Foods to Ward Off Garlic Breath

By Amy Paturel, November/December 2010

What to eat for fresh breath.

Garlic is delicious, but its dragon-breath aftereffects can last days. New research suggests certain foods may offer a remedy. Studies show that parsley, apples, spinach, basil and other phenolic-rich foods help kick garlic breath. The polyphenols (compounds that act like antioxidants) break down the smelly sulfur compounds in garlic. “But only when they’re mixed with garlic,” says Sheryl Barringer, Ph.D., professor of food science and technology at Ohio State. For the biggest benefit, combine garlic and one of these foods in the same dish; eating them in different dishes at the same meal might help too.

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 mix 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.

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