Your diet can affect the overall health of your vagina. Some vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can help reduce your risk of vaginal infections or aid in recovery, while others may cause a change in vaginal odor.

Your vaginal pH is key to your overall vaginal health. A balanced pH is generally between 3.8 and 4.2, but can vary depending on your age and menstrual cycle.

This moderately acidic environment prevents unhealthy bacteria and yeast from multiplying too quickly. Disrupting the natural acidity of your vagina can give bacteria a chance to thrive and cause discomfort — or even an infection.

Anything with a high pH above 4.5, like douches or soaps with fragrances, can cause an imbalance. Even tight-fitting clothing can cause pH changes below the belt by trapping sweat and moisture against your skin.

Your vagina is pretty good at protecting and cleaning itself, though. Proper vaginal care, such as good hygiene, safer sex practices, and regular gynecological visits, all play a role in keeping your pH in check.

Water intake and diet modifications can also help, including adding Lactobacilli supplements — a type of probiotic — to your routine.

And with diet comes the topic of food. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to what you should or shouldn’t eat for optimal vaginal health, certain foods may work in your favor.

Pure cranberry juice and concentrated cranberry extract capsules are full of antioxidants and acidic compounds, which are powerful infection fighters that can help prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall.

Studies show that 100% cranberry products may be especially beneficial in preventing UTIs among people prone to recurrent infections.

Just be sure to avoid sweetened cranberry juice varieties, as high sugar content can make things worse.

Pro tip: Opt for natural and sugar-free juice varieties. Not a fan of their tart taste? Use the juice in fresh fruit smoothies or try taking pure cranberry pills.

These potatoes have some sweet benefits, even for your vaginal health. Rich in beta carotene and vitamin A, sweet potatoes help keep your mucous membranes healthy. This includes your vaginal tissues.

Deficiencies in vitamins A, C, D, E, calcium, folate, and beta carotene have been linked to an increased risk of BV, a common vaginal infection. So, eat up!

Sweet potatoes are also high in fiber, which may help stabilize insulin levels in those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This could help reduce PCOS symptoms over time by regulating your blood sugar.

Pro tip: Start your day with one of these delicious and healthy sweet potato toast recipes for energy and an ample dose of vitamin A.

Probiotic-rich food that contains certain Lactobacillus strains can help prevent the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Although this benefit is often associated with gut health, it can also promote overall vaginal health.

Research has shown that probiotics may help reduce symptoms of BV, including changes in vaginal discharge and odor. They may also help prevent recurrent BV infections.

Lactobacillus strains, in particular, can help improve your recovery from BV and reduce overall symptoms.

So, go ahead and enjoy that cup of yogurt or kefir. Just be sure to choose brands that contain live, active cultures.

Pro tip: You might also consider adding a probiotic supplement to your routine. Here are our top picks.

Omega-3 fatty acids can help with circulation and blood flow, which may boost your libido.

Although more research is needed, one 2022 study found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation helped “improve sexual function in pregnant women by preventing increased pregnancy anxiety.”

Omega-3 supplements may also ease painful menstruation, especially when combined with vitamin E supplementation.

Pro tip: Find these essential fatty acids in oily fish (such as salmon), flaxseed, eggs, walnuts, and more.

Antioxidants can help improve overall blood flow and reduce oxidative stress — two key factors in libido and fertility. People who consume more citrus fruit may also be less likely to develop uterine fibroids.

Fruits high in antioxidants include:

Pro tip: Fruit has many other health benefits and can be used to make your favorite smoothies.

Soy contains phytoestrogens — compounds that mimic estrogen in the body — that can promote overall vaginal health, especially in people with reduced estrogen levels.

There are many reasons for decreased estrogen levels in the body, from medications to menopause. But one of the major symptoms of low estrogen is vaginal dryness.

Minimally processed soy products are hydrophilic (which allows your muscles to retain more water) and contain isoflavones (a plant-derived phytoestrogen), which are beneficial for skin.

Soy dietary supplements may also help improve postmenopausal vaginal dryness. It’s important to note that most studies focus on supplements with high levels of isoflavones, which may not be present in all foods.

Pro tip: Opt for minimally processed soy products such as edamame, tofu, tempeh, and miso.

Avocados are rich in healthy fats, vitamin B6, and potassium, all of which can positively affect your overall libido and natural lubrication.

This fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) may even increase IVF success because of its monounsaturated fatty acid content, though more research on the link between avocados and fertility is needed.

Pro tip: Think beyond guacamole! There are 23 ways to eat an avocado. You might also consider cooking with avocado oil.

Dark leafy greens are packed with antioxidants and enhance circulation due to their many nutrients, including dietary nitrates.

Nitrates are vasodilators that widen blood vessels and improve blood flow throughout the body, including the vagina. This increased blood flow may help improve vaginal dryness and increase libido.

These greens are also rich in vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium, which benefit muscle health — including vaginal muscles.

Pro tip: Think green and include more kale, collard greens, spinach, and chard in your diet.

The general rule is to limit foods with added sugars and trans fats, as well as any ultra processed foods. Some foods can make your urine more acidic, leading to a change in smell.

Genetics may play a role in how food affects your overall odor, so the same food may affect people differently.

The following have been associated with changes in scent (and even taste):

If you notice an unwanted smell after eating or drinking certain foods or beverages, you might prefer to limit or avoid them before doing the deed. Eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluids can help keep you smelling fresh.

Remember, all genitals have a smell, and that smell fluctuates based on a variety of factors. What you did or didn’t eat is typically less important than your overall comfort level. If everyone is into it, go for it!

You might consider recipes that incorporate several of these foods. This vegetarian lentil stew, for example, contains half of them: sweet potatoes, leafy greens, probiotic-rich Greek yogurt, and avocado.

Many factors affect vaginal health, including diet, hygiene, and sexual activity. While a strong vaginal odor may be noticeable, it may not be a sign of anything more.

However, if you have an unexpected change in vaginal odor alongside other unusual symptoms, it could be a sign of an infection. Consult with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Tiffany La Forge is a professional chef, recipe developer, and food writer who runs the blog Parsnips and Pastries. Her blog focuses on real food for a balanced life, seasonal recipes, and approachable health advice. When she’s not in the kitchen, Tiffany enjoys yoga, hiking, traveling, organic gardening, and hanging out with her corgi, Cocoa. Visit her at her blog or on Instagram.