- Garlic is loaded with nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, and manganese, and sulfur-based compounds that give it its distinct flavor. Yet, consuming it in normal dietary amounts likely won’t have the same impact as taking high supplemental doses.
- Research indicates garlic has anti-inflammatory properties and may aid in reducing cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. However, its effectiveness against conditions like cancer or the common cold is not well-established.
- While not a cure-all, garlic plays a significant role in healthy dietary patterns, particularly in heart-healthy diets like the Mediterranean diet.
- Garlic can interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners. Therefore, it is advised that people taking these medications should avoid garlic before surgeries or dental treatments.
- Despite the concern of ‘garlic breath,’ there are effective ways to counter it, including chewing raw mint, lettuce, or apple.
Garlic carries with it a legacy of being a panacea for various ailments – from the omnipresent flu to cardiovascular diseases, and even warding off supernatural beings like vampires and werewolves.
However, is it accurate to credit garlic with such broad health benefits? “That might be a stretch,” opines Kristina Petersen, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Texas Tech University.
Despite not being a magical cure-all, garlic is far from harmful. Apart from providing an aromatic allure to dishes, it is also a staple ingredient in heart-healthy diets like the Mediterranean diet.
Understanding The Nature Of Garlic
While some categorize it as a vegetable due to its edibility, others term it as an herb, defined by its use in medicine, seasoning, or flavoring. Garlic also falls under the spice category, being a dried product of a plant that enhances food flavor.
A single clove of garlic packs 4 calories and, for its size, relatively high amounts of nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B6, and manganese. It also is laden with sulfur-based compounds that provide garlic its distinct flavor and have been exhaustively studied for potential benefits. One such compound, allicin, is produced when garlic is cut or crushed.
Research findings indicate that garlic has anti-inflammatory properties and aids in reducing cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. But this is not without a caveat.
Such results are typically seen when high supplemental doses of garlic powder are consumed,” explains Petersen, pointing out that using a couple of cloves in a recipe won’t yield the same impact as a supplement.
Garlic supplements should not be taken lightly, she advised, adding, “I wouldn’t recommend somebody take a garlic supplement unless in consultation with a physician.”
Garlic and Cancer: What Does The Research Say?
Studies into garlic’s potential to combat cancer have yielded inconclusive results. A 2014 review of multiple studies also found that the evidence supporting its effectiveness against the common cold was of low quality.
Garlic can, however, interact with certain medications, including blood thinners. Individuals under such medication are advised to steer clear of garlic a week before surgical procedures or dental treatments.
The Real Health Benefit Of Garlic?
Incorporating garlic into daily meals could still be beneficial, according to Petersen. “If vegetables and other healthy foods are tasty, it might lead people to eat more of them. That’s probably the real health benefit here,” she explained.
‘Garlic breath,’ arising from its sulfur-based compounds, can be problematic for some, but there are ways to counter it. Ohio State University researchers found that chewing raw mint, lettuce, or apple was the most effective.
Garlic’s Place in a Healthy Diet
If you’re focusing more on meal planning rather than on ancient folklore, Petersen encourages adding garlic to your food. “I think it’s a versatile food, and it definitely has a place in healthy dietary patterns. And while it may not have significant health benefits per se, it has a place as part of a healthy mixed diet.” she said.
Credit: [American Heart Association, Inc.](https://www.heart.org/en/news). All rights reserved.
By Michael Merschel