From veggies to pasta, a little bit of garlic goes a long way when it comes to adding flavor to food. But garlic's powers go well beyond seasoning. The allium contains powerful antioxidants and compounds that deliver major health benefits as well as the potent odor that makes your breath pungent.
People who suffer from reflux and indigestion and those taking blood-thinning medications should consult with a doctor before ingesting garlic since it could potentially exacerbate these issues.
1. Garlic Is Linked to Heart Health
If you want to keep your ticker in tip-top shape, start seasoning your meals with garlic. Garlic is associated with reducing blood pressure, which may decrease the incidence of heart disease and strokes, Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It : Taking You from Label to Table, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
What's more, garlic has been linked to decreasing unstable angina and inhibiting the progression of coronary calcification in people taking statins as well as increasing blood vessel elasticity and blood flow — all of which show promising heart-protective benefits — according to a March 2016 report in The Journal of Nutrition.
Read more: Which Is Healthier, Raw or Cooked Garlic?
2. It's Associated With Boosting Your Immunity
With cold and flu season around the corner, you might be scheming of strategies to keep germs at bay. Look no further than your pantry. A natural germ-fighter, garlic can help keep you from catching a cold or reduce the severity of one, says Taub-Dix.
That's right in line with research published in the June 2012 issue of Clinical Nutrition, which found that aged garlic extract is associated with bolstering your immune cell function and, subsequently, slashing the length of a cold.
3. It's Anti-Inflammatory
Thanks to its powerful antioxidants and sulfur compounds, garlic can also help reduce inflammation and protect your cells against aging, oxidative stress and damage, according to Taub-Dix.
Allicin — a bioactive sulfur compound released when garlic is crushed or chopped — has been linked to decreasing inflammation, per the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). That's especially important since chronic inflammation seems to be the underlying cause of major degenerative diseases including heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
4. Garlic Is Tied to Preventing Cancer
Grubbing on garlic may even help you avoid cancer, says Taub-Dix. In fact, garlic is listed as a cancer-fighting food by the AICR.
Garlic's anti-cancer activity appears to come from the flavonoids kaempferol and quercetin as well as inulin, a carbohydrate that's linked to protecting against carcinogens, the AICR states. What's more, garlic has been linked to preventing gastrointestinal tract cancers thanks to their sulfur-containing compounds, according to a March 2015 review published in Cancer Prevention Research.
To get the most benefits, first chop, slice or crush fresh garlic. This helps activate compounds like allicin and make them more potent, according to Taub-Dix.
5. It May Help Your Complexion, Too
Battling acne? In combination with other proven dermatological therapies, garlic might be a useful household remedy to obliterate those pesky pimples. Since garlic has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and antiseptic properties, adding it to your diet may help clear up skin infections and reduce swelling and inflammation, says Taub-Dix.
Just don't apply garlic directly to your skin — doing so may cause irritation like a contact dermatitis, resulting in scaly rashes or blisters. Instead, try mixing crushed garlic cloves with yogurt and patting it onto your skin.
- American Institute For Cancer Research: “AICR's Foods That Fight Cancer: Garlic”
- Cancer Prevention Research: “Garlic and Onions: Their Cancer Prevention Properties”
- Clinical Nutrition: “Supplementation With Aged Garlic Extract Improves Both NK and Γδ-t Cell Function and Reduces the Severity of Cold and Flu Symptoms: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Nutrition Intervention"
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Inflammation: A Unifying Theory of Disease?”
- The Journal of Nutrition: "Garlic and Cardiovascular Disease: A Critical Review"