Monday, January 13, 2014

Last night, the tacos smothered in onions were great. But this morning, your breath could fell a sumo wrestler.

What to do? When your breath has turned toxic because of smelly foods -- usually garlic, onions, or curry, but fish and cheese can do a number, too -- you need an air freshener for your mouth. And you need it often: every 30 to 60 minutes until the odorous offender has cleared out of your bloodstream, which can sometimes take up to 24 hours. Because brushing constantly is impossible, try countering breath-busting foods with what's likely to be handiest: other foods.

1. Lemons. Suck on a lemon wedge, or nibble on the rind -- easy to do in restaurants, where there's often a citrus garnish; if not, you can order sparkling water with lemon. For other times, lemon-flavored hard candies work just as well, and they're totally portable.

2. Parsley and other green garnishes. When your favorite garlic-laden pasta dish or onion-topped burger arrives with a few sprigs of parsley on the side, consider it a hint, not just a colorful trim. Chewing on the sprigs releases parsley's pleasant, breath-freshening oils. Garnishes of fresh basil and rosemary work, too.

3. Apples and other crisp, fresh foods (firm pears, carrots, jicama). They're high in fiber, and all that chewing bumps up saliva production -- the combo acts like a scrubbing rinse for your mouth. Sweet.

4. Crunchy spices. For a more exotic solution, pick up some anise, cardamom, coriander, and fennel seeds, available in the spice aisle of most grocery stores. Mix equal parts in a small covered bowl, and keep it on the dining room table next to the salt and pepper. Chewing on a few seeds will release enough oil to sweeten after-dinner curry or coffee breath. And your mouth will taste amazing.

5. Mint sprigs or cinnamon sticks. Either of these deliciously potent flavors will squelch the sulfurous scent of onion and garlic. Plus, an essential oil in cinnamon kills a nasty type of oral bacteria, discouraging it from setting up house in your mouth. Cinnamon or mint gum is just as effective. If you pick a gum sweetened with xylitol, it will freshen breath and help reduce cavities -- smart, if you're a gum lover. Bonus: Regular oral care can make your RealAge as much as 6.4 years younger.

6. Berries and yogurt. If you can't get through most days without indulging in foods that are less than breath-friendly, eat for prevention, which is even better than a cure. Consuming half a cup of plain, sugar-free yogurt twice a day can lower mouth levels of hydrogen sulfide (yes, that rotten egg smell). Berries (and melons, oranges, and other fruits high in vitamin C) also deter stinky mouth bacteria. Start and end each day with a cup of fruit topped with a big dollop of yogurt and you might never have to worry about bad breath again.

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