From its days as a supposed vampire repellant to modern times, garlic has been rumored to have countless health benefits. Plus, we can’t forget about how it adds sharp flavors to cuisines from around the world, which is a benefit in itself. Some of the health benefits of garlic have been scientifically proven; some appear to simply be old wife’s tales, and some are still being investigated by researchers. Below, we explore some of the potential health benefits of adding more garlic into your daily diet.
Health Benefit #1: Garlic Contains a Wide Range of Different Minerals
A clove of garlic is chock full of many beneficial nutrients, including Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and selenium, which can be challenging to source from other foods. Plus, there is another health benefit of garlic for people who are concerned about their waistline. It just so happens that garlic is extremely low-calorie. Therefore, you get a lot of healthy bang without having to pay a high caloric buck. One clove of garlic is less than 5 calories.
Health Benefit #2: Garlic may Boost the Immune System
Several studies have indicated, in a relatively convincing way, that one of the health benefits of garlic is boosting immune system functioning. This can help people fight off everyday bacteria and viruses, such as the common cold. However, it can also be critical in the fight against more serious illnesses, such as cancer.
One interesting and well-designed study found that there was a more than 60 percent reduction in people suffering from cold symptoms for those taking garlic. And, making the numbers even more exciting, people who take garlic are likely to have shorter symptomatic periods if they do unfortunately get sick. This can improve an individual patient’s quality of life and it can also protect the economy, stopping domino effect shut-downs in schools and workplaces.
More research still needs to be conducted to firmly establish the link between garlic consumption and improved immune system performance.
Health Benefit #3: Garlic may Help Improve Heart Health
Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States. In 2020, heart disease accounted for between 1/4 and 1/5 of all U.S. deaths. And, even for people that it does not kill, it can negatively impact their quality of life.
The health benefits of garlic in combatting heart disease happen in two primary ways. Its primary impact is likely via reducing blood pressure levels. One interesting study determined that garlic is as effective as common blood pressure medications in combating hypertension, without many of the side effects commonly associated with these drugs. The downside of using garlic to control blood pressure is that it requires a large supply of garlic to be effective. In fact, it’s often more than any person would want to consume day after day.
There is another way in which garlic can potentially improve heart health. Garlic could possibly lead to a reduction in a person’s cholesterol level, especially their LDL (low-density lipoprotein). Reliable research shows that high LDL levels are linked to the build-up of deposits in the arteries. Thus, cutting LDL levels could potentially reduce the risk of having a heart attack or another negative outcome.
Health Benefit #4: Garlic may Enhance Endurance and Athletic Performance
From amateur athletes to their professional counterparts, many people are looking for a shortcut or a way to boost their athletic performance. But, many of these short-cuts, such as steroids, are either illegal or have been banned for use in competition.
Interestingly, however, another health benefit of garlic is that it has been shown to increase athletic performance. This is because there has been a long track record of using garlic as a performance-enhancing supplement, dating back to the ancient Olympics. In addition, some more recent studies have also supported this link between garlic and performance, noting that garlic usage improves exercise tolerance measured across numerous parameters. But, as with much of the science surrounding garlic, more research needs to be conducted.
Health Benefit #5: Garlic may Help Address Bone Health
Millions of Americans, particularly menopausal and post-menopausal women, struggle with osteoporosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 1 in 5 women over the age of 50 are impacted by osteoporosis, while a smaller percentage of men in the same group also are diagnosed with osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis leaves impacted people more susceptible to fractures, including broken hips that can have devastating and even fatal consequences for older adults. A wide range of osteoporosis drugs exists on the market. But, many of them have strong side effects. Because of this, people are looking for alternative ways to boost bone health.
One possible approach is by adding more garlic into your diet. So is bone health a health benefit of garlic? This happens because garlic can help reduce estrogen deficiency, and estrogen deficiency is believed to be the primary driver behind bone weakness. Although human studies are somewhat limited in this area, extensive animal studies demonstrate this link.
Health Benefit #6: Garlic may Extend your Life Expectancy
There is a general sense that garlic can extend your life expectancy; however, it is difficult to quantify this benefit. For example, does taking garlic regularly extend your average lifespan by two years? Five years? Or even more? More research needs to be done on this specific issue. But, if the health benefits of garlic include cardiovascular health, as well as boosting the immune system, then one should not be surprised about the longevity boost.
Health Benefit #7: Garlic is a Powerful Antioxidant
Antioxidants, such as garlic, can have profoundly positive impacts on different body systems. Antioxidants attack free radicals in the body and then help remove these free radicals, which have been linked to a wide variety of health problems, including cancers. Preliminary research has begun to emerge suggesting that garlic could dramatically reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This is due in part to garlic’s antioxidative properties. But, it is also due, at least in part, to its role in reducing cardiovascular risks that have a demonstrated co-morbidity with various forms of dementia.
Health Benefit #8: Garlic Helps the Body Detoxify
Detoxification is one of the health benefits of garlic that has not received as much public attention or research focus as some of the other benefits that were highlighted above. This is due in part to the fact that the vast majority of Americans are not directly impacted by heavy metal poisoning. But, some Americans may be. For example, lead poisoning remains a real risk for young children, particularly those living in older housing or poor-quality housing stock.
If garlic does, in fact, help remove some of these metals from the body, then these children could potentially benefit from having garlic added to their diet. One promising study illustrated that workers in a car battery factory experienced lower blood lead levels once they started taking garlic supplements. These same workers also experienced fewer symptoms associated with lead toxicity.
Boosting Garlic in Your Diet
Given the myriad of health benefits of garlic and the fact that science continues to evolve on this topic, it makes sense for most people to look for ways to get more garlic into their diet. In addition, the good news is that this is relatively easy to do and is also affordable for most people.
One of the easiest ways to add garlic into your diet is by putting it into tomato sauce. Garlic happens to be a staple ingredient in many Mediterranean dishes. In addition, it can also help punch up some otherwise bland soup recipes. Most people like the taste of garlic, but some people are dissuaded from eating more of it because it can contribute to bad breath. Just make sure to brush after a particularly garlic-heavy meal to get the taste out of your mouth.
Lastly, one additional caveat should be added about upping your garlic intake. For most people, consuming more garlic is no risk or low risk. But, garlic can negatively impact your blood clotting ability. Therefore, if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking various blood thinners, you should definitely talk with your medical provider before dramatically changing your garlic consumption.
The Benefits of Garlic Uncovered
Everyone is looking for ways to boost the quality of their life and ways to live longer. One relatively low-risk and cost-effective way to do this is by adding more garlic into your diet. This could generate a wide range of benefits, including boosting your immune system and helping you fight illnesses.
Who could say no to a food item that has the potential to tackle illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious infectious diseases? We can’t ignore its ability to potentially improve cardiovascular health, cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, and help bone health. You’ll probably hear more about garlic in the future because as more research is conducted in this area, more benefits will likely also emerge.
Would you like to learn more about the health benefits of garlic and other nutrition or lifestyle changes you can make to reach your optimal health? You can schedule an appointment with our Integrated Nutrition team from anywhere in the world, even Transylvania. Just give us a call or, you can start by filling out the form below.