Health Benefits of Garlic

Cardio Vascular Health | Nutrients | Common Cold | Cancer
Weight Loss | Toxicity

Garlic Nutritional Info
1 ounce (28.35 grams)

Nutrient Amount Daily Value
Manganese .47 mg 23.5%
Vitamin B6 .35 mg 17.5%
Vitamin C 8.85 mg 14.8%
Tryptophan 20 mg 6.3%
Selenium 4.03 mcg 5.8%
Calcium 51.31 mg 5%
Phosphorus 43.38 mg 4.3%
Copper .08 mg 4%
Vitamin B1 .06 mg 4%
Protein 1.8 grams 3.6%

The nutritional table (at right) shows that a one ounce serving of garlic is high in manganese and supplies some of the vitamins and minerals that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Nevertheless, there are two misleading things about the nutritional table. First, few people will set down and eat one ounce of raw garlic at a sitting...or even several sittings. Second, garlic contains other even more beneficial substances that make it one of the most highly recommended foods by doctors and nutritionists. It promotes cardio-vascular health, reduces inflammation, fights bacteria and viruses, and even fights cancer.

Garlic and the Cardiovascular System

Garlic has been found to have extraordinary health benefits for the cardio-vascular system. Studies have shown that regular garlic consumption reduces blood pressure. It does this by several different mechanisms, including stimulation of nitric oxide in the walls of blood vessels, which helps them to relax. Garlic inhibits plaque generation by inhibiting free radical damage and by preventing LDL (bad cholesterol) from attaching to receptor sites on blood vessels (or on existing plaques). Garlic also contains allicin, which seems to work to relax nerve cells that constrict blood flow.

Nutrients in Garlic

The vitamin C in garlic is an antioxidant that fights free radicals. Vitamin B6 prevents heart disease by lowering levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine can directly damage blood vessels. Selenium in garlic helps to fight cancer and heavy metal toxicity by working with vitamin E to act as an antioxidant in the areas of the body containing fatty acids. Manganese is another mineral that is helpful in building antioxidants in the body.

Garlic and the Common Cold

Garlic and Garlic Supplements

The allicin in garlic not only relaxes blood vessels, but also acts as an antibacterial and anti-viral agent. It has been shown to kill many harmful microbes including, cold viruses, stomach flu, and to a limited degree tuberculosis, and botulism.1 In this regard it may also have an effect against bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.2

Some nutritionists believe that garlic is a cure for the common cold. By reducing Kappa-B activity in the immune system (which causes inflammation) it reduces the opportunity for the replication of viruses.

Garlic acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the production of specific prostaglandins (a hormone-like substance that carries messages within cells) that cause inflammation. This makes garlic helpful in dealing with arthritis and asthma because it is inflammation which causes the symptoms in these maladies.

Garlic Fights Cancer

Studies have consistently shown that people who eat garlic significantly reduce their chances of getting cancer. Here again allicin may play a role. It has been shown to protect colon cells from dangerous chemicals and prevent the growth of cancer cells once they develop. A substance in garlic called ajoene may be effective against skin cancer. An application of this substance on tumors has actually reduced their size. This takes place because ajoene inhibits Bcl-2 (a substance which inhibits apoptosis - a process which causes defective cells to kill themselves).

Cooking meat with garlic can reduce the amount of carcinogenic compounds produced by high heat. Diallyl sulphide, another components of garlic's strong flavor, may be responsible at least in part for this effect. It prevents the body from converting a substance in meat called PhIP into cell damaging compounds, while at the same time spurring the production of anti-oxidants that attack the free radicals that are produced by cooked meats.

Garlic and Weight Control

Garlic may help control weight gain. This is another effect of allicin. Studies of animals with diabetes showed that those given garlic seldom gained as much weight as those in control groups. This may be because garlic sends signals of satiation to the brain which can limit the desire to eat. But perhaps more importantly, it also increases the metabolic rate, burning through calories faster.

Garlic Toxicity

It is rare, but a few people have an allergic reaction to garlic. It is also possible to eat too much garlic, especially in its raw state. Gastro-intestinal problems can result due to acids in the garlic. As garlic does have the effect of thinning the blood, it can mean problems for pregnant women, as well as people who suffer from hemophilia and related conditions.

Next Page: Cooking with Garlic

  1. WHFoods on Garlic
  2. It should be noted that allicin is actually produced by crushing garlic. It is known to have a very short life, and some groups believe it does not survive the digestive process to get into the blood stream. Even so, the beneficial effects of garlic have been established through many studies. So there is reason to believe, even if allicin is not having the effects noted, that something in garlic is having a beneficial health effect in human metabolism.

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