7 foods that commonly cause bad breath

If t's not a chronic problem, what you eat could be giving you bad breath. STUDIOGRANDOUEST/Getty Images

Bad breath isn’t a life or death matter, but it can be bothersome.

While there may be several reasons why bad breath persists, a common reason for non-chronic bad breath is diet.

READ MORE: 7 healthy foods that are stopping you from losing weight

“Chronic bad breath, known as halitosis, is usually caused by an issue related to oral or dental health that may promote the growth of odor-causing bacteria,” says registered dietitian Andy De Santis. “And while yes, there are certain types of foods that acutely contribute to, or worsen, bad breath, if you have been dealing with bad breath for a very long time, it is a problem for your dentist, rather than you dietitian, to help you diagnose and solve.”

Should you not suffer from chronic halitosis due to an oral health issue, your diet may be causing your periodic bad breath.

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What could you be eating that is causing an unpleasant odor? De Santis reveals seven foods and beverages that could be the culprits.


Despite coffee having several benefits attached to it – like the potential to decrease Type 2 diabetes and a lowered risk of oral and pharyngeal cancer – coffee can be a major cause of bad breath.

“Caffeine intake is known to contribute to a dry mouth,” De Santis says. “This is problematic because a dry mouth is one of the risk factors for bad breath because it promotes bacterial growth in the mouth.”


If you’ve been out drinking, then you know the next morning can come with some pretty stinky breath.

Much like caffeine, alcohol is also known to contribute to a dry mouth, and may also worsen or temporarily cause bad breath, De Santis says.

So if you wake up with a dry mouth and you’re dehydrated, expect your breath to smell.

Onions and garlic

Onion and garlic may taste really good when included in some of your favourite dishes, but you’ll most likely pay the price after you eat them.

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According to De Santis, these two foods contribute to bad breath because they are high in sulfur-containing compounds.

“Yes, these compounds are good for our health, but they also produce an unpleasant odour which we exhale after eating foods that contain them,” he says.

Milk and cheese

Dairy may be good for bone health, but it isn’t good for your breath.

“The bacteria in your mouth particularly enjoy breaking down the amino acids found in dairy, and the byproducts of this interaction include less-than-pleasant smelling compounds which you will need to exhale,” De Santis says.

However, some people may find that they do not have this issue with yogurt, he adds. This may be down to the healthy bacteria it contains.

Canned tuna

Canned tuna is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids – unsaturated fats that may help improve blood vessel function, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Livestrong.

But canned tuna also has the potential to cause bad breath.

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“Storing fish in a dark metal environment promotes oxidation, a process that leads to the production of less-than-pleasant smelling compounds,” De Santis says.

Fight that bad breath

If bad breath results from something you ate, yet you’re without a toothbrush or mouthwash, there are a couple of things that may help you in the moment.

First, try drinking more water, De Santis says.

“Water can help flush food out of your mouth and keep it moist, thus reducing the likelihood of dry mouth,” he says.

Or, reach for some sugar-free gum, he adds.

“Chewing gum can increase saliva flow in your mouth and reduce the likelihood of dry mouth, which can worsen bad breath,” De Santis adds.


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