You are what you eat, and the popular saying also applies to your breath. While good oral hygiene (brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing regularly) is fundamental for fresh breath, some foods can also deliver a deodorizing effect.
Here, dentist David Mitola, DDS, founder of Mitola Family Dentistry in Cohoes, New York, discusses seven foods that help bad breath, so you can finally oust those offensive mouth odors — no stinging mouthwash required.
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An apple a day may keep the bad breath away. Because apples are crunchy, they help dislodge bacteria and other foods that get stuck between teeth or on chewing surfaces, Dr. Mitola says.
They also contain antioxidants called polyphenols that can inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and reduce the production of compounds that cause bad breath, he adds.
2. Leafy Greens
To keep stank breath at bay, you might want to mix up a big bowl of salad. "Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach and kale contain chlorophyll, a natural deodorizer that neutralizes bad smells," Dr. Mitola says.
Leafy greens also help balance your pH levels, keeping your mouth less acidic, Dr. Mitola adds. Here's why that's important: A more acidic environment will lead to a dry mouth and bad breath.
Even better, collard greens, spinach, kale, bok choy, okra and Swiss chard are among the top 20 vegetables highest in calcium, which helps strengthen your teeth's enamel, according to the USDA.
3. Parsley, Basil and Mint
There's a scientific reason why parsley, basil and mint leave your mouth feeling fresh: "They have enzymes that bind to sulfur-containing compounds and help neutralize odor," Dr. Mitola says.
Plus, like apples, these herbs possess polyphenols, which, as we know, hinder the growth of bad bacteria.
While ginger is best known as a natural remedy for an upset stomach, it can also fight funky breath.
"The compound gingerol-6 stimulates enzymes in our saliva that breakdown malodorous, sulfur-containing compounds," Dr. Mitola explains.
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5. Probiotic Yogurt
You've probably heard that probiotics (beneficial bacteria) have a host of health benefits (including a happy gut). Now you can add fresh breath to that list, too.
Besides being a stellar source of enamel-enhancing calcium, "probiotic yogurt contains bacteria that help combat other bacteria in your mouth that cause bad breath," Dr. Mitola says.
Just be sure to choose a low-sugar yogurt as bacteria like to feast on sugar.
6. Fennel Seeds
"Fennel seeds have been used in India for generations as a way to fight bad breath," Dr. Mitola says.
Indeed, chewing on these licorice-flavored seeds can boost saliva production and help rinse the bad breath-inducing bacteria from your mouth.
You can take advantage of the benefits of fennel seeds for bad breath by crushing the seeds and steeping them to make tea or sprinkle them into homemade bread dough or on top of salads.