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Is Garlic Healthy? Nutrition and Benefits
Nutrition

Is Garlic Healthy? Nutrition and Benefits

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on January 2, 2023
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7 min

The value of garlic is not only in the flavor it brings to your recipes. It is also a great ally for overall health.

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Garlic is an edible plant belonging to the Liliaceae family, with more than 600 species known and cultivated in many countries of the world, such as Italy, Argentina, Mexico, the United States, India, and China, among others.

The bulb of this plant is widely used for its health benefits and gastronomic properties, especially because its intense flavor gives a special touch to all dishes where it is used as a condiment.

There are garlic supplements with widely recognized medicinal use to treat different conditions, such as blood pressure and infections. Discover the details of all the health benefits with the HealthReporter team.

What Is Garlic?

Garlic is a plant native to Central Asia, belonging to the family of onions, shallots, and leeks. It is a bulb that grows underground and forms the base of its leaves.

Garlic has been cultivated since ancient times, and its medicinal value comes from its sulfur compounds, which is why there are recipes to control hypertension, diabetes, and even warts.

Nowadays, it is more common to use raw garlic as a condiment because of its strong and slightly spicy flavor. Most Mediterranean foods use garlic cloves as part of their recipes to enhance the flavor of dishes.

Is Garlic Healthy?

Yes, garlic is healthy thanks to its antioxidant components and mineral salts, such as selenium, an essential mineral that supports all bodily functions. Alliin is its main active sulfur component, to which most of its health benefits are conferred.

For many years, numerous studies have been carried out on the pharmacological properties of this plant, documenting its hypotensive, antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, and many other actions.

10 Health Benefits of Eating Garlic

It should be noted that garlic preparations, such as aged garlic extract, garlic oil, and fresh crushed raw garlic, have different components that offer multiple health benefits. While the first two contain the sulfur-containing amino acid allicin, the latter also contains adenosine. This information is key when selecting a supplement to be used for a specific purpose.

#1 Garlic supports the immune system

Some studies have shown that garlic consumption has effects on immunity. That is, it allows the body to defend itself against disease-causing microbes. One of the most striking health benefits of garlic is the increase in the production of lymphocytes, which are the first line of defense cells of the immune system. In addition, other types of immune cells, such as natural killers and phagocytes, are increased.

#2 Garlic extract may protect against different types of cancer

Some epidemiological studies in animals have shown a protective effect against some types of cancer, such as breast, colon, gastric, and lung cancer.

In an experimental study conducted in China, the consumption of fresh raw garlic was associated with a decreased risk of lung cancer. Garlic captures free radicals and modulates some enzymes involved in DNA repair, which is why garlic is considered an excellent protector of cells.

#3 It has antihypertensive action

Scientific studies show garlic’s vasodilator effect, making perfect sense that some garlic supplements are available to control high blood pressure. Garlic extract is able to inhibit the enzyme adenosine deaminase (ADA), which is elevated in immune response processes and can cause high blood pressure

#4 Garlic is a powerful antioxidant

Fresh garlic and its derivatives, such as garlic oil and garlic extract, are effective in preventing the formation of free radicals, which are responsible for cell damage. One of the components with the highest antioxidant activity is allicin, which increases antioxidant enzymes in cells, such as catalase and glutathione peroxidase.

#5 Helps reduce cholesterol

Garlic has a cholesterol-lowering effect when administered at adequate doses through garlic supplementation. Its mechanism of action is the enzymatic inhibition of cholesterol synthesis, which also helps to decrease the formation of atheromatous plaques that cause cardiovascular disease.

#6 Garlic has antimicrobial activity

For hundreds of years, garlic has been used as a home remedy to fight infections related to bacteria and fungi such as Candida. It is believed that it may have similar efficacy to antifungal drugs for the treatment of oral mucosal candidiasis.

#7 Garlic is a great detoxifier

Garlic can trigger the production of glutathione, which is an endogenous detoxifier that protects cells against oxidation.

#8 Antiplatelet aggregation action

Garlic consumption can prevent thrombocytes or platelets from activating, which prevents the formation of blood clots. This benefit is important for people suffering from coronary heart disease and high blood pressure. However, if you are taking anticoagulant medications, you should consult your doctor before taking garlic supplements.

#9 Allicin may improve blood sugar levels

In some meta-analyses involving different presentations of garlic, it is clearly associated with a reduction in fasting blood sugar and a decrease in the HbA1c marker, which measures the average level of glucose or sugar in the blood over the last 3 months.

#10 Decreases cardiovascular risk in women with menopause

Menopause is a risk factor for developing heart disease due to the decrease of estrogen in women. Due to this fact, clinical trials have been conducted in which aged garlic extract is combined with physical exercise to improve endothelial function and decrease the effects associated with cardiovascular risks, such as obesity and high blood pressure. 

