Sure, onions and garlic cause halitosis, but they get a bad rap

By – Bad Breath Expert
Posted: July 6, 2012, Updated: March 27, 2016
SUMMARY: Garlic and onions can cause raging bad breath, but does that mean you should avoid them at all costs?

onions garlic halitosis

Man oh man, do onions and garlic have a bad reputation. Not only do they cause legendary halitosis, but their odors can stain fingers, clothing and surfaces. It can be so bad that many people recommend avoiding these foods altogether. But do you really have to?

Honestly, no.

Of course, the easiest way to avoid garlic breath and onion breath is never to eat those two ingredients, but is that really practical? Instead of running from garlic and onions, try using specialty oxygenating breath fresheners. Such products neutralize the compounds that are specific to these bulbs, while leaving you free to enjoy great flavors and many health benefits!

Why do garlic and onions cause halitosis?

There's a good reason that onions and garlic - and their cousins shallots, leeks and scallions - can stain your mouth with such a noticeable smell. All of these bulbs are part of the same botanical genus, called Allium (Latin for "garlic"). Each of these plants contains varying amounts of the same sulfur-based odor compound: allyl methyl sulfide.

This means that whether you eat garlic (Allium sativum) or onions (Allium cepa), the result is almost the exact same brand of bad breath.

Allyl methyl sulfide is an especially "sticky" molecule - that is, it adheres very easily to the tissues in your mouth. That's why eating even a pinch of raw garlic or a few strands of raw onion can leave your mouth smelling ever so funky.

But never fear! With specialty oxygenating breath fresheners (whether mouthwashes, whitening toothpastes, gums or mints), you can banish the breath while still deriving plenty of benefit from the bulb.

The benefits of onions and garlic

How are these bulbs good for you? Here are just a few ways:

- According to a recent article at The Blush, foods that are high in sulfur are especially good for the skin. The source recommended that folks with mild to moderate acne try eating garlic, onions, asparagus and eggs.

- Dr. Leo Galland, writing for the Huffington Post, noted that onions and garlic contain high levels of antioxidants, which can help the body excrete toxins and free radicals.

- The National Cancer Institute states that a garlic-rich diet has been associated with a lower risk of certain cancers.

- Studies have also suggested that eating foods from the Allium genus may lower the likelihood of heart disease.

- A report appearing in the American Journal of Epidemiology determined that consuming garlic appears to reduce the incidence of precancerous colon polyps.

- Garlic is loaded with nutrients. Just 100 grams contains almost a full day's worth of vitamin B6, which helps the body metabolize fats. Garlic also contains vitamin C, calcium, iron and phosphorus, among many others.

- Onions are great for you, too! They're loaded with tons of vitamins and minerals, not to mention dietary fiber.

- Finally, onions and garlic are delicious! They're a key ingredient in ethnic foods from Italy, Mexico, China, Thailand, India and many other Asian nations. Without these two bulbs, tons of classic dishes would taste bland, watery or dull.

So, rather than abjuring onions and garlic for all eternity, embrace 'em!

Eat all the Allium you like without any fear of stinking. All you have to do is rinse with a specialty breath freshening mouthwash or chew an oxygenating mint afterward.

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