Surprising Foods That Cause Bad Breath

It's not just garlic and onions you need to be worried about.

After you've finished eating, have you ever noticed your breath starts to smell, well, a little bad? And even though you try to hide it with mints or mouthwash, it doesn't seem to go away? We've all been there. But more importantly, what is causing the smell?

Everyone knows that garlic, onions, and even fish can leave your breath smelling stinky, but there are other foods you regularly eat that could be causing the odor as well. We spoke with New Mexico-based dentist Dr. Julius Manz to find out the surprising foods that might be making your breath smell bad and what you can do to fix the problem that doesn't include throwing away your lunch.

Woman with bad breath covering mouth, halitosis concept

Foods That Cause Bad Breath

Acidic Foods

Acidic foods, like citrus fruits and pasta sauce, can cause bad breath because odor-causing bacteria love acidic environments. This can be especially troublesome for people who suffer from acid reflux, which brings acids back up into the throat and can cause an odor.

Protein-Packed Foods

While protein is good for you, eating a lot of it can cause bad breath. The proteins are broken down into ammonia compounds by the bacteria in our mouths, which can lead to an ammonia-like smell (think cat pee), according to Manz.

Dairy Foods

Most dairy products, specifically milk and cheese, contain amino acids that release sulfur compounds when they are metabolized. Once the dairy gets broken down by the bacteria in your mouth, it will cause an odor similar to rotten eggs.


Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes your body to remove fluids at a much faster rate than other liquids. Because of this, alcohol tends to dry out your mouth and you don't create as much saliva. And saliva helps clean your mouth and break down and wash away the food particles to start the digestion process. Without saliva, the bacteria will hang out in your mouth and cause the bad smell to linger.

How to Combat Mouth Odors

Don't worry, you don't have to stop eating these foods altogether. But you should consider brushing your teeth after you eat a not-so-pleasant smelling meal. Manz recommends brushing your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing at least once to remove any food particles that may be stuck between your teeth. Also, Manz says it's important to thoroughly brush your tongue every time because bacteria tend to sit on the back of the tongue, which will cause smells to stick around.

While some people like to use a mouth rinse after they eat, Manz says those really only mask the problem and don't help to cure it. So it's best to switch out the mouth rinse for a toothbrush or floss.

And try to stay hydrated when you're eating these foods — and throughout the day. If you're producing salvia, it will naturally keep your mouth clean and lower your chances of having bad breath.

Bad breath can also be a sign that something else is wrong, including gum disease, cavities, or other diseases. So if you've tried everything to cure your bad breath and nothing seems to work, you should set up an appointment with your dentist.


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