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These foods fight bad breath

There’s nothing worse than meeting someone and realizing that your breath smells like the tuna you had for lunch, stale coffee or worse. What you eat and poor oral hygiene are the main causes of halitosis, or bad breath.

More than 600 kinds of bacteria live in the average mouth. Many produce smelly gases as they digest the tiny food particles lodged between your teeth and on your tongue. Some of the most offensive gases produced by mouth bacteria are sulfur compounds, which are formed during the breakdown of proteins.

A proper oral-hygiene routine, which includes brushing, flossing, rinsing, tongue cleansing and regular visits to the dentist, is an important first step to beating bad breath. But here are some ways to eat your way to fresher breath:

1. Tea: Unsweetened black or green tea contain antioxidants called polyphenols that can help destroy the growth of bacteria that cause bad breath, although green tea contains more because it’s processed in a different way.

2. Probiotic yogurt: Recent studies show that eating 6 ounces of unsweetened yogurt every day can reduce the level of odor-causing hydrogen sulfide in your mouth. The reason is that active cultures in yogurt, such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, compete with the bacteria in your mouth that contribute to bad breath.

3. Water: Wet your whistle – often. Most odor-causing bacteria are anaerobic, meaning they thrive in a dry mouth.

4. Parsley and basil: Nothing says stinky breath like garlic and onions. That’s because there are roughly 33 different smelly sulfur compounds that naturally occur in garlic and onions; they linger in your mouth and are absorbed in the bloodstream and expelled when you exhale. Parsley and basil help kick garlic breath. The polyphenols (compounds that act like antioxidants) in these herbs break down the sulfur compounds in garlic.

5. Apples and spinach: According to Sheryl Barringer, professor of food science and technology at Ohio State University, the polyphenols in foods like spinach and apples should be mixed with garlic to break down the sulfur compounds. Luckily, spinach and garlic are delicious together.