Ever go out to dinner and have to think twice about what you order based on how much garlic is used? The vegetable makes everything taste 10 times better, but how to get rid of garlic breath—especially when you’re in public—is another story altogether. The thing about the smell of garlic is that it isn’t just in your mouth; it can come from food in your stomach that hasn’t been digested yet as well. “[Brushing teeth] has no effect on what you have already swallowed or digested,” says Sheryl Barringer, the lead researcher of a study about garlic breath published in the Journal of Food Science. Thankfully, there are science-backed bad breath remedies so you don't have to worry about leaving the restaurant with garlic breath ever again.
Eat Raw Lettuce, Mint, or Apple
A study led by Barringer tested how well raw, juiced, and heated apples, raw and heated lettuce, raw and juiced mint leaves, and green tea lowered the garlic vapors that caused bad breath. As part of each test, one of her colleagues chewed on a full clove of garlic, drank water, and then tried one of the remedies (this was done once a day until all the proposed remedies were used). Apples, lettuce, and mint all contain large amounts of phenolic compounds that react with the compounds which cause garlic breath, which is why the researchers think they were successful in eliminating odor. Green tea had no effect.
When it comes to cooked versus raw, both will work in a pinch, but one is a bit more effective. "The cooked and the raw were similar, but it's just that the raw [foods] have more enzymes which help speed up the process," Barringer says. Overall, mint was the most successful in reducing garlic breath.
Although it wouldn't be quite as successful as the raw version, having a cup of mint tea will also do a good job of neutralizing garlic breath.
Having a glass of milk also works well to eliminate garlic's smelly compounds. A study published in the Journal of Food Science found that a combination of fat and water is what helps to move garlic out of your digestive system faster. Researchers discovered that it was beneficial if you drank the milk while eating your garlicky meal, but if that's not possible, order a latte or indulge in a bowl of ice cream for dessert. And when it comes to the type of dairy, choose whole milk over skim or low-fat.
Drink Lemon Juice
Drinking lemon juice is one of the top methods for getting rid of garlic breath. We know this option doesn't sound too appealing, but it's worth it if it works! Lemon juice's acidity helps to neutralize alliinase, the odor-causing enzyme produced by crushed garlic. If drinking a cup of straight lemon juice or sucking on a lemon isn't up your alley, try squeezing a fresh lemon into some hot water instead.
Mirondo R, Barringer S. Deodorization of Garlic Breath by Foods, and the Role of Polyphenol Oxidase and Phenolic Compounds. J Food Science. 2016;81:C2425-C2430. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.13439
Hansanugrum A, Barringer SA. Effect of Milk on the Deodorization of Malodorous Breath after Garlic Ingestion. J Food Science. 2010;75:C549-C558. doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01715.x