Last night, the tacos smothered in onions were great, but this morning your breath could fell a sumo wrestler.
What to do? When your breath has been turned toxic by smelly foods — usually garlic, onions, or curry, but fish and cheese can do a number too — you need an air freshener for your mouth. And often: every 30 to 60 minutes until whatever it is has cleared out of your bloodstream, which sometimes can take up to 24 hours. Since brushing constantly is impossible, try countering offending foods with what’s likely to be handiest: other foods.
1. Lemons. Suck on a lemon wedge or nibble on the rind — easy to do in restaurants, where there’s often a citrus garnish and if not, you can order sparkling water with lemon. For other times, lemon-flavored hard candies work just as well and are totally portable.
2. Parsley and other green garnishes. When your favorite garlic-laden pasta dish or onion-topped burger arrives with a few sprigs of parsley on the side, consider it a hint, not just eye appeal. Chewing on the sprigs afterward releases parsley’s pleasant, breath-freshening oils. Garnishes of fresh basil and rosemary work too.
3. Apples and other crisp-fresh foods (firm pears, carrots, jicama). They’re high in fiber, all that chewing ups saliva production, and the combo acts like a scrubbing rinse for your mouth. Sweet.
3. Crunchy spices. For a more exotic solution, pick up some anis, cardamom, coriander, and/or fennel seeds in your grocery’s spice aisle. Mix equal parts in a small covered bowl and keep on the dining room table next to the salt and pepper. Chewing on a few seeds will release enough oils to sweeten after-dinner curry or coffee breath. And your mouth will taste amazing.
4. Mint sprigs or cinnamon sticks. Either of these deliciously potent flavors will squelch the sulphurous scent of onion or garlic. Plus, an essential oil in cinnamon kills a nasty type of oral bacteria, should they be aiming to set up house in your mouth. Cinnamon or mint gums are just as effective. If you pick a gum sweetened with Xylitol, it will freshen breath and help reduce cavities — smart if you’re a gum lover. Bonus: Long-term good oral care can actually make your RealAge more than 6 years younger.
5. Berries and yogurt. If you can’t get through most days without indulging in foods that are hardly breath-friendly, eat for prevention — even better than a cure. Consuming a half-cup of plain, sugar-free yogurt twice a day can lower mouth levels of hydrogen sulfide (yes, that rotten egg smell). Berries (and melons, oranges, and other fruits high in vitamin C) also deter stinky mouth bacteria. Start and end the day with a fruit cup topped with a big dollop of yogurt and you might never have to worry about bad breath again.