We may not generally spend much time discussing it, but the way you smell is one of the most memorable things about you — that's why we lather ourselves up in citrus-scented shampoo and spritz on some Chanel perfume when we want to make a good impression. But when it comes to smelling good, there's one factor that's way more important than all those aesthetic strategies: what you eat. Because even the most delightful French eau de toilette can't mask stinky breath.
Dr. Rosemary Lester, a chief health officer in Australia, told Body and Soul that a number of factors responsible for unpleasant body odors — including bacteria on the skin, waste excreted through pores, and the chemical compounds in sweat — are connected to the food that we eat.
There are other elements that can contribute to body odor, such as your menstrual cycle, emotional state, and even your age and overall digestive health. But these integral parts of our anatomy can't always be controlled. What you can monitor closely is what you put in your body. Obviously, processed and packaged foods can contribute to having a less-than-awesome odor, but there are some unexpected foods out there — like highly nutritious kale — that could be also be messing with your smell.
Read on for the top seven foods that are making you smell bad. Try a few of the remedies as well, and remember that moderation is key.
1. Fried Food
No matter what other superpowers you may possess, your body has trouble digesting pretty much any kind of deep-fried goodness, from French fries to the funnel cake you can't help but devour when you take your little sister to a local fair. The fats and oils that reside in these foods will sit in your system, stagnant, for a long period of time, until they turn rancid. This leads to burps and flatulence — the kind that aren't accompanied by a very pleasant smell. Like everything else, consume this part of your diet in moderation. When you do go for onion rings, try to pair them with some fresh greens. Chlorophyll-rich vegetables like spinach aid digestion and freshen up your scents.
2. Chewing Gum
Ironic, isn't it? You may pop in a stick of minty gum to mask the smell of a cheeseburger, but you could end making yourself smell worse. The sugars (or artificial sugar replacements) and carbs in gum leave a film on your tongue and teeth for bacteria to latch onto — the very bacteria which release volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). Also, popular sweeteners like sorbitol aren't easily digested, which means they build up in your intestines and cause excess gas. If you need a little something to freshen you up after your lunch hour, reach for natural mints instead.
You probably already knew that eating garlic can leave you with questionable breath, which is why you never order anything garlicky on a date. But you might not be aware of the fact that after you eat garlic, the scent leaks out of your pores, too. When crushed or chopped up, garlic releases allicin, a substance that causes existing bacteria to mix with your sweat, causing your body to give off a pungent scent. It also produces sulfurous gases that are hard to squelch once they're in your system. Dr. Lester says it only takes 20 minutes for the body to process herbs this strong, and before you know it, the consequences are leaking out of your armpits. If you're looking for a remedy, try some sage tea; research shows that it reduces sweating and covers up strong smells.
4. Red Meat
In 2006, scientists in the Czech Republic gathered samples of perspiration from both meat-eaters and vegetarians. A group of female research subjects were asked to identify which samples had the foulest odors, based on several different factors. The majority of them noted that the odor coming from the vegetarians was far more tolerable; some even described it as attractive. When you eat a hunk of steak, it takes an extremely long time for it to move through your digestive tract — and it ends up rotting along the way. So you can bet your bottom dollar that the consequence will be stinky breath, sweat, and bowel movements. If you aren't willing to give up red meat, but are concerned about the impact that it's making on your scent, try to eat it less often — and opt to replace it with fish or chicken when possible.
5. Dairy Products
Yes, milk and yogurt are good in moderation, but the proteins in these staple items don't jive very will with the natural bacteria in your tummy. The combination creates sulfur compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide and methyl mercaptan, which smell just as volatile as they sound. Be sure to drink plenty of water when eating dairy. Another helpful solution is to consume whole-milk products. The fat that naturally exists there helps break the proteins down a little bit slower, giving your digestive tract the time to process everything more efficiently.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts are tremendously healthy, but all that nutrition does come at a cost. They're rich in sulfur, which means that their nutrients and antioxidants help rid your system of toxins and carcinogenic cells. But when you're expelling these veggies, severe, rotten egg scents come along for the ride. These veggies are far too good for you to pass up, though. Par-boil them to minimize the odor, and season them with spices like turmeric and coriander, which reduce inflammation and manage your bowel movements. I like to cook up a storm with these veggies when I'm home by myself on a weeknight, so I can absorb the vital nutrition without putting innocent bystanders in harm's way.
7. Lack Of Carbs
Rejoice, everyone, because bread is officially a hero (at least, when it comes to body odor). When you significantly cut down on the amount of carbs in your diet, you tend to reach for more proteins (and coffee, for that matter) in an attempt to pump your body with more energy to get you through the day. Your body will then start burning reserves of fat in order to get you up and going. Then, ketones are released in large amounts into your bloodstream, which makes your breath unappealing. Prevent this by incorporating complex carbs into your diet; you don't have to go carb crazy, and can still stay away from white bread, white rice, and other carbs of negligible nutritional value. Maintaining some carbs in your diet can keep everything — including your scents — balanced.