Possible Side Effects of Garlic

Garlic has sulfur compounds and active ingredients that may have health benefits for some people but can also cause adverse reactions in others, such as:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Raw garlic consumption may cause heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • Flatulence
  • Garlic oil supplementation or garlic extract consumption may cause bleeding in people taking antiplatelet or anticoagulant medications
  • Fresh garlic may cause irritation if kept in contact with the skin for several hours

Nutrition Facts of Garlic

Nutritional value per 100g

Calories/NutrientAmount
Calories (kcal)149
Sodium (mg)17
Net Carbs (g)31
Fiber (g)2.1
Sugar (g)1
Fats (Total)0.5
Protein (g)6.36

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169230/nutrients 

Low in calories and fats

A 100g serving of garlic contains a little more than 100 calories and is almost fat-free, which makes it a suitable food for any weight loss diet. In addition, only a couple of cloves of garlic are needed in each recipe to achieve a powerful and distinctive flavor.

Moderate amount of proteins

Garlic contains a small amount of protein made up of amino acids such as lysine, valine, arginine, cysteine, and leucine, which combine to form the protein that is used to build muscle mass.

High in carbohydrates

Garlic’s calories come mainly from its carbohydrate content, which makes it an energizing food. However, because it is used in very small amounts in recipes, it is suitable for low-carbohydrate diets such as the keto diet.

Rich in vitamins and minerals

Raw garlic is rich in vitamins B1, B6, copper, potassium, and phosphorus, so it has plenty of health benefits. It can also reduce fatigue and promote metabolism, which is why it is recommended for people who perform physical activity.

Healthy Roasted Veggie Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 3 cups of cauliflower florets
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt

Directions

  1. Cut the zucchini, tomatoes, and eggplants into 1cm wide rounds. Set aside.
  2. Cut the red pepper into julienne strips and cut the cauliflower florets in half in order to have a flat side. Set aside.
  3. In a small ovenproof casserole dish, intersperse the veggie rounds with the cauliflower florets and red bell pepper. If your casserole is small enough, you can place the vegetable rounds vertically, holding them together.
  4. If your casserole is larger, you can layer the vegetables horizontally, covering the entire surface.
  5. Coat all the vegetables with extra virgin olive oil. Peel all the garlic cloves and add them whole, along with the rosemary sprig, bay leaves, sea salt, and pepper.
  6. If you don’t like the idea of chewing a whole garlic clove, you can crush it or cut it into thin slices and add it that way. 
  7. Cover your casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. After that time, remove the foil and leave it in the oven for 5 more minutes to roast the vegetables.

This recipe is an ideal low-carb side dish for weight loss diets where you can indulge in more fat, such as the ketogenic diet, with keto-friendly meats, such as a juicy steak or salmon.

You can find recipes like these on the Keto Cycle app, which has a database with more than 10,000 healthy and classified options, so you can select the most suitable for your diet.

Keto Cycle
Smarter Way to Keto
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  • Calorie tracker
  • Customized meal plans
  • 10,000+ easy-to-make keto recipes (including vegetarian options)
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FAQs

Is garlic anti-inflammatory?

Yes, garlic is a nutritious plant that contains elements that inhibit proinflammatory cytokines.

Is garlic good or bad for you?

Garlic intake is good for overall health because it contains many benefits proven by scientific studies.

What is the glycemic index of garlic?

The glycemic index of garlic is 30, so it is within the classification of foods with a low glycemic index and is suitable for people with diabetes.

Can you eat raw garlic?

Yes, even though it has a strong and pungent taste, some people enjoy eating raw garlic in their meals.

Is garlic good for the heart?

Yes, some of the main health benefits of garlic are the lowering of high blood pressure, protection of the arteries, and prevention of platelet aggregation, which makes it a good food for the heart.

A Word From a Nutritionist

The best way to bring out the full flavor of garlic is to cook it. You can cook the whole head of garlic without peeling it. Just cut a slit in the top to expose the garlic cloves, cover it completely with aluminum foil and bake it for 45 minutes.

As a result, when you press the roasted garlic head, you will get a garlic paste with an intense smoky flavor that you can use as a spread or to combine with other vegetables and enjoy its health benefits. One teaspoon of this paste contains only 7 calories and is low in fat.

However, if you notice stomach or intestinal discomfort after consuming foods with a lot of garlic, it is likely that you are intolerant, so it is advisable to suspend the consumption of onion and leeks as well since they belong to the same family.

Conclusion

The most important health benefits of garlic are its antimicrobial action, control of high blood pressure, protection against lung cancer, and diabetes-friendliness.

The benefits of this plant can be obtained through its raw consumption or through garlic extract and garlic oil intake.

Garlic is generally safe. However, it can cause gastrointestinal discomfort and allergies and interfere with some medications, so it is recommended to consult a doctor before using garlic supplements if you take pills for blood clotting or high blood pressure.

Keto Cycle
Smarter Way to Keto
  • Proven scientific data
  • Calorie tracker
  • Customized meal plans
  • 10,000+ easy-to-make keto recipes (including vegetarian options)
  • Full workout schedule
  • Motivational tips
Our rating:
4.7
Visit Keto Cycle
HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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