My husband and I have a dinner rule about garlic and onions: if one of us eats them, we both have to eat them. It’s because we really enjoy kissing, but only if the garlic breath is mutual.
Oh, and did I mention that garlic was traditionally considered to be an aphrodisiac?
Not lost on hubby.
Garlic nutrition is just about as sexy as the kiss itself, and I’m going to tell you why you should be puckering up to this overlooked natural remedy. With over 2,000 biologically active compounds (source), garlic isn’t snake-oil; garlic has multiple effects on your body.
Warning: Garlic Supplements can interfere with other medications
With anything comes a side effect. Please consult your medical professional if you are on other medications or have pre-existing health concerns, or before you try to self-treat. You see, garlic can interfere with several medications, including those given for HIV (source). It can also thin the blood and interfere with coagulant medications (source); that can make it dangerous for even the healthiest person after a surgery (source). Be sure to seek out your own practitioner and don’t delay getting there if you have any of the following concerns.
Garlic Nutrition Benefit #1: Cancer Prevention
This is so incredibly well-known that the National Cancer Institute has a whole fact sheet devoted to why you should be puckering up to everyone’s favorite allium. Nothing is a cure-all, but there are many studies that associate the routine use of garlic in cancer prevention for certain types of cancer (namely, stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and breast cancer)(source).
Garlic isn’t one of those, “might prevent” type foods—the evidence is much stronger than that. There was one study that showed women with the highest garlic consumption to have 50% lower colon cancer rates. Another study showed that women with the highest garlic consumption lowered pancreatic cancer risks by 54%!
The effects are not minimized by cooking it, either. So cut off the top of the entire head of garlic and slather on some olive oil. Then bake it, covered, at 425 degrees for just over a half hour. Smear that beautifully golden garlic onto some French bread for the tastiest cancer preventative you’ve had all week.
Garlic Nutrition Benefit #2: May Help with Diabetes Management
You need to ensure that any treatments pass your doctor’s desk before making changes. But the studies are so promising in this area, that I just must encourage you to include garlic nutrition on a preventative level so that you (hopefully) never have diabetes to manage.
Garlic has antihyperglycemic (anti-diabetes) effects that haven’t been fully proven out in humans yet (source). However, the multiple chemical effects of wild garlic to the liver in animal studies is very promising for when human testing gets funded (source), and preliminary studies on humans show the same.
Garlic Nutrition Benefit #3: Heart Health
Heart Health seems to be the most controversial benefit of garlic nutrition in the scientific literature; it’s times like these I turn into a conspiracy theorist about the naysayers. Why? Because there are studies as old as the hills—as far back as 1550 BC (in the Egyptian Codex Ebers), and the grumpy-heads are new to the scene (source). If this is a subject of interest to you, please do your own research.
However, here are some (alleged) heart health benefits of garlic:
- Positive effects on mild hypertension (source). There is more than one study showing that garlic significantly reduces blood pressure (source).
- Normalize plasma lipids (source).
- Significant reduction in cholesterol and triglyceride levels (source).
Options for the Garlic-Impaired
Not everyone loves garlic like I do. A family friend and marathon runner said that the starting line-up of any major race has a very distinct garlic odor (often with sound effects), something that has turned her from enjoying it in her pasta. The good news is that garlic is one of the oldest and most widely-studied supplements available, and you aren’t limited to the fresh stuff if you hate it. Be aware that potency, age, and other additives will all play a part to any supplement’s overall effect; if you go with a supplement, choose wisely.
As for me, I’ll continue to smear it onto or into nearly everything we cook in our Italian-American home instead of taking a formulated supplement, and the hubs & I will continue to enjoy some of it’s more…er…ancient properties.