Garlic is a well-loved herb for its savory, powerful, and pungent taste. It’s grown all around the world and is sometimes referred to as the “stinking rose.” While it’s enjoyed as an ingredient in many cuisines from traditional to modern, you’ve likely heard that it is full of health benefits as well as flavor. Throughout history, many cultures have incorporated garlic in their cooking and have also recognized its health value.
The health benefits found in garlic can be attributed to a compound called allicin, which is one of over 30 sulfur compounds found in garlic. When you cut or crush a fresh piece of garlic, it releases allicin from the precursor compound alliin, which is derived from the amino acid cysteine. Allicin not only gives garlic its pungent flavor, but it also contains 17 amino acids, vitamins like B6 and C, antioxidants like selenium, and minerals like manganese.
Of all the ways garlic can help you live a healthier life, its cardiovascular benefits are some of the most well studied. The allicin found in garlic may be able to keep blood thin and smoothly flowing because it affects the formation of fibrin and platelets, the two major parts of the blood clotting system. According to many major studies, allicin may also help promote healthy blood pressure and healthy levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Multiple human studies have found that high doses of garlic can have an impact on blood pressure. One 2013 study showed that patients who took garlic experienced a significant decrease in diastolic and systolic blood pressure.
Studies also show that garlic may provide benefits for blood cholesterol levels. A 2014 meta-analysis of 22 studies found that garlic powder supplements reduced cardiovascular risk factors like total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood pressure.
Raw garlic has higher amounts of active compounds than cooked garlic, so eating it raw will provide the most benefits. But realistically, it's much easier to incorporate garlic into your diet when you cook it with your favorite meals. Fortunately, cooked garlic still has plenty of health properties, and the antioxidant value of garlic isn’t diminished with cooking like it is with other herbs.
While garlic is as popular today as it has ever been for flavoring food, you can get many of the same health benefits from garlic supplements. Not everyone enjoys the strong flavor of garlic, and it can be challenging to add it to food daily. Taking garlic in a supplemental form is an effective alternative to cooking with it and could provide even more allicin than raw garlic. A 2018 study found that the bioavailability of allicin was higher than that from crushed raw garlic.
If you are already a fan of garlic, consuming it with food rather than on an empty stomach will help you avoid any gastrointestinal issues and have a less intense effect on your breath. Have fun incorporating this great tasting and cost-effective herb into your diet, or try garlic supplements to reap the benefits from one of the healthiest foods on the planet.