Surprising Foods That Cause Bad Breath

May 25, 2023

Our diet has an impact on all different elements of our life, from our heart health to our weight and our skin. It also can largely impact how our breath smells! We all know about the classic garlic, onion and tinned fish that immediately make our breath smell, however there are also some surprising foods that cause bad breath that we’re going to introduce today. Often these foods don’t make your breath smell immediately, but do cause a build up of bacteria over time that leads to consistently bad breath.

So, if you eat a lot of these surprising foods that cause bad breath and you’re noticing that the smell is a problem, it might be time to make a few changes to your diet!

Introducing 5 Surprising Foods That Cause Bad Breath

Citrus Fruits

First on our list of surprising foods that cause bad breath is citrus fruits. All citrus fruits are very acidic in their nature, and unfortunately, bacteria in the mouth thrive in an acidic environment. Our mouth naturally produces bacteria to help break down different foods and drinks we’re consuming, however the longer it sticks around (which it often will with citrus), it starts to cause bad breath. Some foods, like citrus, just create the ideal environment so the bacteria doesn’t want to leave.

In addition to the issue of bacteria, the acidity can also cause issues like erosion, tooth decay and eventually tooth loss. These are also things that lead to an unpleasant odour, so there is even more reason to be cautious of these surprising foods that cause bad breath. So, after eating anything like oranges or grapefruits, or consuming drinks with lots of lemon or lime in, there are a few things you can do. Firstly, after you’ve consumed your acidic food or drink, make sure to have a glass of water. This will help to quickly remove some of the residue to reduce the chance of bacteria sticking around. You should also use a straw with acidic drinks to help minimise contact with the teeth. Additionally, avoid brushing your teeth for 30 minutes after consuming citrus, as your enamel will be weak and this can cause further damage. Citrus is just one one of our surprising foods that cause bad breath, but it is an important one to be conscious of.

High Protein Foods

Another group of foods that cause bad breath that may be surprising are high protein foods. Our bodies are only designed to consume so much protein and we’re in a generation now more than ever before when high protein diets are consistently consumed, whether for weight loss purposes like the Atkins or Keto diets, or generally just to assist with building muscle. When an excess amount of protein is consumed, whether through food or drinks, it can be difficult for them to be broken down properly, which results in amino acids being produced. When these amino acids combine with the bacteria in our mouth, it can produce a smell..

As with the citrus, the best thing you can do to help minimise the effect of this is to drink a glass of water after consuming protein. This should help to reduce the chance of the amino acids combining with the mouth’s bacteria, to reduce the impact of this surprising category of foods that cause bad breath. It will also help to wash away any residue, whether it’s from a protein shake with quite a bit of sugar in or after eating meat that quite easily gets stuck in the mouth. In the evenings, make sure you’re thoroughly flossing and brushing to remove all residue from your high protein diet throughout the day.

Tomato Based Meals

Next up in our list of surprising foods that cause bad breath is tomato based meals! Most of us eat quite a few tomato based meals throughout the week, from pasta sauces to curries and tomatoes in salad. However, something that quite a few people aren’t aware of is that it can cause bad breath. This is for a similar reason as the citrus, because tomatoes are high in acidity and this encourages the growth of bacteria. It can also trigger acid reflux, which can cause an unpleasant smell on your breath, giving even more reason to be careful not to eat too many meals containing this surprising food that causes bad breath.

So, in order to avoid the impact of this surprising food that causes bad breath, try to balance out your tomato based dishes with more alkaline foods. These include most vegetables, nuts and legumes. Next time you make a tomato based sauce, add some chopped up mediterranean vegetables, a handful of nuts and beans, peas or lentils. This can help to counteract the impact of tomatoes, then also make sure you have a glass of water when you’ve finished your meal or snack. This is one of the most surprising foods that cause bad breath, that many people are unaware of!

Food and Drinks For Bad Breath

So, we hope you have learnt something from the surprising foods that cause bad breath above! Luckily, there is plenty of food and drinks for bad breath to help remedy the effects of them.

Green Tea

First up we have green tea, a great drink for bad breath! This drink is full of antioxidants that can help to remove some of the bacteria from the mouth that causes bad breath. So, try drinking green tea throughout the day and see if it makes a difference!

Crunchy Vegetables

A great food for bad breath are crunchy vegetables! Eating raw, chopped up carrots, celery and cucumber helps to stimulate the production of saliva in the mouth, to rinse away some of the bacteria in the mouth that causes bad breath. When you dip the snack into hummus, not only does it make it more delicious, but chickpeas are naturally alkaline so will help to neutralise some of the acidic foods and drinks you consume throughout the day, along with the other surprising foods that cause bad breath.


Mentioned briefly above, nuts are a great food for bad breath! Not only are they alkaline, but their crunchy nature acts in the same way as the vegetables mentioned above, encouraging saliva to develop in the mouth and wash away the bacteria that causes breath to smell. So, after having an acidic lunch with some of the surprising foods that cause bad breath above, have a handful of nuts followed by a glass of water, which is the ultimate drink for bad breath! They also happen to be a great snack for weight loss!


An unusual food for bad breath that you may not think of is parsley. This herb contains natural oils that naturally help to freshen breath, however it also contains chlorophyll that can completely kill the harmful bacteria in the mouth. So, add parsley to your salads and this should help if you’re struggling with bad breath, or if you eat many of the surprising foods that cause bad breath above.

Surprising Foods That Cause Bad Breath: Final Thoughts

Whilst there are different foods and drinks for bad breath to help you, unfortunately sometimes bad breath can be caused by a wide range of other factors, not just the surprising foods that cause bad breath discussed above. You might just be genetically more inclined to experience bad breath, or it could be a sign that there is an issue with your oral health, such as tooth decay or gum disease. So, the first thing you should do when you’re concerned about bad breath, is to contact your dentist.

They will be able to identify if there is an issue, for example perhaps you have a crown that has become slightly loose and food residue is getting stuck, causing the smell. In other cases, things like crowding of the teeth may be resulting in excess bacteria, so having London or Leamington Spa orthodontics might be required to prevent the issue. There are all kinds of things that can cause the issue, including the above surprising foods that cause bad breath, but ruling out any problems with your oral health is an important first step to take.

Carlos Diaz
I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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