In our house, we use garlic in so many dishes: sauces, stir-fry, soup, pasta… it’s really a go-to for full flavor. But this flavorful vegetable does far more than just make things taste great. There are a ton of surprising benefits of garlic.
In fact, throughout ancient history, the main use of garlic was for its health and medicinal properties. Its use was well documented by many major civilizations, including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese.
Health Benefits of Garlic
Why should you be adding garlic to your everyday dishes? Here are some of the benefits of garlic for your health:
There is a ton of research on how eating garlic can help fight different types of cancer. Here are 2 very important studies:
- Lung cancer: In a study done at the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China, researchers discovered that people who ate raw garlic at least twice a week during the 7 year study period had a 44% lower risk of developing lung cancer.
- Brain cancer: A study from the Medical University of South Carolina found that three organo-sulfur compounds from garlic – DAS, DADS, and DATS – “demonstrated efficacy in eradicating brain cancer cells, but DATS proved to be the most effective.”
2. Boost Immunity & Combat Sickness
Want to boost your immune system and keep the common cold at bay? Garlic could be the answer! Researchers did a 12-week study with a daily garlic supplement and found that it reduced the number of colds by 63% and reduced the duration of cold symptoms by 70%.
Another study found similar results, noting that a high dose of garlic extract reduced the number of days sick with cold or flu by 61%.
3. Support Heart Health
We love garlic for the heart health benefits, specifically it’s proven ability to lower blood pressure.
Research shows that high doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure for those with known high blood pressure (hypertension). In fact, it works so well that it is suggested that garlic supplements may be as effective as regular medications.
Additionally, studies show that it can also reduce total and/or LDL cholesterol by up to 15% in those with high cholesterol.
4. Fight Free Radicals
Garlic contains potent antioxidants which help combat the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are are unstable atoms that can damage cells, and they’re linked to aging and many different diseases, including cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and many others.
Antioxidants keep those free radicals in check, preventing them from running wild and causing all kinds of damage to the body.
Our bodies create some antioxidants on their own, but not enough, so you want to be sure you’re adding more through your diet.
5. Boost Brain Health
Those antioxidants we mentioned? Yes, they’re great for protecting the brain!
Damage from free radicals contributes to aging, but the antioxidants in garlic show promise in protecting against brain damage and keeping your brain functioning better as you get older. It works by increasing your brain’s blood flow thanks to garlic’s ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. And, as we mentioned above, protection against brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Fresh or Powder?
Does it matter if you use garlic powder rather than fresh garlic? After all, it is often more convenient.
Science tells us that most of the health benefits of garlic come from its sulfur compounds, which are formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed, or chewed. These sulfur compounds enter the body from the digestive tract and travel all over the body, where it exerts its potent biological effects.
Perhaps the most famous of these compounds is known as allicin. However, allicin is an unstable compound that is only briefly present in fresh garlic after it’s been cut or crushed.
So, like all dried and processed foods, garlic powder is less nutritious than fresh cloves. When you can, use fresh. That said, there are still benefits to powdered garlic, so don’t discount it if it’s all you’ve got!