The Nutritional and Health Benefits of Integrating Garlic into Your Diet

Garlic (Allium sativum) is an herb grown around the world. It is a member of the allium family which includes scallions, chives, onion, and leek. Garlic has been used as a condiment and also as medicine in both ancient and modern times. Raw garlic comes in a bulb similar to onions, but each bulb contains cloves that are peeled to reveal their white soft edible part.

This herb-like vegetable is packed with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that offer various health benefits. Some of these benefits have been known for centuries. This is why it was prescribed by ancient Greek physician Hippocrates to treat various illnesses. Modern medicine has done a fair amount of research on garlic and has continued to discover its healing properties. In this article, we look at the nutritional gains and potential health benefits of garlic as proven by modern science.

Health and Nutritional Benefits of Garlic

Allicin is the major bioactive compound present in garlic extract. It is also what gives the herb its distinct smell and taste. When a fresh clove of garlic is crushed or chopped, an enzyme called alliinase is activated. This enzyme converts alliin into allicin. Allicin has antiseptic and antibacterial properties which may help prevent conditions ranging from cancer to the common cold. 

Other compounds responsible for garlic’s health benefits are diallyl disulfide and s-allyl cysteine. When these compounds are ingested, they travel all over the body and release their biological effects. Asides from sulfur compounds, there are other nutrients present in garlic.

3 grams of garlic which is equivalent to one clove contains:

  • 4.5 grams of calories
  • 0.2 grams of protein
  • 1 gram of carbs
  • 0.06 grams of Fiber
  • Vitamin C: 1% of the DV (Daily Value)
  • Selenium: 1% of the DV
  • Manganese: 2% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 2% of the DV

Garlic also has decent amounts of potassium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, Vitamin B1, and copper. Here are some of the ways garlic may support your health when integrated into your plant-based diet.

Serves as a Powerful Antibiotic

Numerous studies confirm that garlic possesses definite antibiotic properties. These antimicrobial components make the herb useful in combating various diseases. Allicin is the most researched antibiotic component in garlic. It is active against all types of pathogens and can also deactivate viruses like herpes, influenza B, and rhinovirus amongst others.

One of the most common causes of intestinal infections in humans is the Campylobacter bacterium. A recent study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy found that Diallyl sulfide, a compound found in garlic oil was 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics used in fighting Campylobacter bacterium. 

Help Get Rid of Heavy Metals in the Body

Heavy metals find their way into our body system every day. While the body needs small amounts of heavy metals to function normally, they can be toxic in large amounts. Detox diets are often recommended regularly to help prevent toxicity. The sulfur compounds present in garlic have been found to prevent organ damage caused by toxic heavy metals such as lead. By assisting the liver to produce detoxification enzymes, garlic helps the body filter toxins from the digestive system.

May Help Treat Heart Diseases

Hydrogen sulfide gas is known for its positive effects on the heart and its potential to protect the heart from common cardiovascular diseases. However, this organic compound is too volatile to be delivered as therapy. Garlic oil contains two major components, diallyl disulfide (DADS) and diallyl trisulfide (DATS). Diallyl trisulfide can produce hydrogen sulfide and it is much safer to use as a treatment for heart conditions.

Recent research found that garlic-derived Diallyl trisulfide helps protect the heart after a heart attack and during cardiac surgery. The same research also suggests diallyl trisulfide could be effective in treating heart failure. Although the efficacy of Diallyl trisulfide is impossible to achieve just by eating garlic, the phytochemical still has the potential to be used as a herbal-based supplement in treating cardiovascular conditions.

May Help Manage Body Weight

Garlic contains a few properties that can aid weight loss. It aids metabolism and helps boost energy levels which can aid calorie burning. Garlic also contains compounds known to stimulate body fat-burning process. Another way garlic supports weight loss is by lowering bad cholesterol levels and increasing good cholesterol levels. The herb is also known to regulate appetite which can help reduce the intake of calories.

May Help Regulate Blood Pressure

Studies have shown that garlic may help keep blood vessels healthy, thus preventing high blood pressure. Garlic was found to be as effective as standard blood-pressure-lowering medications and very helpful in preventing atherosclerosis. Allicin has been found to obstruct the production of angiotensin II, a compound that causes blood vessels to contract thereby increasing blood pressure. 

Allicin also aids the production of hydrogen sulfide and nitric oxide, two compounds that play key roles in regulating blood pressure levels. Garlic’s potential as a natural remedy for high blood pressure is very promising. This is because, unlike other blood-pressure-lowering drugs, garlic is safe and does not have unpleasant side effects.

Bottom Line

Garlic is one of the most accessible healthy food you can include in your diet. Apart from the intense flavor, it adds to dishes, it delivers a host of antioxidants that may help tighten the blood vessels, reduce inflammation, fight harmful microbes, and detoxify the body. Garlic health benefits also include getting rid of bad cholesterol in the blood. All these gains are what make it a valuable addition to your daily diet.

Although one of the best ways to enjoy garlic is to use it in cooking, however, a recent study warned that short-term heating affectS the potency of its anti-inflammatory properties. One of the best ways to reap the full benefits of garlic is by crushing it using a garlic press and mixing it with virgin oil and salt to make a salad dressing. It is also safe to eat it raw as long as you are not allergic to it.