We may not talk about it publicly, but we have all noticed it at one point in our lives—eating some foods can make our pee smell. When you take a step back and really think about it, it does make sense that what we eat can impact how our urine smells. You see, our urine can contain what our bodies consider to be waste, and if the breakdown of a certain food results in a compound that has a certain scent, it is natural for that scent to appear in your own pee when you go to the restroom.
If you have ever wondered which foods can make your pee smell, and why this phenomenon occurs, keep reading to learn which 8 foods and drinks can do just this. Then, make sure to check out 11 Supplements Dietitians Actually Take.
“Eating fish can create smelly urine for some,” says Sheri Berger, RDN, CDCES. A condition called primary trimethylaminuria is associated with not being able to alter the chemical trimethylamine, resulting in urine that has a smell similar to decaying fish. Along with fish, other foods that contain trimethylamine include eggs and liver.
Yes, drinking too much of your beloved morning brew can result in some unsavory effects on our urine’s scent, as this drink “contains compounds known as methylxanthine,” says Jessie Husley, RD, LD. These compounds can “have a diuretic effect on the body,” potentially increasing urine production and potentially leading to a stronger urine odor. “Additionally, coffee’s natural aroma and its ability to alter the pH balance of urine can contribute to a distinct scent,” she added.
Cumin is a popular spice that is a must in taco recipes and many Indian dishes. But consuming too much of this ingredient may result in having urine with a distinct odor. Cumin “contains sulfur compounds that can contribute to changes in urine scent,” Husley explains. “When consumed, these sulfur compounds are metabolized by the body and excreted through urine, potentially resulting in a slightly stronger or different odor.”
Garlic has sulfur-containing natural compounds which gives this food different biological, and potentially beneficial, properties. Including this food in your diet “can result in smelly urine,” says Kristen White, RDN, CLT. “Sulfur is beneficial to the body for daily detoxification purposes, but leaves a not-so-lovely odor.”
Perhaps the most commonly associated food when it comes to smelly urine, asparagus is a major culprit in this category. This is due to the breakdown of the asparagusic acid found in this veggie, which “is metabolized into sulfur-containing compounds when digested,” says Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT. “These compounds can give urine a distinctive, pungent odor,” she adds. While some sources estimate that only 50% of people have smelly urine after eating asparagus, others argue that everyone has this experience, but not everyone has the ability to perceive it.
Cabbage is categorized as a cruciferous vegetable, and “Eating cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, can temporarily change the smell of your urine to a strong sulfur scent,” says Catherine Karnatz, MPH, RD. “This unusual aroma comes from a compound naturally found in cabbage called methyl mercaptan, which causes the release of a distinct odor similar to rotten eggs,” she adds.
There are plenty of foods that can cause urine to smell poorly. But there are also some options that can make your urine smell slightly sweet and, perhaps, more pleasant. Pineapple is one food that may help you experience better-smelling pee, if that is your goal.
“Pineapple is higher in natural sugar than some other fruits, and it can make various body fluids, like urine, smell better,” says Berger.
Because drinking cranberry juice can lower the pH of urine, drinking it can reduce an ammonia-like odor that some people experience in their urine, potentially making your pee smell better Just be sure to opt for a cranberry juice that is not made with added sugars.