Bug bites are annoying, there’s no doubt about it — but they can also be dangerous. Summertime comes with its own list of unique hazards, and bug bites are one of them. Mosquitos carry diseases like Zika, and ticks are spreading Lyme disease more often than in previous years.
You remembered sunscreen. But in your haste to get ready for the day and to cook these summertime food favorites, you forgot bug spray. And many of the foods you’re likely to eat can actually make you even tastier to mosquitos.
In some cases, though, enjoying your favorite foods can actually help to keep these pests at bay. None of these foods will work as well as real bug spray. Some of them are rumored to work, but science hasn’t been able to confirm whether or not they’re effective. But if you’re in a pickle, they could help ward bugs away — or at least make you feel like you’re doing something to repel them.
There are number of things you can do to actually prevent bugs from feasting on you, like avoiding strongly scented lotions, soaps, and perfumes, wearing light-colored clothes, and most importantly, always using bug repellant. But none of these options are as enjoyable as eating. So if you’re tired of being a buffet for bugs, here are some foods that may help ward off nature’s pests.
There’s an old wives’ tale that in order to keep ticks and mosquitoes away, people should start taking one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar three times daily. The catch is that you have to start doing this at least three days before you plan to be outside. There’s also not a whole lot of scientific backing to the old trick. However, apple cider vinegar could have other health benefits — some people swear by taking a shot of vinegar every day before breakfast!
Some people swear that bananas can help keep bugs away — however, the actual evidence behind this is inconclusive. The theory is that octanol, a chemical found naturally in the fruit, repels bugs. Sugar attracts bugs, though, and bananas have lots of that. But eating more bananas is probably a good idea for your health, so why not give it a try?
Need an excuse to load up on pasta? Just make sure it’s topped with fresh basil, then go crazy and eat all the Italian food you want before your day in the sun. Bugs don’t like basil, according to some anecdotal evidence.
They are a cheap and nutritious solution to eating healthier, and they may also prevent bug bites. Beans and lentils are high in vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. The smell that thiamine releases after consumption is rumored to repel bugs. Now you have the perfect excuse to consume a whole tube of hummus or add even more beans to your huevos rancheros.
Capsaicin, the heat-generating compound in chiles that makes it great for your metabolism, is already used as a natural insecticide. It’s also known to stop the itchiness caused by bug bites. Eating chiles may also prevent bug bites. Bugs apparently do not like the smell that emanates from our bodies when we consume food that contains capsaicin. There isn’t much scientific evidence to back this up, though — so maybe still pack your bug spray.
While garlic will do the trick to keep vampires away, it may not be the most effective for staving off other bloodsuckers — like mosquitos. According to a study from 2005, people who eat garlic get bitten just as many times as those who refrain. However, many people swear by this trick, claiming that the compound allicin, which is present in both garlic and onions, can repel the bugs. Allicin, however, breaks down quickly when heated, so you may want to consider eating your garlic raw if you’re trying this tactic.
A representative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told NPR that a compound in grapefruit, called nootkatone, is actually effective as a natural mosquito repellent. The compound was tested topically, but it’s not a bad idea to add a grapefruit to your breakfast. The fruit could also help lower your risk of cancer!
Onions contain the same chemical, allicin, that garlic does. While eating tons of onions may not make you very popular among friends and family, they may help keep bugs away, so consider adding more onions to your diet.
Vitamin B1, also called thiamine, alters your scent and might make you more repulsive to insect passersby. Seaweed might sound gross, but if you like sushi you’re probably already eating it — and it has one of the highest levels of vitamin B1 of any other food.
Eating a vanilla cupcake is going to attract more bugs than the vanilla extract can repel. But vanilla extract on its own is known to be a natural deterrent to bugs. Whether or not eating things infused with vanilla will help has not been determined. But using vanilla essence or extract topically may work better. The best part about this trick? You get to use the rest of your vanilla in a batch of delicious homemade cookies!
There are a few health-related reasons you might want to cut back on drinking beer, but you should be especially cautious if you plan on spending a lot of time outside. As refreshing as it is to drink a beer on the beach or your back patio, that beer is bound to attract more mosquitos to bite. According to a study from 2002, beer drinkers just get bit more often. Maybe stick to water instead.
When you consume foods with a lot of salt, your body naturally produces more lactic acid. The more lactic acid in your body, the tastier you become to mosquitos. Salty foods are pretty common in summer — burgers and fries, anyone? But in addition to your skin, your blood pressure will thank you if you cut back on these high-sodium foods.
More from The Daily Meal: