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Nutrition

Health Benefits of Garlic

A Nutritional Superstar

It’s packed with vitamins B and C, manganese, selenium, iron, copper and potassium. Garlic may be small, but its benefits are mighty. In fact, this little vegetable gives you a lot more than just bad breath. It also gives you allicin, an oily chemical compound found in garlic that packs a superfood punch.

Amanda Bakko, MS, a nutritionist at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital, shares some of garlic’s benefits.

  1. Promotes heart health. “Garlic has been shown to exert cholesterol- and triglyceride-lowering actions,” says Bakko. This leads to overall protection for your heart, including reduced cholesterol and lowered blood pressure. In fact, it’s been found that those who have lower blood pressure are more likely to consume garlic in their diet.
  2. Contains cancer-fighting characteristics. Significant evidence suggests that garlic can play a role in the prevention of cancer and the slowing of its progression. “Garlic’s rich phytochemical content delivers its potential cholesterol-lowering and cancer-fighting characteristics,” says Bakko. Phytochemicals are chemical compounds found in plants that protect cells from damage that lead to cancer.
  3. Potentially combats the common cold. Although research is limited, some studies show individuals were less likely to get a cold after taking garlic supplements. This is thought to be because of garlic’s antimicrobial and antibiotic properties, which stop the growth of unwanted organisms.
  4. Acts as a natural antibiotic. Garlic has significant antibacterial properties that help protect against certain infections. This is particularly important for strains resistant to antibiotics, including MRSA. Though it should not replace treatment by your physician, garlic can offer protective benefits as a supplement.
  5. Clears your skin. Because of its antibacterial properties, garlic can help reduce swelling and inflammation from acne. Although some people suggest using topically to treat skin conditions from acne to athlete’s foot, it is best to avoid placing garlic directly on the skin, as it can cause a rash, a burning sensation and, in rare cases, blistering.

Allicin can be consumed in a supplemental form, but the strongest benefits come from fresh garlic. So go ahead and help yourself to an extra clove in your next recipe.