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Top 5 Health Benefits of Garlic

Top 5 Health Benefits of Garlic

Garlic is a staple in most kitchens. It is also renowned for its medicinal properties. Registered Nutritionist Kerry Torrens explains why.

What is garlic ?

Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and is a hardy perennial belonging to the family Liliaceae . Other members of this family include onions, leeks, chives and shallots. They are distinguished by their pungent aroma and distinctive flavor.

The bulb is the most commonly used part of the garlic plant and is usually made up of eight to 20 individual teardrop-shaped cloves encased in a white, parchment-like skin.

Nutritional Benefits

A clove (4g) of garlic provides :

  • 4Kcal / 16KJ
  • 0.3g protein
  • 0.0g fat
  • 0.7g carbohydrates
  • 0.2g fiber
  • 25mg potassium

5 health benefits of garlic

1. Contains compounds with medicinal properties

Much of garlic’s therapeutic fame is due to an active compound called allicin.

This sulfur-containing compound gives garlic its pungent odor and distinctive taste.

Fortunately for us cooks, the action of chopping or mashing stimulates the production of allicin.

But it is thought that applying heat may inhibit some of the perceived medicinal properties, making it best to add garlic late in the cooking process.

2. May Reduce Risk of Heart Attacks

Much research has focused on garlic’s potential to reduce the risk of heart disease and help manage cholesterol levels.

Several studies suggest that garlic makes platelets (the cells involved in blood clotting) less likely to clump and accumulate on artery walls; this means that garlic acts as a blood thinner and thus reduces the risk of heart attacks.

Garlic may also lower blood pressure through its ability to widen blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely.

3. May Have Anti-Cancer Properties

The sulfur compounds in garlic have been studied for their ability to inhibit cancer cells and block tumors.

That said, much of the evidence for garlic in relation to colon, prostate, esophageal, and kidney cancer is observational, with only a small number of subjects included in the studies.

As a result, the effect of garlic on cancer remains uncertain and further studies are needed.

4. Has antimicrobial and antifungal properties

Garlic has long been used as an anti-infective against viruses, bacteria and fungi.

It has been called “Russian penicillin” for its antibacterial properties, which are again attributed to the compound allicin.

Certain skin conditions, such as warts and insect bites, may also react to garlic oil or a crushed raw garlic clove.

5. May Promote Bone Health

Animal studies suggest that garlic may minimize bone loss by increasing estrogen levels in female rodents.

A study in postmenopausal women found a similar effect when a daily dose of dry garlic extract (equivalent to 2g of raw garlic) was consumed.

Studies also suggest that consuming garlic may relieve inflammatory symptoms of osteoarthritis.

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