Nothing ruins your breath quite like garlic. No matter how hard you try to stop the stench, it lingers in your mouth all day long.
But scientists from Ohio State University say they have a solution: Munching raw apple or lettuce can neutralize those pungent garlicky odors, according to a new study.
In the study, people chewed garlic cloves for 25 seconds, then immediately consumed either water, apple, lettuce, mint leaves, or green tea.
The apple and lettuce most effectively decreased the concentration of garlic compounds in people’s breath within 30 minutes.
Garlic contains a compound called allicin, says study author Sheryl Barringer, Ph.D. Chewing allicin breaks it down and triggers the release of garlic’s distinctive scent, she explains.
Along with coating your mouth, the aromatic garlic compounds you swallow move from your gut into your bloodstream, and from there into your lungs. Once they set up shop in your lungs, they can continue to hang around and sabotage your breath for up to a day, Barringer says.
Your first instinct is probably to brush your teeth. While that does remove the particles of garlic stuck in your teeth, it doesn’t do anything to stifle the reeking garlic compounds in your lungs, says Barringer.
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But if you eat lettuce or an apple along with (or soon after) your garlicky foods, the compounds in the produce will react with and neutralize those garlic particles, Barringer says.
Just don’t wait long: Once the garlic reaches your gut and enters your bloodstream—a process that may only take a few minutes—chasing it with apple or lettuce won’t do any good, she says.