Bad breath is something that we’ve all suffered from and that many of us have been paranoid about when talking to others. In this blog post I am going to explore the foods to eat that help to fight bad breath. I’m plant-based so I will focus on vegan friendly foods.
Mine has been a particular concern for a few years as I’ve just come out of braces. I had metal train track style braces across both my top and bottom teeth for two and a half years! It wasn’t the most pleasant experience and bits of food constantly got stuck in the braces. I’m out of the braces now, but I now have two bridges which create another place for food to get to and cause bad breath, as it can now get between my teeth and the gum line where it would never naturally be able to.
What is the best thing to eat to get rid of bad breath?
Firstly I am going to share with you some of the foods to eat to give you good breath. Later we’ll look at what to avoid.
Here are foods to eat to keep your breath fresh:
Crunchy foods like celery are great for producing saliva which we need to rinse and rid the mouth of bacteria. Bacteria in the mouth can cause plaque and bad breath, so we want to eat nutritious and raw foods like celery to help get rid of it.
Raw apples also have the crunch factor, like celery. As well as producing saliva, they can also help to physically scrape plaque and bacteria off the teeth, working in unison with the saliva to then rid the mouth of harmful bacteria.
Another great crunchy vegetable that also has a high water content. This helps produce saliva and then rinse the teeth and mouth of bad breath causing bacteria.
Polyphenols in black and green tea can destroy the growth of bacteria that cause bad breath. Green tea contains more of these antioxidants because of how it’s processed. They reduce smelly sulfur compouds.
Parsely and basil help to break down the stinky sulfur compounds that produce bad odours. These sulfur compounds are in things like garlic and onion. If you eat basil or parsley at the same time as garlic or onion then it can help to stop the stinky breath.
Drinking water as your regular drink of choice will help rinse and rid the mouth and teeth of all the bits of food that are left after a meal. It’s these leftover bits of food that bacteria feed on causing plaque build-up and bad breath. The cleansing ability of water starts as soon as it’s in your mouth!
A surprising finding is that nuts can help to reduce bad breath. Apparently the high fibre content of nuts, like fruits and vegetables, acts like little toothbrushes on the teeth to rid them of bacteria and to stop teeth getting stained.
What foods make your breath smell bad?
Now it’s time to look at a list of foods that cause bad breath. If you need to avoid bad breath then avoid these foods:
Garlic probably tops the list as it really does stink! But it’s so good for us too. Isn’t that annoying?! I definitely recommend eating garlic for its many health benefits, but if you’re going to be socialising, attending an interview or meeting, or in any situation where you need fresh breath, then skip the garlic! The stinky sulfur compounds in garlic linger in your mouth and garlic is also absorbed into your bloodstream, with these smelly sulfurs escaping through pores or back out the mouth when you exhale.
Onions have stinky sulfuric compounds just like garlic and they work in the same way. This is why many people say they can’t eat onions as they ‘repeat’ on them. They actually really do! The sulfuric compounds get absorbed into your bloodstream and then keep being released long after you expect it.
Dairy & meat
Of course, being plant-based I will never recommend eating meat or dairy for its many health and environmental consequences, but if you need another reason then it can also cause bad breath! Bacteria in our mouths can feed on the proteins in dairy and meat and this produces a bad odour.
As an ex-coffee drinker I can definitely remember suffering with a horrible coffee aftertaste after every cup. I’ve also been unfortunate enough to smell stale coffee breath several times too!
We’re always told alcohol is dehydrating and it also dehydrates the mouth which reduces saliva flow, thus allowing that bad breath causing bacteria to remain put.
I’m not talking about fruits that contain naturally occurring sugars, but those foods that have high added sugar contents. We all know sugar is bad for our teeth and that’s because this sort of sugar increases the bad plaque causing bacteria in our mouths. They thrive in a sugary environment. Sugar can cause the bacteria to be more active and make even more smelly sulfur compounds. Xylitol is a much better alternative to white sugar in recipes, teas and chewing gum. It is actually good for the teeth and is a natural sweetener.
What else can I do to prevent bad breath?
Good dental hygiene is also really important in the fight against bad breath. Make sure you are brushing your teeth twice a day and using floss and interdental brushes to remove any stuck food. Regular dental and hygiene appointments will keep your teeth in check and remove plaque which can cause bad breath.
Which natural toothpaste brands are best for bad breath?
Whilst there’s much mainstream advice to use fluoride out there, I have read a great deal on the dangers of fluoride and so I choose natural toothpaste that don’t contain any. It’s been years of trial and error to find brands that work for me and the children.
I have found a lot of the plant based natural toothpaste to give me bad breath as they’re not so minty fresh and overpowering like mainstream toothpaste. The fluoride free toothpastes I have settled on that I find most effective are Jason Powersmile (toothpaste and mouthwash) and Ecodenta black charcoal.
The kids use Jack N’ Jill organic toothpastes which they love and it contains xylitol which is a sweetener from birch trees that is actually really good for your teeth! I’ve just seen they do an adult/whole family brand of toothpaste too called The Natural Family Co, so I’m going to give this one a go for us as a whole family when we next run out as I really like their ingredients and their use of xylitol.
It’s worth mentioning here that my children are 3 and 6 years old and have a dental appointment every 6 months and they’re teeth are perfect so far. We’ve had no problems even though they don’t have fluoride in their toothpaste. They brush every day, usually just before bed time. They follow a plant-based vegan diet and we don’t give them any sugary snacks or sweets. We give them snacks, but mostly baby/toddler type snacks like Organix as they don’t contain added sugar. They also have fresh fruit and dried fruit. They just drink water and plant milk at home, but may have a juice with a restaurant meal which is once or twice a month usually. I’m very strict on buying only items with no added sugar at home. So compared to most children, they have a much lower sugar intake, pretty much no added sugar at all unless it’s in a restaurant meal.
I’m rambling on so I’ll leave this article here. Hopefully you’ve learnt some of the foods that are good and bad for fresh breath.
What to read next:
Keep your teeth healthy and choose a dental clinic that’s right for you
Vegan recipes and go-to brands for a healthy chocolate fix
Why being healthy doesn’t have to be expensive
How to reduce your child’s sugar intake when they have a sweet tooth
3 healthy vegan snacks to satisfy a sweet tooth
The problem with refined sugar
Celery and garlic images from Canva