Why Does Asparagus Make Your Pee Smell? And Other Questions, Answered

At this stage in my life, there are a few things I am certain of:

  1. It's okay to say "no" to people
  2. Socks are a good gift — the most superior gift — to give to somebody you love, and most importantly of all:
  3. My ex wasn't right about much, but he wasn't wrong about garlic.

Yes, it reeks; no, it's not fun to detect it on the breath of another — but it's worth it.

Obviously, garlic isn’t the only food notorious for its after-effects: Asparagus is known to cause our urine to smell, and most of us have experienced the bitter side of hygiene by downing a glass of orange juice after a good tooth-scrub. But the pleasure we derive from these foods prevents us from nixing them from our diets entirely.

As it happens, there’s a scientific explanation for our common reactions to certain types of food, and author Andy Brunning uses chemistry to answer 57 curious gastronomic questions for us in his new book, “Why Does Asparagus Make Your Wee Smell?

The summary on Amazon explains what the book has to offer: 

Have you ever wondered... Why onions make you cry? Why bacon smells so good? And [whether] mixing drinks really worsens your hangover? Opening up the chemical world behind the sensations we experience from food and drink with beautiful graphics and easy-to-understand explanations, this fun compendium has all the weird and wonderful answers. Exploring [flavors], aromas, poisons and much more - from popping candy, champagne and spicy chillies, to garlic breath and nutmeg as hallucinogen — discover the incredible science that affects us on a daily basis.

Luckily for us, Brunning has a few recommendations for how to help counteract some of the unpleasant byproducts we experience after eating certain foods.

Eating a garlic glove, for example, releases an enzyme called allyl methyl sulfide, which results in that pungent garlic breath effect. But according to the New York Post, Brunning recommends lemon juice, which neutralizes the odorous enzymes and helps neutralize breath. (My own personal experience also demonstrates that other citruses, such as limes, will work in a pinch.)