Can You Change Your Diet To Avoid Mosquito Bites?
Everyone knows the one person in every group who will get bitten, no matter what—and because that person is me, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make my body even the slightest bit less attractive to mosquitoes. After a night out in Brooklyn where my entire body turned into a giant welt, I began exploring whether there were any foods that could change my chemical makeup enough to keep the bugs at bay. While a few came up short (apparently, B vitamins and coffee, two folk remedies for repelling mosquitoes, don't have much in the way of studies to back them up, although there is plenty of anecdotal evidence), it turns out you can do at least a little to eat your way to a less itchy life. Here are the best options:
A few studies1 have shown the repellent power of garlic against mosquitoes, among other bugs. It's thought that the allicin is the active component, which means that to activate and leave the allicin intact, you should eat the garlic crushed and as close to raw as possible. Supplements have also been found to have bioavailable allicin2, but why not just whip up some fresh tomato and basil bruschetta with a heaping supply of fresh, chopped garlic, and know that you're helping yourself fighting mosquitoes while enjoying a perfect summer snack?
The summer fruit contains a compound called nootkatone, which has been found to repel not only mosquitoes but also ticks, making it a huge point of interest for scientists engaged in fighting the increasing spread of Lyme disease and other tickborne illnesses. While the jury is still out on exactly how much grapefruit you need to repel mosquitoes, it's a delicious addition to a breakfast or dessert. For added bug-fighting benefits, rub the essential-oil-rich peel on your skin after eating.
Lemongrass is one of the greatest food sources of citronella, a known mosquito repellent.3 While doctors are mixed about whether consuming it internally has the same benefits, there are a number of anecdotal reports that point to its success—and honestly, it's so delicious that there's not a huge downside. You can steep it in a tea, or use it in a curry—because it tends to be quite woody, it's often better to infuse it and then remove it before eating.
Of course, it's as much about what you don't eat as what you do. Studies have shown4 that mosquitoes are far more attracted to people after they've had a single beer than when they haven't consumed any alcohol (scientists aren't quite sure why, as there isn't a direct correlation between ethanol present in skin and number of bites). They're also far more likely to bite if you have a strong amount of lactic acid, which shows up in sweat—so no matter what you eat, try to keep cool to avoid any annoying itch!
Liz Moody is an author, blogger and recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated with a creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody has written two cookbooks: Healthier Together: Recipes for Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships and Glow Pops: Super-Easy Superfood Recipes to Help You Look and Feel Your Best. She also hosts the Healthier Together Podcast, where she chats with notable chefs, nutritionists, and best-selling authors about their paths to success. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Food & Wine & Women’s Health.