No one ever wants to smell bad, right? Sure, sometimes we make hygiene mistakes without even realising what we are doing, but most of us try our best to stay fresh and clean. When we think of the most obvious form of diet induced body odour, we immediately assume that it is bad breath. But certain foods, and yes even the good ones, can cause foul smells in other ways too.
Everyone has their own personal natural body odour (B.O.), says Cape Town artist Gengezi Babu-Yuze (55). When she thinks of foods that generate strong body odour, she immediately thinks of onions, garlic and Mzansi’s favourite relish, atchar.
Bulelwa Palele (30), from Kuyasa in Khayelitsha, agrees and says raw onion and garlic are among the worst suspects.
“Both veggies enhance the flavour of a meal to the point where most women, including myself, utilise them daily, yet when eaten raw, they leave nothing except the most terrible odour,” she says.
B.O is natural
For Babu-Yuze, a little body odour is natural. “People who gym will understand better, when you’re at the gym or jogging, all the lotions and deodorants we apply before getting there are likely to be wiped away by sweat, and then you can smell how each individual smells naturally. It’s just that we’re so accustomed to fragrances.”
One unique aspect of natural scents is that you can identify a person immediately by what they smell like. “It differs from the fragrances and soaps we use on a daily basis, which cause us to smell the same,” she says.
Busisiwe Mbane (38), an Alice-based chef, says that if spices and pungent herbs are used excessively, they can induce body odour.
How foods contribute to body odour
According to Andiswa Ngqaka, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), foods that cause you to sweat more, such as hot peppers and spicy dishes, can cause body odour.
“The aroma of certain meals, such as onions and garlic, can be carried in our perspiration,” she explains.
Ngqaka says that the foods we eat as adults, has the same effect on our body odour as it does for children who are nearing puberty.
Which foods should you avoid?
Aromatic, fragrant foods like garlic and onion, spicy foods, and even alcoholic beverages and caffeine can contribute to the odour you put out into the world.
“Foods that tend to make you sweat more may promote body odour. Reducing or avoiding these foods that make you sweat may reduce body odours. For instance, drink decaffeinated coffee instead of normal caffeinated coffee,” Ngqaka advises.
She explains that when you have a beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail, your liver turns most of the alcohol into acid. But some of it comes out through your sweat and your breath. If you drink too much, your breath can smell, and the odour also might come out of your pores.
“Live a healthy lifestyle to avoid health problems that may cause body odours. The health problems may be alcoholism, diabetes, gout, heart attack, infections, menopause, nervous system disorders, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems, and many others.”
Ngqaka further expands on five foods that can give your body odour:
- Allium vegetables: Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, and spring onions are all members of the allium family. While they pack a tasty punch and are typically healthy additions to your meals, these fragrant veggies can change the way your breath and sweat smells, says Ngqaka. Rich in sulphur, garlic and onions can create “garlic sweat”.
- Fish: Poorly metabolised fish emits fishy odors through sweat via a molecule called trimethylamine.
- Cruciferous veggies: Ngqaka says that cruciferous veggies like brussel sprouts, asparagus, cabbage, and broccoli, which are high in sulphur.
- Spices: Strong spices such as cumin, cayenne pepper, and horseradish are suspects to look out for when it comes to body odours.
- Proteins: The fatty acids in meat may find their way into your sweat glands, making it smellier.
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