Garlic is a staple ingredient in foods across many cultures. While it does a great job enhancing every dish, its benefits go beyond just fragrance and flavor.
Since it’s concentrated with protective plant compounds, garlic offers many health benefits. These include supporting liver health and reducing the risk of heart attacks.
Here’s all you need to know about the nutrition and health benefits of garlic.
Nutritional Facts of Garlic
Garlic has a high concentration of protective plant compounds. However, since it’s eaten in small amounts, it doesn’t offer a significant amount of minerals, vitamins, and fibers.
Here are the nutritional facts of three cloves of garlic according to the USDA.
- Calories: 13.4 kcal
- Protein: Less than 1 gram
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Carbohydrate: 2.98 grams
- Fiber: Less than 1 gram
Garlic also contains traces of potassium and vitamin C, but not enough to impact your nutrient intake.
10 Health Benefits of Garlic
Here are ten health benefits of garlic backed by science.
Rich in Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Compounds
Researchers have found many anti-inflammatory compounds in garlic. While some inflammation is crucial for a healthy body, chronic inflammation can also lead to cancer and heart disease.
Luckily, garlic is packed with organo-sulfur, an anti-inflammatory compound. But, according to this 2015 research, the presence of these compounds depends on how the garlic is prepared.
For example, fresh garlic bulls contain alliin and γ-glutamyl cysteine derivatives, while garlic powder has diallyl disulfide (DADS) and alliin. Lastly, garlic paste contains dithianes, sulfide family compounds, and (E–Z)-ajoene compounds.
A 2020 study shows that eating garlic can reduce inflammatory markers like TNF-α, CRP, and IL-6. But it doesn’t end there! A 2019 review of 16 studies found that consuming 12 to 3,600 mg of garlic every day works better than other anti-inflammatory controls.
Garlic can also protect your cells from oxidative damage. This damage occurs when a reactive oxygen species overwhelms your body’s natural antioxidant defense. Other than protecting the antioxidant defense, garlic also reduces oxidative stress markers.
Another review proved that 80 to 4,000 mg of daily garlic consumption can increase your blood’s antioxidant capacity. It also improves the blood levels of antioxidant enzymes while reducing oxidative stress markers.
May Improve Bone Health
There are also recent studies that measure the health benefits of garlic for bone health. It’s specifically helpful for women after menopause.
According to a 2017 clinical trial, garlic can reduce the risk of osteoporosis due to oxidative stress. The participants of the study took 2 grams of fresh garlic every day and saw shocking results.
In a 2018 study, participants took garlic supplements for 12 weeks. The result was reduced pain for obese and overweight women and those with knee osteoarthritis.
May Reduce the Risk of Chronic Disease
A garlic-rich diet can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
For example, atherosclerosis is plaque buildup in the arteries – the leading cause of most heart diseases. Eating garlic is proven to decrease atherosclerosis.
In a 2021 study, 4,329 adults who ate garlic once a week had a 26% reduced risk of thickened carotid intima-media than those who didn’t. Thickened carotid intima-media is an early sign of atherosclerosis.
Beyond that, garlic can also reduce the risk of gastric and colorectal cancers.
Garlic contains diallyl disulfide and S-allyl cysteine compounds. These compounds can stop the rapid growth of cancer cells and protect your cells from oxidative stress. It also supports your immune health, which protects against cancer in the long run.
Benefits Liver Health
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is caused by the excess fat buildup in the liver. It’s one of the most common liver diseases in the US.
According to experts, weight loss and a balanced diet can reduce the risk of NAFLD. That diet includes a healthy dose of garlic every day.
That was proven by a 2019 review that studied 24,106 men and women. The participants ate raw garlic four to six times a week, resulting in a 34% reduced risk of developing NAFLD in men. Surprisingly, the results weren’t the same for women.
Other studies show that garlic powder supplements can reduce specific liver damage markers. That includes aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine transaminase (ALT) in NAFLD patients.
May Support Cognitive Health
The correct dosage of garlic can also support brain health by protecting against cognitive decline. These health benefits of garlic were proven by multiple research studies.
For example, this 2019 study researched over 27,000 elderly Chinese people. Of the participants, those who ate garlic five times a week were more likely to live longer than those who didn’t.
What’s more, garlic can even improve your short-term memory. Research indicates that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in garlic can reduce inflammation in the brain. It also prevents nerve cell breakdown, leading to better brain health and attention span.
May Promote Healthy Immune Function
Do you ever wonder why people take fire cider or garlic and ginger shots when sick?
There are many antiviral, antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory compounds in garlic. Studies suggest that these medicinal properties of garlic can improve your immune health.
Thanks to allicin and diallyl sulfide, garlic can enhance immune cell activity. It doesn’t end there – this tasty plant also works as an antiviral against common illnesses like the flu.
People in Asia, Europe, and Africa swear by garlic for treating asthma, coughs, fevers, and colds.
Potent Medicinal Properties of Garlic
Throughout ancient history, people have relied on medicinal properties of garlic – there’s documented evidence to back this up! It was most often used by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Indians.
Today, scientists know that most of the health benefits of garlic come from sulfur. But remember, sulfur compounds only form when you chop, crush, or chew garlic.
That includes allicin, a well-known sulfur compound. Since allicin is unstable, it’s only briefly present in your fresh garlic cloves after cutting or crushing them. It’s best to eat them fast.
Other sulfur compounds contributing to garlic’s health benefits are diallyl disulfide and s-allyl cysteine. These compounds enter via the digestive tract before exerting their benefits in all parts of your body.
May Detoxify Heavy Metals
When eaten often, the sulfur compounds in garlic are enough to protect your organs from heavy metal toxicity. Thanks to allicin, garlic can reduce the lead levels in your vital organs and blood.
In a 2012 study, people exposed to lead while working at a car battery plant were able to reduce the lead levels in their blood by 19%. It also reduced the early symptoms of metal toxicity, such as high blood pressure and headaches.
Eating garlic three times a day worked even better than D-penicillamine – a medicine for heavy metal poisoning.
May Improve Athleticism
Believe it or not, garlic is one of history’s oldest “performance-enhancing” substances. In ancient times, garlic helped reduce fatigue so laborers could work longer hours. It was even used by ancient Greek Olympic athletes to improve their performance.
Modern studies also prove performance-related health benefits of garlic. According to one study, it improves exercise performance in rodents. But, there hasn’t been any research on humans yet.
A 2023 study was implemented to test how garlic improved cyclists’ performance. While it didn’t impact their performance, it did reduce the risk of muscle damage. Garlic also decreases oxidative stress due to exercise.
Another study from 2015 shows that garlic can increase oxygen capacity while working out.
Improves Cholesterol Levels
All cholesterol isn’t bad, but low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is. This 2018 review shows that garlic can lower total and LDL cholesterol. Researchers suggest eating more garlic if you have high cholesterol.
Luckily, garlic doesn’t impact high-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol.
In a 2016 study, participants took garlic supplements for over two months. They were able to reduce their LDL cholesterol levels by 10%.
While that sounds like great news, garlic doesn’t have the same effect on your triglyceride levels. High triglyceride levels are also a leading cause of heart disease.
Garlic is more than just a tasty aromatic to amp up any dish – it offers generous health benefits for your brain, heart, and liver. It also supports immune function and reduces inflammation.
You can add garlic to your diet with savory dishes or drink wellness shots made with fresh garlic, ginger, and orange juice. The ball is in your court!