The Surprising Health Benefits of Garlic
If you've ever wished for a food that tasted as good as it is healthy, we've got the goods for you, and it might be more obvious than you think. Easily the God of the flavor world, garlic has been a heavy hitter in almost every cuisine for centuries and is still a prominent mainstay in most everyday cook's kitchens. Not only is it unmatched in flavor, but this magical little bulb is a nutritional powerhouse as well. (A worthy match in terms of flavor and nutrition? Cinnamon, which has tons of health benefits as well.)
See for yourself in this breakdown of the health benefits of garlic.
It improves your cardiovascular health.
Garlic is integral in fighting disease and supporting cardiovascular health, says William W. Li, M.D., author of Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself. It's a potent natural chemical found in garlic called allicin, which is vital in producing nitric oxide, which helps to dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure, says Dr. Li. Adding two bulbs to your daily diet (which might seem like a lot, until you make your own marinara) can help to lower blood pressure, improve heart health and help slow the effects of heart disease in the elderly, he adds.
It boosts your immunity.
Feeling a tickle in your throat? Double up on the minced garlic in your soup to take advantage of the benefit of garlic's antibiotic and antifungal properties. "Garlic stimulates your health defenses by triggering immune cells to release chemicals that activate the immune system to find and wipe out foreign invaders in the body, helping to protect against infection," explains Dr. Li. Garlic is also high in vitamin C, which can be helpful in preventing things like the common cold, flu, and internal infections.
It can support your weight loss goals.
Garlic also boasts health benefits that help support weight loss, improve your skin's health, and can act as an anti-ager.
Some research has also shown that garlic may help with weight management and control, as well. To get there, researchers fed mice a fattening diet for eight weeks to plump them up, then served them the same diet supplemented with 2 percent or 5 percent garlic for another seven weeks. The addition of garlic reduced the mice's body weight and fat storage and lessened the effects of the unhealthy diet on the animals' blood and liver values. (Related: The Top 20 Weight-Loss Foods That Won't Leave You Feeling Hungry)
It has beauty-boosting benefits.
As if this tasty ingredient wasn't good enough already, it's even been thought that garlic could also have beautifying properties. Certain minerals in garlic, such as manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium are beneficial in improving skin elasticity, which can help to prevent signs of aging, blemishes and even wrinkles, according to certified nutritionist Lisa Richards.
How to Cook and Eat It to Reap All the Benefits of Garlic
If you're just chopping garlic and tossing it into a pan, you might be missing out on some of garlic's health benefits. To get the most benefits of eating garlic, you want to crush it before cooking. Then let it sit at room temperature for a full 10 minutes before cooking. Studies have shown that this method helps retain about 70 percent of its beneficial natural compounds compared to cooking it immediately after crushing. That's because crushing the garlic supposedly releases an enzyme that's been trapped in the cells of the bulb. The enzyme boosts levels of health-promoting compounds, which peak a short window of time after being crushed and released. If the garlic is cooked before this, the enzymes are supposedly destroyed. (Related: 5 Brilliant Ways to Get More Nutrients Out of Your Produce)