Every body has a natural scent, something that is 100 percent the way it should be. Despite it being the norm to mask your au naturale aroma with deodorant and perfume, chances are that unless you just finished a workout and are sweating through your clothes, you really don’t smell all that bad (objectively speaking, of course). If you catch a whiff of yourself and instinctively crinkle your nose, it could be because of something you ate.
There are some foods—even healthy ones—that can cause body odor. This doesn’t mean you should avoid ’em completely; if you do, you’ll be missing out on some great nutrients. It’s just something to be aware of so you can take some extra precautions. Here, 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 feeling self-conscious.
6 foods that cause body odor, according to a registered dietitian
1. Allium vegetables
Allium vegetables are specific types of veggies that are high in sulfur-containing compounds. You just might have some in your crisper or on your countertop right now: the most popular are onions, garlic, leeks, and scallions. “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.
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 too can affect the way your pee smells. “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 odor.” 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.
3. Cruciferous vegetables
If you’re recently upped the amount of cruciferous vegetables in your diet (which includes leafy greens, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts) 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.
5. Red meat
Keplin says red meat is another common food that’s known to cause body odor. While the exact reason for why isn’t known, one scientific study looked into if meat-eaters smelled worse than non-meat eaters. And you know what? They did.
Okay, so this one is technically a drink, not a food, but booze can definitely 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 do everyone around you a favor and get out of bed and into the shower the morning after having one too many.
Obviously a lot of the foods that cause body odor are healthy ones—you should eat them! 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.
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