oil from fennel seeds also has antibacterial properties that can help fight odor-generating germs.

8. Water

Yet another reason to get your daily H2O. In general, water acts as a cleanser and encourages saliva production; swishing water helps rid the mouth of food that bacteria feasts upon.

9. Minty things

When all else fails, mask and rinse with gum or mints. Sugarless gum can increase saliva production to gently wash away plaque and bacteria; and mints can mask as well. Just remember that sugar creates plaque, which leads to halitosis, so aim for one that is low in sugar or sugar-free.

And a word to the wise: If your oral hygiene and diet are in good shape but the halitosis remains, consider consulting a doctor or dentist since bad breath can be a sign of an underlying condition.