Picture this: You're sitting in a highly-rated Italian restaurant, waiting for your Bumble date to stroll in, hoping you'll be able to recognize her from the carefully curated hodge-podge of photos on the app. You check your phone a half-dozen times. Then, in an attempt to calm your nerves, dunk a complimentary hunk of bread in olive oil, only to find, to your horror, that oil tastes like you've been sucking on a garlic clove. You might as well have mini radioactive waves emanating from your mouth. Your breath is downright offensive. Is there anything more horrifying?
Well, how 'bout the fact garlic can linger on your breath for about 24 hours, according to researchers from the Ohio State University? Yep, even more horrifying.
Luckily, the very same researchers set out to find a remedy. And they found it.
In a new study published in the Journal of Food Science, researchers gave participants 3g of garlic cloves (about 1 clove) and instructed them to chew on the garlic for 25 seconds. A control group was then immediately given water, while experimental groups received myriad "cures": raw, juiced or heated apple; raw or heated lettuce; or raw or juiced mint leaves. The researchers also measured the levels of "volatiles" responsible for garlic breath—chemicals like diallyl disulfide, allyl mercaptan, allyl methyl disulfide, and allyl methyl sulfide—for an hour after eating. The researchers also analyzed the foods' ability to neutralize foul-smelling compounds in vivo (in a petri dish).
The most effective cures? Chewing on mint leaves had the highest deodorization level for all volatile compounds (when tested in vivo and with participants). Raw apple and raw lettuce and decreased the concentration of garlic breath-causing chemicals by 50% or more, compared to the control, for the first 30 minutes. Both heated apple and lettuce produced a notable reduction of the garlic breath; apple and mint juice also reduced levels, but not as effectively as chewing raw apple or raw mint. Green tea had no deodorizing effect on the garlic compounds.
Bottom line: Raw foods are more effective, since they pack a one-two punch of enzymes and phenolic compounds, they destroy odors more effectively. Cooked foods, though, lose their enzymes, so they're not quite as effective.
So buck up, champ, and fear not the garlic breath: Order a Moscow mule with a hefty sprig of mint, and make sure to tip the bartender.