Many foods are said to have healing properties, and claims surrounding the health benefits of garlic have swirled for centuries. It has been said to do everything from ward off the common cold, lower high blood pressure and cholesterol, and lower your risk of cancer.
While some of those claims are way overblown, Consumer Reports says there is some truth to the health benefits of garlic. The research isn’t quite there yet, but the strongest evidence to date suggests that garlic may benefit the heart.
Some data indicates a daily dose of garlic can help reduce elevated levels of both cholesterol and blood pressure. It’s not quite as good as our medications, but it does certainly have a nice effect.
Some research also shows people who took a daily garlic supplement for a year had slower plaque buildup from coronary artery disease than people who took a placebo. One or two cloves a day is good to keep in mind, but don’t overdo it if you’re taking blood thinners because too much garlic may pose a bleeding risk.
The best way to reap the health benefits of garlic is to use it fresh. The fresher the garlic, the higher the concentration of the active ingredients. Chopping, smashing and slicing garlic triggers an enzyme reaction that increases its healthful compounds. Heat prevents this reaction, so let the garlic sit for at least 10 minutes if you’re going to cook it.
Garlic can be an important element of the Mediterranean diet, which has been linked to a better quality of life, a lower risk of chronic disease, and better brain health in older adults.
As for the suggestion that garlic can ward off colds, boost the immune system, or reduce the risk of cancer, health experts at Consumer Reports say that evidence remains to be seen.
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