You're sitting on a train that’s slightly warm, packed with passengers, and suddenly you get a whiff of "rotten egg" stench. Stop after stop, the crowd thins out, but that onerous odor remains. You search for the offender as subtly as you can, praying you can find a seat far away from the culprit. As your head swivels, you’re hit with that stench again. It’s so strong you could swear it was you. You nonchalantly dip your head down toward your underarm… Wait a minute: It is you! But you didn't even work out today! And you took a shower this morning! And you’re wearing deodorant!
What you eat can directly affect how you smell, and in more ways than just your breath.
Here are 21 foods that are making you smell bad.
Scientifically, this boils down to the way your body metabolizes the stinky sulfur compounds found in many foods like garlic, cumin, and asparagus. While smelling like garlic is nothing new (it is said to ward off both vampires and mosquitos), the stench of asparagus-tainted urine might not be quite as familiar. You may not have even realized that some of the foods on our list could have this effect on you.
If you have a hot date or an interview or you simply plan to be out in public, you may want to keep these foods off the day’s menu. And if you can't, here are a few tricks to help deodorize those nasty smells.
Ever been hungover and thought you could smell booze seeping from your pores? Well, you absolutely could. Your body sends alcohol through your bloodstream before it leaves your system, which means the alcohol seeps out through your pores and sweat glands, creating a pungent and telling hangover odor.
Deodorize: The best way, of course, is to drink in moderation. But if you’ve already had one too many, the only way to get the smell out is to flush the alcohol from your system. Drinking tons of water can help to dilute the concentration of booze in your blood.
The ripe smell of asparagus crops up in a seemingly harmless way, but tell that to the guy in the neighboring bathroom stall. Asparagus makes urine stink when the sulfur compound mercaptan breaks down in the digestive system, although the effect can vary from individual to individual. If you're one of those whose urine doesn't smell after eating asparagus, it’s because your body doesn’t possess the enzyme to break mercaptan down.
These red bulbs are high in methyl — so while they’re great for you and are rich in vital nutrients, they also pack a pungent punch. Foods high in methyl break down in your digestive system to create a chemical compound called trimethylamine or TMA. The compound is released onto your skin and creates a “fishy” smell that many people find repulsive.
Deodorize: Save beets and other high-methyl foods for when you’re spending the night in. The people sitting next to you at dinner will thank you.
Little kids across America now have a reason to snub some of these loathsome vegetables. These sulfur-rich foods pack nutrients and antioxidants that may help rid the body of toxins and carcinogenic cells, but they’re also responsible for severe smells. This stench introduces itself in the socially-crippling form of flatulence. The sulfur in these foods is responsible for the rotten-egg smell that toots tend to leave behind.
Deodorize: Cruciferous vegetables are vital to our health. So, when you're in the comfort of your own home, eat those greens! You can also parboil to remove some of the stench before you finish cooking them. In the meantime, spices like coriander, turmeric, and caraway will not only leave you smelling fresh, they’ll also help control your emissions.
You thought gum was supposed to solve odor problems, not make them worse. But next time you’re about to pop some sugar-free gum in your mouth, think twice. Chewing gum increases the amount of air you swallow along with your spit, causing a buildup of gas in your stomach. That gas comes out — you guessed it — the other end.
Deodorize: If you want to avoid embarrassing smells, skip the chewing gum and opt for some dissolving mints instead.
This beloved morning pick-me-up will hardly make a hot date want to pick you up. Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system, invariably causing your sweat glands to activate. Coffee is also highly acidic, which instantly dries out your mouth. When saliva is lacking, bacteria grows and feeds off the sulfur compounds that create bad breath.
Deodorize: Skip the coffee in the morning and go for some decaffeinated herbal tea. Not only is it a healthier choice, but it actively keeps your bad breath at bay.
The taste of tikka masala may not be worth the lingering stench that comes with it. The aromas of spices such as curry and cumin can make a home for themselves in your pores, and stew for days at a time.
Deodorize: Even a brief brush with cumin can cause a lasting odor. Instead, try cardamom, the aromatic seed of a plant from the ginger family, which permeates the body quickly and leaves a fresh aroma.
Body odor develops when lipids secreted in your sweat are digested by bacteria on your skin, which release odorous gasses as a byproduct — lipids that comes from digesting milk, yogurt, and other dairy products. The toxic waste feeds the bacteria that contribute to your unmistakable and humiliating B.O.
Deodorize: Opt for non-dairy alternatives, like almond or coconut milk, to avoid the side effects showing up in your sweat. Seriously, go plant based. A little tofu could save you a lot of embarrassment.
If you’ve ever had a whiff of durian fruit, it’s no shock this exotic plant leaves a stench in its path. A delicacy in Southeast Asia, durian fruit is a fleshy (yes, as in fleshy like your skin) fruit encompassed in a hard, spiky shell. Its skin causes breath to smell surprisingly revolting. The fruit is rich in carbohydrates, protein, fat, and sulfurous compounds, all of which combine to cause the horrid stench. As Anthony Bourdain once described, "Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother."
