Garlic has been treasured throughout ancient and modern history. Not only as a culinary ingredient, but for its medicinal properties and positive effects on health! The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese all documented their love of utilizing garlic for better health!
Though civilization has changed quite a bit over the years, garlic should still hold that revered status today. Researchers now know that the majority of garlic’s health benefits are due to sulfur compounds. These compounds form when a clove of garlic is chopped or crushed.
When we consume garlic, those sulfur compounds are absorbed in our digestive tracts, then travel throughout our bodies, spreading healthy garlic happiness wherever they roam. Sounds interesting… but what health benefits can we expect to enjoy by eating garlic?
The most obvious benefit for diabetics is the way in which garlic can help lower blood sugar. Garlic’s compounds help to activate adiponectin; a protein in the blood that regulates the breakdown of the carbohydrates and fats we consume and their conversion into fuel. When levels of adiponectin are increased, the body clears glucose from the bloodstream more efficiently, resulting in lower blood sugar.
Heart health is also a priority for diabetics, as they stand at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death around the world. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the main culprits behind the development of heart disease.
Research has found that garlic aids in significantly reducing blood pressure. In one study, garlic extract was equally as effective at reducing blood pressure over a 24-week period as a prescription blood pressure medication. It should be noted that for that dramatic of a result, the doses were quite high – the equivalent of about four cloves of garlic per day. Breath mint anyone?
Remaining on the subject of heart health, garlic has also been shown to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. Garlic did not seem to have a reliable effect on increasing HDL “good” cholesterol, but was found to lower total cholesterol by about 10-15%. Combined with reduced cholesterol and blood pressure, garlic’s antioxidant properties may reduce the risk of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s dementia.
Nearly 5.5 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia, a progressive brain disease that destroys an individual’s memory, the ability to learn and make decisions, bringing about changes in behavior and even personality.
One out of every eight individuals over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s, and one out of every two individuals over the age of 85 have the disease. As the baby-boomer generation ages, Alzheimer’s diagnosis rates are expected to skyrocket. Research has now proven a link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s, making this disease another point of concern for diabetics.
Even for those not affected by Alzheimer’s, growing older brings about many changes, most of which do not contribute to longevity. The aging process is accelerated by oxidative damage from free radicals. Antioxidants combat free radical damage in the body, slowing the aging process at a cellular level. Garlic contains plenty of antioxidants; high doses of garlic supplements have been shown to increase the body’s production of antioxidant enzymes. Pretty cool, right? Everyone wants to slow the aging process – pass the garlic!
Speaking of aging, did you know that as we age our immune systems can weaken? This decrease in immunity is caused by a few factors. Firstly, the body produces fewer immune cells as it gets older. This slows down not only our ability to fight off infections, but for the body to heal itself. Not only do the number of immune cells decrease, the cells that are produced do not communicate and react as quickly, making it more difficult for the body to fend off germs and free radicals.
Once again, its garlic to the rescue! Yes, garlic has serious immune-boosting abilities. One study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63% over a 12-week period compared to a placebo. The average length of cold symptoms was also less for the garlic group – just 1.5 days. A staggering difference from the 5 days of cold symptoms the placebo group suffered.
Garlic is quite the nutritious ingredient in general. Garlic contains Vitamin C, Vitamins B1 and B6, Manganese, Selenium, Calcium, Potassium, Copper, Iron, Phosphorus, even fiber! Another example of nutritious being delicious.
When it comes down to it, with its impressive nutritional content, seemingly countless health benefits, and deeply pungent spicy flavor, garlic is just plain perfect! Garlic Grilled Steaks, Garlic Green Beans with Gorgonzola, and Garlic Cauliflower “Mock” Mashed Potatoes are a few glorious garlic recipes to get you started!