Good Reasons to Add Garlic to Your Diet
Even if you're not looking to ward off vampires, there are plenty of good reasons to add garlic to your diet. In the same family as onions, shallots, and leeks, garlic is noted for its strong smell and unique flavor. Additional benefits of garlic have been known since the days of ancient Egypt and Greece, although scientific confirmation of some of its attributes came later.
High Nutritional Value, Low-Calorie Count
Garlic is loaded with vitamins and minerals, but not too many calories. It is an excellent source of manganese, vitamins B6 and C, calcium, and fiber. Of course, you'll need to be mindful of the other ingredients you cook with if you want to watch the overall calorie count.
Natural Immunity Booster
Garlic supplements can provide an added boost to your immune system. One study found that approximately 2.5 grams of garlic extract per day can reduce sick days associated with the common cold by more than 50 percent.
Lowers Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
A recent study on garlic and blood pressure found that, for some of the participants of the six-month study, doses of garlic ranging from 600 mg to 1,500 mg were as effective at lowering blood pressure as atenolol (Tenormin), a beta-blocker commonly used to treat high blood pressure. Garlic has also been shown to reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol, although there's no evidence suggesting garlic has any effect on HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.
Better Bone Health
A study of menopausal women found that daily doses of garlic supplements decreased an estrogen-deficiency marker. Studies in mice have also shown a reduction in bone loss in female subjects. There's more conclusive evidence, however, to suggest that certain compounds in garlic may play a role in preventing osteoarthritis.
Improved Cognitive Functioning
Garlic is loaded with antioxidants that help protect cells against damage from free radicals (irregular molecules). Researchers have suggested that antioxidant properties may also play a role in protecting the parts of the brain that deal with cognitive functioning. There may be merit to this claim since garlic can help control blood pressure and cholesterol, factors believed to accelerate cognitive decline if uncontrolled for long periods of time.
Athletic Performance Booster
Garlic has a surprising history as a natural performance booster dating back to ancient Greece. Olympic athletes of the time would be given garlic to reduce fatigue from the demands of competition. While more research is needed to confirm these attributes of garlic for present-day athletes, a six-week study on subjects with heart disease showed a slight improvement in exercise capacity.
Each head of garlic is made up of individual cloves. The sulfur compounds created when these cloves are cut, crushed or eaten play a role in making this particular vegetable good for you. Allicin, the compound responsible for the distinctive smell associated with garlic, is responsible for most of the health benefits.