Deodorize: Scientists are working on creating an odorless durian fruit (much to the dismay of durian fruit fans). But if you’d rather not smell like rotting flesh, then citrus is a great alternative. Whether you squirt it into water or simply bite into a juicy orange, your body can quickly process the citrus juices.
High-fiber foods’ power to keep you full and fuel your day should not go unnoticed. But indulge in any more than 5 grams of fiber (especially just before working out), and get ready to stink the place up. Not only will your sweat reek, but you're more likely to become bloated and gassy. High-fiber foods contain gases like hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane. When they’re digested in the large intestine these gases have to be released, creating fetid flatulence.
Deodorize: Drink a glass of water and you’ll easily balance out fiber-filled foods. Guzzle more water to reward yourself with fresh-looking — and smelling — skin while simultaneously avoiding offensive gases.
Not sure why you have smelly pits? Fish could be the culprit. Many people don’t even know it, but they have a metabolic disorder called trimethylaminuria, which makes them incapable of breaking down certain proteins in fish. This stinky compound is then released in the breath, sweat, and urine. Without even knowing it, these people are injecting themselves with a pungent stink every time they eat seafood.
Deodorize: Next time you’re going out, skip the fish in your sushi! Order a California roll instead to keep your pits smelling fresh and clean.
Waking up to the smell of crackling bacon and sweet maple syrup is a comforting feeling. But working out at the gym to the smell exuding from your underarms... not so much. You may want to cut back on the fenugreek, an herb often found in Middle Eastern food. Fenugreek contains an aromatic compound called solotone, which is responsible for the sweet-smelling "perfume" your sweat emits.
Deodorize: Sure, syrup isn't the worst thing to smell like, but entire days of this strong scent lingering can grow rather nauseating. If you can't resist the taste of fenugreek, try dabbing your offensive areas with a mixture of baking soda and lemon juice to kill bacteria.
Garlic stink oozes from your skin because allicin, within another sulfur compound called allin, is released when garlic is cut or crushed. Allicin breaks down quickly after consumption and converts to other substances, which cause bacteria to mix with sweat, resulting in a strong odor. However, it is said that if you are at dinner and both you and your date consume garlic, you’ll be less likely to notice it. (It’s up to you to take that risk.)
Deodorize: If your underarms become some serious stinkers, apply white or cider vinegar to keep you odor-free throughout the day.
We all know high-sugar foods can mess with your hormones and your metabolism, but did you know they can also make you stink? The chemical compounds in high-sugar foods have a high glycemic index, which messes with the chemical makeup of your blood. These new compounds mix with the bacteria on your skin and cause a foul odor.
Deodorize: For the sake of your health and your stench, avoid those candy bars and syrupy coffee drinks — unless you want your sweat to reek.
I know what you’re thinking: “Aren’t lentils super-healthy?” You bet they are. But unfortunately, some super-healthy foods are also super-smelly. These high-fiber foods increase the activity of gut bacteria, which is important for your digestive health. However, it can cause some serious gas and bloating.
Deodorize: Next time you’re going out for drinks, keep your pre-drinks dinner lentil-free. Some great alternatives to lentils that are easier to digest are whole grains, fruit, and potatoes.
Need another reason to order salad on a date? Green vegetables and other plant-based foods have been known to reduce the sulfur compounds in your system that make your breath stink. They also reduce your risk of gingivitis, or bacterial inflammation of the gums, keeping you kissable and fresh.
Deodorize: Add leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, to your diet. The fiber will not only help your bad breath, but it’ll also regulate your digestion and clear the air of embarrassing odors from gas.
Onions have a daring flavor that we can't get enough of, but those around us may wish we would cut back. After onions are digested, their pungent oils absorb into the bloodstream, seep into your lungs, and come through your breath. The more onions you eat, the longer you subject yourself to their offensive odor. Until the onions leave your body, the stink won’t stop.
Deodorize: Instead of eating them raw, try sautéing them to let the offensive oils out. Squeeze any excess oil out with a paper towel, and enjoy a significantly weaker smell.
In 2006, researchers from the Czech Republic collected perspiration samples from meat-eating and vegetarian men. They then asked a group of women to identify the foulest odor, based on numerous factors. Overwhelmingly, the vegetarians’ body odor was found to be much more appealing than the meat-eaters’.
When you eat certain foods, gas is produced by bacteria acting on your intestinal mucus during the process of digestion. In some cases, soy milk can disrupt the usual processes of your intestine and give you way more gas than you asked for.
Deodorize: Avoid soy-based products and go for replacements made from nuts, seeds, and coconut instead. These all-natural alternatives will keep your gut clean and your gas at bay.
Deodorize: Sweaty pits are one of the least attractive things to notice at dinner, so order a milder dish instead. You can typically ask for a dish to be prepared without the spicy ingredient or ask for the hot sauce on the side.
Protein farts are a real thing, and the people around you at the gym know it all too well. When you ingest too much protein all at once, your stomach has a hard time digesting. When you use whey, you’ll likely just get stressed out and gassy, emitting a stench that blends the smell of your farts with a hint of artificial powder.
Deodorize: Unless you want to clear the room, opt for a less protein-dense snack for your post-workout refuel. Americans eat much more protein than they actually need; almonds, yogurt, and eggs all have the more moderate amount of protein you really need.