If you could only use one ingredient to add flavor to your cooking for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Many might say garlic. That’s right, garlic: an appetizing cooking ingredient that moonlights as a defender against vampires.
However, one more title can be added to garlic’s impressive resume: defender of the body.
For thousands of years, garlic has been used medically—in fact, since the beginning of recorded history. Garlic has been found in Egyptian pyramids as well as ancient Greek temples. It’s been referred to in various ancient medical books and texts, and was even used by famous figures in medical ancient history such as Hippocrates.
Though many ancient medical remedies might not be medically sound today, much research points to garlic being good not only for the tastebuds, but for the body as well. If you didn’t choose garlic as your one herb, there are various health benefits of garlic that may make you consider changing your mind.
Health Benefits of Garlic
1. May lower cholesterol
According to researchers at the University of Wollongong, consuming half to one clove of garlic daily may lower your cholesterol.
Don’t worry—the study also mentioned the manner in which you eat it doesn’t matter, so don’t think you have to stomach a whole plain clove every morning to get the benefits! Just crush it up and add it to a dish or two throughout the day for a bit of extra healthy, delicious flavor.
2. May lower blood pressure
Cholesterol’s not the only thing that might be lowered if you keep garlic in your diet. The same researchers also found that garlic may lower systolic blood pressure. It’s also thought that garlic may prevent hypertension.
3. May keep your brain young
Are you worried that as the years go on, you may find yourself misplacing your keys more and more often? Eat some garlic! According to a study conducted by Carmia Borek, aged garlic extract (ironically, AGE) may help protect the brain in the aging process, increasing function and memory.
When someone rubbed garlic oil around my sinuses to reduce swelling from a particularly bad cold-turned-sinus-infection, I thought it was a little crazy…but it worked! I chalked it up to the placebo effect at the time, but garlic actually does have anti-inflammatory properties.
However, take note that heated garlic does not have as strong of an anti-inflammatory effect as raw garlic.
5. May be healthy for the heart
Whether or not you like garlic, research suggests that your heart certainly does. Garlic may help keep cardiovascular disease at bay. This includes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), thrombosis (blood clots), and hyperlipidemia (high concentrations of fat in the blood).
Related: 11 Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy
6. Great antioxidant
Garlic contains an extremely efficient antioxidant. Though researchers aren’t totally sure why this is or how garlic works, the antioxidants in garlic seem to be extremely strong in strengthening the body.
Garlic can protect you from living things—and no, I’m not talking about vampires (are they even living?). Garlic can help protect the body against various destructive microbes. Garlic seems to have strong antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic activity, protecting the body against dangerous microbes like E. coli.
What About That Smell?
It’s thought that most of the credit for the health benefits of garlic can go to allicin, a major compound in garlic. Though this is the compound that makes garlic smell so strongly, take that smell to be a sign that you’re doing your body (maybe not your lover, though) a favor.
Don’t let the smell of garlic deter you from adding (or keeping) it in your diet; just invest in some good gum and mouthwash instead. Though more research needs to be done, studies point to garlic having various health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, preventing loss of memory, heart disease, and microbes, and having great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Picture by glitzypursegirl