There are plenty of good reasons to cook with garlic. Not only does garlic add flavor and aroma to any dish, but it offers health benefits too. Studies show garlic may lower breast, colon, stomach, throat and skin cancer risks. It’s heart-healthy, too, as it’s been shown to prevent clotting. The secret to all these health benefits? Sulfides. (Cooks take note: those beneficial sulfides aren’t released unless the garlic is crushed or chopped and left to sit for at least 10 to 15 minutes before eating or cooking. Garlic purchased already chopped offers the same benefits, but whole roasted garlic, while delicious, may not yield such perks.) Unfortunately, those same good-for-you sulfide compounds can leave you with dragon-breath aftereffects that could last days. If you save the parsley garnish to chew on after a garlicky meal, good for you—because new research suggests certain foods may offer a remedy. Read on to find out what to eat.
—Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
While we can’t guarantee that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, research has shown that eating apples with garlic can mitigate garlic breath. The polyphenols (compounds that act like antioxidants) found in apples break down the smelly sulfur compounds in garlic.
According to Sheryl Barringer, Ph.D., professor of food science and technology at Ohio State, the polyphenols in foods like spinach and apples should be mixed with garlic to break down the sulfur compounds. Luckily, spinach and garlic are delicious together.
Basil and parsley are other phenolic-rich foods. Though they are easily paired with garlic, it may be possible to get the garlic-breath-fighting benefits of polyphenols by eating these foods in dishes separate from the garlic, as long as they are consumed during the same meal.
A new study suggests that milk is perhaps even more effective at banishing garlic breath—particularly if you drink it before or during a garlicky meal. Researchers found that milk offered greater odor-reducing effects for garlic breath than other foods previously tested—prunes, basil, burdock, eggplant and mushrooms. “The water [in milk] rinses the mouth,” says Barringer, “but it’s not just the water; it’s the fat.” That’s why whole milk was more effective than skim.
Can’t stomach the idea of milk with your Asian stir-fry? Drinking green tea before or during a meal may also mitigate garlic breath, as the polyphenols reduce volatile sulfur compounds.