Health Benefits of Garlic According to a Nutritionist

October 6, 2020

Garlic is probably one of the most satisfying aromas and flavors in global cuisine. But it can also boast some pretty impressive health benefits as well. Here are seven reasons to incorporate more of this mouth-watering vegetable into your daily diet, and a few tips for dealing with garlic that deserve its breath.

Garlic provides immune support
Garlic is added to some “immunization shots” for a reason. Historically, garlic has been used to ward off disease, fight infection, and heal wounds. In fact, studies have credibly demonstrated garlic’s ability to boost immunity. In one study, 146 volunteers were scheduled to receive a placebo or garlic supplement daily throughout the winter months for 12 weeks. The garlic group suffered significantly fewer colds than the placebo group and recovered more quickly if they did get infected.

Newer studies have confirmed that aged garlic extracts may enhance immune cell function. In the study, healthy adults between the ages of 21 and 50 received either a placebo or aged garlic extract for 90 days. While there was no difference in the number of illnesses between the groups, those who received garlic had lower cold severity, fewer symptoms, and missed fewer days of work or school.

It can promote heart health
In a recent review of previously published research, scientists summarized the many ways that garlic protects heart health. These include lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as reducing blood markers of arterial stiffness and inflammation. Other studies have shown that aged garlic extract can help slow the progression of coronary artery calcification, a risk factor for cardiac events, including heart attacks and strokes, compared to a placebo. For people with high cholesterol, garlic has been shown to lower total cholesterol and “bad” LDL, while slightly improving protective “good” HDL. The 8% reduction in total cholesterol seen in the study was associated with a 38% reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease events by age 50, the researchers said.

Garlic may fight high blood pressure
Worldwide, about 25% of adults have high blood pressure, and this condition is associated with 7 million deaths each year. In a meta-analysis, garlic supplements were found to be more effective in suppressing blood pressure compared to placebo, especially in people diagnosed with hypertension. Another study found that garlic supplements had the potential to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension, while lowering cholesterol and stimulating the immune system.

It prevents cancer.
Garlic and other vegetables in the garlic family, including onions and leeks, have been linked to a reduced risk of several cancers, including stomach, throat, prostate and colon cancer. The natural compounds in garlic are believed to help selectively kill cancer cells and prevent the growth and spread of cancer.

Garlic supports brain health
In addition to supporting learning and memory, aged garlic extract may also help prevent cognitive decline by protecting brain neurons. This vegetable also helps combat known brain changes that are a precursor to neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

It’s good for your gut.
Garlic functions as a probiotic, a food for beneficial bacteria in the gut, and is associated with immunity and positive mood. Studies have also shown that aged garlic extracts positively improve the diversity of microbes in the gut, including increasing the number of beneficial and immune-stimulating bacteria.

It Can Improve Bone Health
High consumption of garlic vegetables, including garlic, has been linked to the prevention of hip arthritis, the most common disabling joint disease affecting the elderly. Scientists believe that the plant’s natural compounds help defend against the breakdown of joint cartilage and bone.

Best ways to consume garlic

While many of the studies mentioned above involve garlic supplements, I do not recommend taking them without the supervision of a doctor or nutritionist. In supplement form, garlic may interact with medications or other supplements, or may cause unwanted side effects that may include indigestion, dizziness, insomnia, and increased risk of bleeding.

Instead, reach for the whole garlic. To maximize its effects, crush fresh garlic and let it sit at room temperature. Studies have shown that this step releases an enzyme that raises the levels of garlic’s health-promoting compounds, reaching a peak about 10 minutes after crushing. After this resting time, add the garlic to homemade extra-virgin olive oil vinaigrette dressing, sautéed vegetables and other greens, sir-frys, soups, stews and savory nut sauces.

Get rid of the garlic smell.
As far as garlic breath is concerned, the best thing to do is to chew on fresh herbs, such as mint or parsley, after eating garlic-rich foods. Eating apples or lettuce can also help neutralize the sulfur compounds that give garlic its distinctive odor.

Or try black garlic. Free of additives and preservatives, black garlic is made from whole garlic that undergoes a special fermentation process at high temperatures for a month. This process causes the garlic to develop a dark, soft texture and sweet flavor. It has twice as many antioxidants as raw garlic, plus, it won’t give you the garlic flavor that unfermented garlic does.