Your diet can be a huge turn-on—and it has nothing to do with how you look when you’re chowing down on your meal; an unpleasant body odor generally arises when sweat and body oils interact with bacteria or sulfur compounds in foods. This is why eating certain foods can make you smell better; a new study published in Human and Evolution Behavior.
In this study, researchers recruited 43 healthy, non-smoking men and asked them what kinds of food they ate using skin spectrophotometry (a method that detects the number of carotenoids, or antioxidants found in red, yellow, and orange vegetables, that you take in). Each participant was then given a new cotton t-shirt, which they were instructed to put on, and, for a period of 48 hours, they were asked to exercise for one hour each day without bathing or using scented products.
It’s All in the Fruit
The findings from the study? Women rated the shirts of the men who primarily ate fruits and vegetables as smelling the best—with more floral, fruity, sweet qualities. On the other hand, they rated the sweaty shirts of men who ate more carbs as stronger and less pleasant. So how does what you eat make you smell better? It comes down to your gut and bacterial breakdown of certain foods; beta-carotene, one of the pigments found in fruits is the reason for a better body scent. In fact, fruits and vegetables might help your dating game in another way, too: The more carotenoid-heavy produce you eat (carrots, tomatoes, watermelon, and sweet potatoes) the healthier and more attractive your scent becomes.
Tip: Consuming probiotic-rich foods to help restore good intestinal bacteria and to aid your digestion so that it processes foods more smoothly, and with less odor.
Foods to Avoid (At least Moderate)
Certain foods may make your body odor worse, so consider protein sources for reducing body odor through diet. Increased body odor can occur with of over-consuming red meat as an amino acid known as carnitine, found primarily in beef and pork, requires your intestines to put forth extra effort to break down the amino acid. Enzymes in your gut, called flavin monooxygenases, break down the residue of this amino acid so you can excrete it, but if you don't have enough of these enzymes, you may emit a "fishy" odor.
Tip: Choose protein alternatives to beef and pork, such as poultry, soy, and beans or white fish.
Foods in the onion (allium) family, including onion, leek, garlic, and chive, contain pungent sulfur compounds that permeate through skin pores. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, garlic's odor can persist for days and may emanate from the mouth, skin and sweat glands.
Certain sulfur-based medications, including dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), can cause body odor and bad breath similar to garlic. The health information website Drugs.com notes that this side effect may persist for up to 72 hours.
A popular seasoning used in Middle Eastern, Indian and Mexican cuisine, cumin is renowned for its earthy, warm fragrance. In large quantities, it may cause garlic-like body odor or bad breath.
Perspiration itself is nearly odorless, according to the Mayo Clinic. A garlic-like body odor may occur as a side effect of certain drugs and supplements. Rarely, it may signal an underlying medical condition. Consult your health care provider if you sweat excessively or if you suddenly develop an intense form of body odor. A series of tests can determine the cause of the problem; prescription deodorants may help to address the problem.