There are some foods—even healthy ones—that can cause body odor. Needless to say, this definitely doesn't mean you should avoid 'em completely; if you do, you'll be missing out on some great nutrients. However, it's just something to be aware of so you can take some extra precautions if you feel so inclined to do so. Ahead registered dietitian Jenny Beth Kroplin, RD, reveals six foods that can cause body odor. Plus, her tips on how to deal with it so you can still enjoy eating them without wearing their lingering scent all day long.
6 foods that cause body odor, according to a registered dietitian
1. Allium vegetables
When you think of some of the most essential ingredients in just about every recipe it's usually some sort of allium. No surprise, considering they're packed with flavor and can turn virtually any recipe from drab to fab in a pinch. In fact, you just might have some in your crisper or on your countertop right now: the most popular are onions, garlic, leeks, and scallions. But, as much as we love to cook with these ingredients, it's worth noting that they're also one of the leading foods that can result in bodily aroma. Why? Allium vegetables are one of the main foods high in sulfur.
Much like calcium and potassium, sulfur is an essential nutrient for the human body. "Sulfur is a building block for other compounds in the body, including amino acids and antioxidants, and it helps to build bones and joints, repair DNA, and regulate gene expression. Many sulfur compounds also support conditions such as diabetes, cancer, congestive heart failure, and arthritis,” registered dietitian Kaytee Hadley, MS, RDN, previously shared with Well+Good.
That said, sulfur can influence the way you smell—think the correlation between garlic and body scent. "The allium family contains elevated levels of sulfur-containing compounds that can leach through our pores, bloodstream, and urine, give us bad breath, and combine with bacteria in our sweat for a not-so attractive body odor," Kroplin says. Yep, these veggies can affect how you smell down to your pee.
Again, the fact that allium vegetables can change the way you smell doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy them. They are full of nutritional benefits, including helping zinc and iron be better absorbed in the body. Zinc is an important nutrient for keeping the immune system functioning and iron is essential for the production of hemoglobin in blood, which transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. That makes allium vegetables pretty great. You just may want to brush your teeth after eating 'em and swipe on a little extra deodorant. No biggie.
While asparagus may not change the way your body smells the way allium veggies can, Kroplin says it does have something in common with them: it's one of the top foods that make your pee smell, IYKYK. "Asparagus is considered to be a natural diuretic supporting the kidneys and bladder. As the body naturally digests and breaks down the sulfuric compounds in asparagus, asparagusic acid, it can leave the urine smelling just like asparagus," she says. "Some research points towards two natural chemicals found in asparagus, methanethiol and S-methyl thioester, which through the digestive process can give the urine the sulfurous asparagus odor1." However, she adds that not everyone who eats asparagus will experience this side effect when they hit the bathroom—you just might be one of the "lucky" ones. (Hi, it's me.)
3. Cruciferous vegetables
If you're recently upped the amount of cruciferous vegetables in your diet (which includes leafy greens, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, to name a few) you may have noticed a change in body odor, or perhaps in your plant-based farts and poops. Guess why? Yep, sulfur once again. Work these veggies into your life without reeling from the sulfur-induced effects by upping your intake slowly. According to registered dietitian Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, cooking them instead of eating them raw can help, too.
4. Strong spices like cumin, cayenne, and horseradish
Spices that add a fiery flavor to your food make this list for a pretty straightforward reason: they can make you sweat. The more you sweat, the more likely you are to smell a little, well, ripe. "Wearing a deodorant made without aluminum [while eating spicy foods] can help neutralize body odor while absorbing sweat," Keplin says on how to deal with the body odor strong spices can cause. "This is better than using an antiperspirant which reduces how much you sweat. The body needs to sweat!" she says. And once you've had a chance to get the sweat sesh all out, here are some of the best body washes, plus when to shower according to the experts, to feel fresh as ever.
5. Red meat
According to Keplin, red meat is another common food that's known to cause body odor. While the exact reason for why isn't known, one older, smaller scientific study that looked into red meat and perspiration showed that meat-eaters had a lower odor attractiveness than non-meat eaters2. Might be time to spruce up on your odor compatibility knowledge.
Okay, so this one is technically a drink, not a food, but alcohol can cause body odor. "Alcohol can smell from the breath, pores, and urine," Keplin says. "The body identifies alcohol as a toxin, so as the alcohol breaks down in the body, it turns into acetic acid. What the body can't metabolize is excreted in other pathways through a process called oxidation. The oxidation process breaks the toxins down into diacetic acid, carbon dioxide, and water which is eliminated through sweat, urine, and, breathe." So for the sake of your overall well-being, get out of bed and into the shower the morning after having one too many to wash away that alcohol-induced odor.
How can I fix my body odor naturally?
Obviously a lot of the foods that can potentially cause body odor are healthy ones—you should eat them! That said, knowing that they may change the way you smell is just good intel to have so you can plan accordingly. And, hey, if you're enjoying them by yourself, who even cares anyway?
That said, if you are in the market for how to remove body odor naturally there are tons of options. In fact, experts say there's a right and wrong way to wash your armpits that can make all the difference in how much you smell. The key? Really getting in there with a good antibacterial soap. Plus, resetting the pH levels of your once-stinky pits with an AHA-infused treatment can really help seal the deal. If that doesn't help, you can also try dermatologist-approved deodorant products with glycolic acid or a affordable, yet effective cleanser featuring benzoyl peroxide that can also prevent smelly pits. Of course, if your odor seems to be falling out of the ordinary, it's always best to check in with your doctor to ensure your body odor health is in working odor.
A dermatologist shares skincare secrets for combating body odor:
- Markt, Sarah C et al. “Sniffing out significant “Pee values”: genome wide association study of asparagus anosmia.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 355 i6071. 13 Dec. 2016, doi:10.1136/bmj.i6071
- Havlicek, Jan, and Pavlina Lenochova. “The effect of meat consumption on body odor attractiveness.” Chemical senses vol. 31,8 (2006): 747-52. doi:10.1093/chemse/bjl017
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