5 Health Benefits of Garlic That Don't Involve Vampires

5 Health Benefits of Garlic That Don't Involve Vampires

Garlic proves that good things come in small packages. Not only does garlic add significant flavor to your meals (one of the best healthy cooking tips), but it also boasts plenty of health benefits. And these garlic benefits don’t even include the well-documented repulsion of vampires!

Garlic is an edible bulb from the lily family (a relative of onions, leeks, shallots, etc.). There are almost as many garlic benefits as there are ways to prepare it. For more than 5,000 years, garlic has been believed to help everything from wounds to the respiratory system. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians used garlic for cooking and health, and it still does double duty in cultures all around the world.

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What Are the Benefits of Garlic?

Garlic is an incredibly healthy food, but science doesn’t back up every claim about it.

“There are many claimed benefits of garlic,” says Natalie Allen, MS, RD, an instructor of biomedical sciences at Missouri State University. “Some of these benefits have been researched; others have not.”

Allen adds that many health professionals agree that garlic can have a positive effect on cardiovascular and overall health.

Here’s a look at some garlic benefits that have been studied so far.

1. Nutrient-dense

Garlic is low in calories but packed with nutrition. It really is a healthy food!

Each clove provides:

  • 4.5 calories
  • Trace amounts of protein and fat
  • Less than 1 gram of carbohydrates
  • 1% each of your daily value of vitamin C and selenium
  • 2% each of your daily value of vitamin B6 and manganese
  • Smaller amounts of essential nutrients like calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, and potassium

So add garlic to your recipes and stick to the store perimeter to include more healthy foods to your shopping list.

2. Medicinal properties

Beyond those nutrients, garlic contains sulfur compounds. It has been used worldwide for its potential health benefits.

Allicin
Garlic’s best-known compound is allicin, which gives garlic its distinctive smell, says Allen. Allicin is found only in crushed or cut raw garlic, and its properties become less potent over time. For this reason, it’s best to consume garlic just after cutting, before cooking.

Garlic’s other sulfur compounds may contribute to its health benefits.

Antioxidant-like compounds
Garlic is full of antioxidant-like compounds, which are believed to have the potential to offset the impact of free radicals.

Supplementing with garlic may reduce oxidative damage. Aged garlic (including black garlic) is believed to have higher antioxidant-like compounds than raw or cooked garlic.

3. Athletic performance

While you likely don’t crave garlic before a hard workout or competition, the original Olympic athletes took it in an effort to enhance their performance.

Unfortunately, modern-day athletes haven’t always had the same results.

Though garlic may show potential promise for aiding exercise-induced fatigue, a 2013 study showed “no significant differences” in performance after consuming garlic.

Research continues to study many of the potential beliefs of ancient cultures regarding garlic, defining mechanisms of action, and exploring garlic’s potential for disease prevention and treatment.

 

Is Eating Raw Garlic Good for You?

woman biting into garlic clove | garlic benefits

To reap the garlic benefits mentioned above, you should know that both raw and cooked garlic are good for you.

However, heat does deactivate some of the phytonutrients in garlic.

Eating a raw clove or two is considered safe for most adults, but take it with other food to avoid the dreaded garlic burps or any other GI distress! It’s also recommended to cease high garlic consumption before surgery.

If you eat raw garlic for your health, cut or crush it about 15 minutes before eating it. It is believed that this allows time for the enzymes in the garlic to react, potentially boosting its active compounds.

 

Black Garlic vs. Regular Garlic

Black garlic is a type of fermented, aged garlic that’s commonly eaten in Asian countries such as China and Korea.

The aging process softens the cloves and turns them black.

“It may not look all that appetizing, but (some research suggests) it is higher in antioxidants than fresh garlic,” says Allen.

Stepfanie Romine

About

Stepfanie Romine is a yoga teacher (RYT 500), ACE-certified health coach and fitness nutrition specialist who writes about natural health, plant-based cooking and yoga. A runner and hiker based in Asheville, N.C., her books include The No Meat Athlete Cookbook and Cooking with Healing Mushrooms. Follow her on Twitter.

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