Coming from an italian family, garlic is a staple in practically every meal. I literally brought a costco container of granulated garlic to my heritage night in fifth grade, thinking that it was wholly representative of my italian roots. I always assumed it had no nutritional value, or that it was even bad for you, considering how good it made everything taste. It wasn’t until a trip to Thailand a few years ago that I began to wonder differently. A friend’s mom had encouraged us to eat cloves of garlic whole in order to boost our immune system and reduce the chances of getting sick from bacteria our bodies were not familiar with. I thought it sounded crazy, but I found myself in thailand asking for the most garlic heavy meals I could order – which were incredibly delicious of course. Lucky for me, I never got sick. So, is there any truth to the matter? What are the health benefits of garlic? Apparently there are many!
It turns out that garlic doesn’t really have any downsides in terms of health benefits. It is low in carbs and calories, and even has small amounts of certain essential vitamins and minerals. Some health and wellness websites even suggest that garlic may support a healthy immune response.
However, how you eat garlic may be important. A few sources suggest that there are sulfuric compounds in garlic when freshly cut or crushed – one source called them allicin. These compounds are less likely to be available in pre-chopped garlic you might buy in a jar, for example. Because a lot of people living busy lives simply do not have the time to cook with freshly chopped garlic, there are supplements from brands like Standard Process that you can turn to. By no means are these perfect substitutes for fresh foods and a healthy lifestyle, but in a pinch they may provide you with some of the health benefits found in fresh garlic.
One large scientific study found that volunteer participants who used allicin garlic supplements had significantly fewer incidences of colds and health issues than their counterparts who were administered placebos. Other similar studies have found that garlic and/or garlic supplements may also help reduce high blood pressure in affected individuals. In addition, garlic is thought to also lower cholesterol levels, which may result in a decreased risk of heart disease. They also contain antioxidants that may help the body fight off an abundance of issues. For reference, garlic supplements are sometimes highly concentrated, including the compounds equivalent to upwards of four garlic cloves per supplement.
As always, I encourage you to do your research to find the cleanest, most regulated and tested ingredients for supplements on the market, and suggest you consult a doctor before resorting to supplements. There are reports that too much allicin can cause damage to your liver, and is also associated with minor discomforts like heartburn, bad breath, and upset stomach.
In summation, I say “why not” incorporate more fresh garlic into your diet. If that is possible for you, it has very few health drawbacks, and is one of the most delicious additives to an assortment of meals.