Garlic is tasty and good for you. Not so good is that everyone can tell when you eat it—causing some socially sensitive souls to shun this healthy food for fear of being “offensive.” No need to do that! You can enjoy your favorite garlicky dishes and still mingle confidently with friends and colleagues. Here’s how…

Garlic is an allium—along with chives, onions, scallions, shallots and leeks. The objectionable odor (aka “garlic breath”) it produces comes from its volatile compounds, including sulfides, that are released when it is eaten in all its pungent glory. Since the smell doesn’t come just from your mouth but also from your stomach, and since it can persist for a day or more, brushing and flossing usually are not sufficient. What to do?


Ohio State University researchers tested eight popular natural cures to address garlic breath—raw apple, heated apple and apple juice…raw lettuce and heated lettuce…fresh mint leaves and juiced mint leaves…and green tea. They used a method called selected ion flow tube mass spectrometry (try that at home!) to measure levels of the volatile compounds that cause garlic breath in subjects who ate garlic and then consumed the purported remedies being tested.

And the winner was…one-third cup of fresh mint leaves, followed by raw iceberg lettuce (about one-and-a-half cups) and then raw apple (one cup). It took about a half hour for any of the top three finishers to deodorize garlic breath—and in fact, eating any of those three foods was more effective than mouthwash!

Happily, rather than something obscure and only available from a specialty store, mint leaves, apples and lettuce are easy enough to find and munch on after a meal. If you’re dining out, you can ask your waiter to bring you some with your garlicky entrée!