7 Surprising Foods That Give You Seriously Bad Breath

Updated: Feb. 09, 2017

Haunted by halitosis? Check your menu for these culprits—then reach for a simple-but-reliable bad breath cure like your toothbrush, sugarless gum, or a refreshing glass of water.

istock/Chris Gramly


When amino acids in cheese and other dairy products react with bacteria in your mouth, they produce volatile sulfur compounds that can make your breath stink like rotten eggs. People who are lactose intolerant should be especially vigilant: Since they lack the enzyme to break down lactose, eating dairy leads to a buildup of amino acids and, as a result, even more bad-smelling sulfur compounds. Try these ideas to lighten up the calories of cheese in your diet. 



Some researchers used to believe that curry could reduce bad breath because it contained essential oils also found in American mouthwashes. But a 2004 study from Journal of Clinical Periodontology found that these oils were not very effective at reducing bad breath after all. So yes, the strong spices in curry will leave your breath pungent. A good rule of thumb: The stronger the smell, the more likely that food will make your breath stink.

istock/Sami Sert


Saliva’s main job is to rinse bacteria out of your mouth. Caffeine, however, slows saliva production, allowing bacteria to multiply and release foul-smelling gases. So-called “coffee breath” is at its worst in the morning, because you also produce less saliva when you sleep. So after you knock back that wake-you-up mug of java, brush your teeth and grab a water bottle for the road. Here are other surprising ways coffee affects your health. 



You already know that garlic and onions are two primary causes of bad breath, but don’t forget that they are the easily forgotten base of this colorful condiment. Most salsas contain onions or garlic, either minced or in powdered form. Even a few bites can put you on the fast track to foul odors.



Red meats are packed with protein, which is made of amino acids. Similar to dairy, these nutrients react with bacteria—but since meat has more protein than dairy, steak generates even more sulfuric compounds than a slice of Swiss cheese. Read this advice on getting the healthiest and best quality cut of steak for your money.



Alcohol causes dehydration, which means less saliva and more bacteria in your mouth. Plus, red wine can leave a coating on your teeth for bacteria to latch onto. Drinking water regularly while you’re out on the town keeps you hydrated and rinses away stray, stinky bacteria on your tongue.



Fatty lamb meat, feta cheese laced with amino acids, smelly onions, acidic tomatoes—basically every ingredient in a gyro is chemically designed to cause bad breath. To quench the stench, chew some sugarless gum after you’re done eating.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest