How We Smell on a Plant-Based Diet

Worried that eating plant-based may make you less attractive to the opposite sex, perhaps from the side effects of onion, garlic, beans and such? Actually, the opposite appears to be true: numerous studies show that plant-based eaters smell better to others, and for a variety of reasons.

When you no longer consume animal foods, the noxious odor of sulfur-containing amino acid breakdown products (far more common in meat) decreases greatly. Much of the offensive odor of flatus (farts) is caused by tiny amounts of these sulfur-containing gases. But these offenders don’t all leave the body in the form of farts; they are also absorbed back into the blood stream and leave the body in our breath, sweat, and our urine. Although beans get a bad rap, a 2011 study showed that your body quickly adjusts to eating more beans. Thirty-five percent of bean-eating subjects reported increased flatulence during the first week, but that dropped rapidly to 15% by the 3rd week, 5% by the 5th week, and only 3% by the 8th week. If beans still bother you, Dr. McDougall suggests sprouting them as a way to dramatically decrease the sugars (raffinose and stachyose) that result in the production of gas. Dairy is another gas-causing culprit, even in those of us who are not lactose-intolerant. Dr. Michael Greger has an interesting post on what makes our farts smelly, if you want to get to the "bottom" of things. What about the smell of our skin and sweat? NPR reports on a new Australian study that showed women preferred the body odor of men who ate a non-meat diet. Scientists believe sweat can signal the state of our health to potential mates and that's why plant eaters are the winners. As you adopt a plant-based diet, your gut bacterial population will change in many beneficial ways. The species that are most health-promoting thrive on eating all those plants, the increased fiber, and even beans. Those species that are harmful die off, because they are no longer being fed their preferred (animal) foods. Your body adjusts quite nicely as a result. As an added bonus, this change in gut bacteria is an important reason why you soon no longer crave those foods you thought you could never live without. We really are what we eat…. Or, perhaps more accurately, we are what our gut bacteria eat.

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