Garlic is an easy flavor addition to many types of meals. And beyond its widespread use for taste and seasoning, garlic can actually provide notable health benefits.
Here are five benefits of garlic and how much you should add to your diet.
One garlic clove packs a dense nutrient profile, but garlic's small size means we're not getting a large amount of nutrients from a single garlic clove. "The concentration is not as robust as we would think about, say eating a full salad," says Tom Holland, MD, a physician scientist at Rush University Medical Center.
"If you opt for adding two cloves of garlic a day to your diet, you may also want to add fresh parsley, mint, or raw apples to your diet to help prevent the bad breath associated with garlic consumption," Brigman says.
However, Brigman notes that although some studies show a benefit, there is a lack of strong evidence that garlic supplements help prevent or reduce severity of the common cold and flu.
You should still wash your hands, avoid touching your face, stay hydrated, and practice other methods to prevent getting sick. Garlic probably won't prevent sickness, but it may provide a little extra boost if you want to strengthen your immune system.
Phytochemicals are compounds in vegetables and fruits associated with a reduced risk of chronic illness. There is some evidence that consuming phytochemicals through garlic can have anticarcinogenic effects and potentially lower risk for stomach and colorectal cancers.
However, research in human subjects is lacking, and it's not proven that garlic consumption can actually prevent or treat cancer.
In addition, a 2013 report suggested that garlic can reduce lipids in the blood, which means lower cholesterol and thus a lower risk for plaque build up in the cardiovascular system.
Historically, Ancient Greek athletes ate garlic before an event to improve their performance. That's because garlic releases nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. This compound is often released while running to supply more oxygen to working muscles.
This is because the alicin in garlic, which contributes to many of its health benefits, is most potent briefly after it has been chopped, crushed, or chewed. In fact, the amount of allicin in garlic cloves peaks 10 minutes after chopping and is destroyed by temperatures over 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
"If you want to add garlic to hot meals, then add it when your food is almost finished cooking to limit the destruction of allicin," Brigman says.
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