If you remember only one thing from this article, make it this: Garlic breath is beneficial. Seriously, if you’ve eaten your fair share of garlic today, you’ve done your health a favor. But what exactly is garlic, and why is it so beneficial to your health?
Garlic belongs to the allium family. Allium is a plant class that includes onions, scallions, leeks, and shallots. It contains phytochemicals like allicin and organosulfur compounds. These phytochemicals (or plant compounds) are responsible for the plant’s cardiovascular, immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and nutritional properties.
Do not underestimate the power of adding garlic to your favorite foods, which can contain a wide range of nutrients and chemicals that may interact synergistically in beneficial ways. Incorporating garlic into food preparations on a regular basis can provide long-term benefits.
It is advisable to use garlic in hummus, pesto, pasta, sauces, soups, stir-fries, and roasted vegetables. After all, it’s loaded with health benefits, seven of which are listed below.
1. Garlic May Aid in Blood Pressure Reduction
A couple of cloves a day may help you avoid a trip to the cardiologist. Garlic stimulates nitric oxide synthesis, which dilates blood vessels and inhibits ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) activity. ACE inhibitors aid in the relaxation of blood vessels.) This may help to maintain healthy blood flow and pressure.
2. Garlic Has the Potential to Reduce Inflammation
According to Harvard Health Publishing, scientists believe that chronic inflammation is a root cause of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis. Garlic, on the other hand, aids in the inhibition of the activity of certain inflammatory proteins.
3. Garlic May Aid in Cholesterol Reduction
Another potential benefit of garlic for the heart is that it lowers cholesterol levels. How? It may help decrease the production of cholesterol by the liver.
While more research is needed to determine the relationship between garlic consumption and cholesterol levels, a meta-analysis and review of studies published in Medicine in May 2018 concluded that taking garlic supplements was effective in lowering both total cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol levels, both of which are risk factors for heart disease.
4. Garlic May Help with Immune Function
Given our collective eagerness to learn about immune system care during the COVID-19 pandemic, here’s one reason to include garlic in your dinner tonight. While there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that garlic can prevent or treat the common cold, it can help your body’s defense mechanisms in a few ways.
The allicin in garlic has antibacterial properties. Garlic is also thought to have antiviral properties, which may work in two ways, according to scientists: blocking virus entry into cells and strengthening the immune response so that it can effectively fight off potential invaders.
5. Garlic May Help to Reduce Blood Clotting.
Compounds in garlic (and onions) have been shown to decrease the ‘stickiness’ of our platelets and have anti-clotting properties. These things may help protect against atherosclerosis, a process in which plaque buildup causes artery hardening and narrowing. According to the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute, atherosclerosis increases your risk of blood clots, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Of course, eating garlic should not be your only preventive measure to keep your arteries healthy. Following a heart-healthy eating plan, getting plenty of exercise, managing your weight, and avoiding or quitting smoking are all recommended by the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute.
6. Garlic is High in Antioxidants
Garlic’s nutrients and plant compounds provide it with “strong antioxidant properties,” according to a review published in Antioxidants in July 2020. Antioxidants not only benefit blood vessels and reduce inflammation, but they may also absorb the harmful free radicals that can lead to diseases like cancer (though this anti-cancer potential needs to be confirmed in human research, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research).
7. Garlic Enhances the Flavor of Other Healthy Foods
Garlic, like onions, herbs, and spices, is classified as a food. Garlic adds great flavor to foods, so it helps us eat more of the foods that we should be eating more of, like vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and beans.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, adding flavor through garlic can also potentially help you reduce the need for excess salt on your foods — and for only 4 calories per clove.
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of taste in your overall diet: When we love the food we eat and learn to listen to our cues for satiety, it can also be more satisfying. Even more reason to include garlic in your next meal!