10 Foods That Are Bad For Your Breath

There are many moments in life when you want to look and feel your best. Before a big interview or a date, you’re ready to let your inner confidence shine, so the last thing you want to think about is the fact that you decided to chow down on a garlic-infused fish sandwich at lunch and now, your breath is anything but minty fresh. Bad breath is a common problem for many adults often affecting their self-confidence and how they engage in conversations or interact with friends, colleagues, and family. On occasion, bad breath can be a sign of a more serious health problem. Ranging from Gingivitis – treatable gum problems, through to the more serious Periodontitis, a fully-fledged gum disease that leads to erosion of bone.

There are just certain foods that are reserved for a special time and place because otherwise, they will make your breath extra smelly. Some foods dehydrate the mouth which feeds the bacteria that cause bad breath. Unfortunately, it might be hard to completely avoid these foods – they can all be part of a healthy diet and many also add flavor to food. A diet that is perfect for your breath might not do much for the taste buds.


As life-changing as coffee may be, chugging it before a big interview or meeting is a major no-no. Coffee has a strong, lingering smell in their own right that sits in the mouth, and it also reduces saliva, says Napoli. Eradicating it from your diet would reduce the risk of bad breath, but the cull might not do much for your morning routine. Follow your morning cup of joe with a glass of water – helping to rinse the mouth and also replenish moisture levels.


Drinks that cause the worst smells are those high in sulfites – enter alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, which can dehydrate your body. Meanwhile, it decreases your levels of saliva, leaving your mouth the perfect environment for bad bacteria to hang. However, vodka has properties similar to mouthwash that can kill bacteria, so that’s something to keep in mind.


Yes, protein is good for you, and that’s why we rave about it all the time. Protein doesn’t necessarily have a smell itself, but it can lead to processes that create bad breath. Eating too much of it can cause your breath to smell bad. “If you have too much protein and a high proportion of protein relative to fat and carbohydrate, the body burns fat and protein for fuel. It does so by a process called ketosis. Unfortunately, ketones have an awful smell that cannot be masked by brushing or flossing,” says Isabel Smith, RD. Cutting back on your daily dose of protein and upping your carbs can remedy the issue, as can doubling your water intake.


Better hold off on that Trident. Those looking to tackle bad breath often chew gum as a way to keep the mouth moist – this only works if the gum is sugar-free; otherwise, you’re simply feeding the bacteria! According to Napoli, sugar is a really easy fuel source for bad breath causing bacteria, causing it to multiply (and stink up your mouth). So, unless those mints or gum say “sugar-free” on the label, they’re not going to keep your breath smooch-ready.


It turns out that wine and cheese aren’t as sexy as they sound. Dairy products are packed with sugar—and when you eat a lot of sugar-filled dairy products, that can cause a lot of unwanted odors in the mouth.

Canned Fish

Fish from a can might be a quick and easy lunch, but it is a meal choice that will most likely lead to bad breath. Any fish that comes out of a can is going to carry a stench. And when you lunch on tuna, that smell isn’t going to disappear. When fish gets tinned, it begins to oxidize, which is why they have a scent. This smell then clings to your mouth, giving your breath an unpleasant fishy odor long after that lunchtime snack.


This is probably one of the worst foods you could eat before going on a date… Horseradish contains a super pungent chemical called isothiocyanate which has an, um, unique odor.


Fruits and vegetables that are highly acidic also create an environment those harmful bacteria love to exploit – this includes sauerkraut, tomatoes, blueberries, and grapes. Fruit and veg are essential to a healthy diet, and yet when these contain acid they can wreak havoc on oral health. “Odor-producing bacteria thrive in an acidic environment, so it’s best to avoid eating an excessive amount of acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes if you can’t wash out your mouth soon after,” says Abbey Sharp, R.D., and blogger at Abbey’s Kitchen.


Garlic does so much to make food taste better, adding depth of flavor to curries, pasta sauces and more; and yet it also is a constant cause of bad breath. Garlic’s strong smells don’t just immediately impact your mouth; it can make your bad breath linger. It’s high in sulfur, which can also enter your bloodstream after eating, and exit through your lungs, which is why some people feel like they taste garlic for days after eating it.


Yep, it’s another vegetable that’s notorious for causing stinky breath. Onions also contain high sulfurous compounds that can give you bad breath for days, similar to garlic. “When these sulfurous compounds enter your blood system, you can get a double whammy of bad breath coming from your mouth and lungs, this is why rigorous efforts to clean the mouth sometimes only tackle half the problem,” Alexandra Napoli, a certified holistic health coach says.