Garlic is one of the oldest crops in the world, and in addition to its myth of keeping vampires away, it has proven health benefits. According to Journal of NutritionOlympic athletes in ancient Greece used garlic as one of the first ingredients to help people achieve success. There is also evidence that garlic has been used medicinally throughout history to treat various ailments, which is why it has been given many popular names ranging from “Russian penicillin” to “natural medicine” to “vegetable Viagra,” among others. Today, garlic is ubiquitous, and the studies on its health benefits are endless.
Is garlic good for you?
Yes! Although many studies have shown anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits of garlic, There is also promising research that garlic can help prevent and control certain types of cancer. In addition, the health benefits of garlic can be increased to improve maintain good gut health, help you live longer, prevent osteoporosis, and improve heart health. Below are eight science-backed ways garlic can benefit your health.
1. They may contain antivirus software
Garlic has been associated with immune system and anti-microbial benefits. Most of the health benefits of garlic found in garlic come from the sulfur compound allicin that is released when garlic is chopped, crushed or chewed. Recent studies have shown that garlic can boost the immune system to fight viral infections.
2. Can lower blood pressure and cholesterol
A recent study found that garlic has been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol in patients with and without hypertension. Some studies have shown that garlic can lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides, but more research shows that aged garlic can lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. In addition, it may be effective in controlling arterial stiffness and inflammation.
3. Can promote gut health
Garlic contains the fiber inulin, a prebiotic, which is known to increase the good bacteria in the gut. A recent study in mice showed that when given an oral supplement made from dried garlic, it reduced the negative effects that a high-fat diet can have on cholesterol levels and the gut microbiome.
4. May have anti-cancer properties
According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women. A recent study involving 833 people in China found that eating vegetables containing allium (such as garlic, leeks and onions) was associated with a lower risk of skin cancer.
“Reports from the American Institute for Cancer Research show that regular consumption of garlic reduces the risk of certain cancers such as skin cancer by helping to repair DNA, reducing the growth of cancer cells and reducing inflammation,” says Stefano Sassos., MS, RDN, CSO, CDN, Deputy Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab.
5. It can help you live longer
A recent study that looked at more than 27,000 people in China, found that regular consumption of garlic was associated with a lower risk of death. The study found statistics that showed that eating garlic can extend life by half a year.
6. May have anti-inflammatory properties
Another study that looked at women with rheumatoid arthritis found pain, tenderness and fatigue significantly decreased, compared to a control group, when they took a supplement containing 1000 mg of garlic. Additionally, the Arthritis Foundation recommends eating garlic because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.
7. It can help improve bone health
A study in Iran on garlic extract looked at women with osteoporosis. The results of this study show that orally administered calories can increase calcium absorption which can lead to stronger bones.
8. They can improve knowledge
Although studies in humans are limited, animal studies have recently shown that eating garlic aged garlic can significantly help prevent the decline in learning and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
How to include more garlic in your diet
Allicin, the active molecule in garlic, has many health benefits and antibacterial properties and is released by cutting or crushing garlic. Research has shown that this active ingredient can be destroyed by heat, so eating raw garlic is the best way to get all the benefits.
“After you cut or crush the garlic, let it sit for about 10 minutes before adding food or cooking. So I’m giving time to the enzyme alliinase to grow properly and make active allicin,” says Sassos.
For the best storage tips, store whole garlic at room temperature and store peeled garlic in the refrigerator. If you have a lot of garlic on hand, it can be stored in the refrigerator.
Effects of garlic
In addition to causing bad breath, garlic can cause gas and bloating in some people, especially those with IBS. Garlic is considered a high FODMAP food, so if you have IBS or are following a low FODMAP diet, you may want to be careful or avoid it altogether.
If you are currently taking blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), you should consult your doctor before increasing your intake of garlic, as garlic may interfere with other blood thinners.
If you find that you are allergic to garlic, there are other ways to incorporate it into your diet. Try cooking with a whole clove of garlic and remove it before eating your dish or use garlic oil.
A very important point
Garlic not only adds flavor to your food, but evidence shows that it has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used as an anti-inflammatory that is readily available with few, if any, side effects. There are also suggestions that it may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, and evidence that it may be effective in combating cognitive decline, among other benefits.
Although there is no daily limit for how much to eat, it is “recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration. A good rule of thumb is to eat slowly. If you are considering taking garlic as an oral supplement, we recommend consulting your healthcare provider first.
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Amy Fischer, MS, RD, CDN, holds a BA in journalism from Miami University of Ohio and an MS in clinical nutrition from New York University. Before working at Good Housekeeping, she worked at one of New York City’s largest teaching hospitals as a cardiologist. He has authored numerous articles in medical textbooks and has worked in finance and marketing for the food industry. He has worked as a recipe developer for several food companies, and has extensive marketing experience in the food business.
As Deputy Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, Stephen Sassos, MS, RDN, CSO, CDN, oversees all aspects of nutrition. He has knowledge of the latest research to provide evidence-based reports on all aspects of nutrition and nutrition, and has worked as a nutritionist in a number of settings including the medical, private and other sectors for the past six years. Stefani holds advanced certifications in nutritional oncology and has extensively studied the relationship between nutrition and foods such as garlic and cancer prevention.
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