Last Updated on April 13, 2020
The health benefits of garlic are numerous! Here are 9 reasons to incorporate garlic into your cooking as often as possible — plus 12 recipes and how to get rid of garlic breath!
Garlic is one of those everyday foods with superpowers that we all could be eating a lot more often. Plus it’s cheap, easy to grow, and makes foods of all sorts taste better. What’s not to love about garlic?
What are the Health Benefits of Garlic?
Garlic has been studied extensively for its effects on both short-term and long-term health. If you like studies, there are currently 5700 of them in the PubMed database for your reading pleasure!
Garlic’s distinctive odor come from numerous sulphurous compounds that are also the sources of its superpowers. Of particular note are the compounds allicin and ajoene, which have shown promise in preventing disease in numerous studies.
Garlic Fights Viruses
One of the most important health benefits of garlic in the short term is garlic’s antiviral properties, which make it a useful tool when you’re trying to fight a cold.
Research has shown that the folk remedy of eating raw garlic to keep from coming down with a cold actually does reduce the incidence and duration of colds. I’ve had good luck with this technique as well — garlic does seem to stop a cold from taking hold. Eat it regularly and you may find yourself with fewer sniffles this season.
Related: Immune-Boosting Foods
Garlic may be effective against other microbes as well
Garlic has also been studied for its effects on bacteria, parasites, and fungal infections.
Garlic may benefit long-term health
Garlic has been studied widely for its effects on these conditions:
- Garlic consumption has been linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease
- Garlic may help lower blood pressure
- Garlic is being studied for its possible protective effect on brain function
- Garlic is being researched for treatment of diabetes
- Garlic has shown promise in cancer prevention. According to the National Cancer Institute,
Several population studies show an association between increased intake of garlic and reduced risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and breast.
Note that these studies only show correlation between high intake of garlic and reduced incidence of disease, and few clinical trials exist to prove definitively that garlic consumption can ward off disease.
Nonetheless, eating garlic regularly has been linked to reduced risk of a number of diseases, and since there’s little risk in cooking up delicious food in your kitchen, why not try to add more garlic to your diet?
A number of articles mention garlic’s high levels of beneficial nutrients like manganese and iron, but most use 100 grams as a measurement. Since a clove tends to be more in the neighborhood of three grams, these stats are pretty misleading.
Seriously now, how often do you sit down and eat 33 cloves of garlic???
Though certainly by weight, garlic’s nutritional profile is pretty stellar, the amounts of vitamins and minerals you’ll get from eating a clove or two aren’t especially significant and aren’t where garlic’s superfood status come from anyhow.
But if you really want to know, here’s the USDA breakdown of nutrients in each clove of garlic (second column from right). Of course, cloves vary in size a lot as well, and some giant cloves may clock in at more like 5 grams. Doesn’t really matter — just enjoy!
How to Get the Health Benefits of Garlic
Eating lots of fresh vegetables, including garlic, is generally advised over taking supplements. Here’s the National Cancer Institute’s take on supplements:
The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, does not recommend any dietary supplement for the prevention of cancer, but recognizes garlic as one of several vegetables with potential anticancer properties. …Furthermore, the active compounds present in garlic may lose their effectiveness with time, handling, and processing.
Many clinical studies on garlic use garlic supplements to standardize the dose, but note that you should always discuss supplements with a physician, as garlic supplements may interfere with other medications. See some of the interaction warnings here.
Raw or Cooked?
Allicin, the compound most studied for its health-promoting abilities, has been shown to increase if you chop or crush the garlic and allow it to sit for 15 minutes. Allicin is destroyed by cooking, so enjoy some of your garlic in raw in homemade hummus or salad dressings in the recipes below. But cooked garlic is delicious as well, so go ahead and use plenty in your favorite dishes.
What to Do About Garlic Breath
Some popular remedies for garlic breath to eat when you enjoy some health-promoting but also pungent garlic:
- mint leaves
- fennel seeds
- green tea
Research suggests mint, apples, and lettuce are the most effective at removing the odor-causing compounds from breath, though they apparently work best if ingested at the same time as garlic.
However, their ability to neutralize the sulfurous compounds that make us stinky after eating garlic may also reduce the potency of those compounds — precisely those we’re trying to ingest to get the health benefits of garlic. Alas, you may have to choose whether greater health benefits of garlic or less pungent breath are more important to you.
Enjoy the Health Benefits of Garlic by Growing Your Own!
Best of all for those of you who love to grow your own natural remedies, garlic is an easy crop to grow. When you grow your own garlic, you not only get a never-ending supply of one of the world’s healthiest vegetables, you also get the added bonus of the yummy tender shoot called the scape, which you remove (and eat) so the garlic plant puts its energy into creating the biggest bulb possible. I love them in stirfries or garlic-scape pesto. Here’s more on using garlic scapes from Grow a Good Life.
Find out more about how to grow garlic here. I also plant lots of my smaller cloves for a delicious spring vegetable called green garlic, which is like a mildly garlic-flavored scallion that’s a star of seasonal spring cooking. Here’s my recipe for spring garlic and seasonal veggies plus growing instructions.
How to Choose and Store Garlic
Look for cloves that are firm rather than shriveled. The paper should be tight against the cloves, and the outer covering should be intact. Make sure there’s no visible damage.
Store garlic in a basket or mesh bag in a cool, dark place away from sunlight and heat, like your pantry. Unbroken garlic bulbs may last for months under the right conditions. Try to use up any broken heads in a week.
You can also store peeled cloves in the refrigerator for a couple days, or roasted garlic for up to two weeks.
If you find yourself with way too much garlic, you can puree and freeze it, or dehydrate it to make your own homemade garlic powder (instructions from Whole New Mom).
If you find a clove has started to sprout, you can either cut out the bitter green center and use the garlic, or plant it in a pot and enjoy some garlic sprouts. (Instructions here.)
How to Get the Health Benefits of Garlic Every Day ~ Delish Garlic Recipes You’ll Want to Try
Not eating much garlic? Here are 12 recipes to help you get more health benefits of garlic!
♦ Try this Easy Homemade Aioli from Oh, the Things We’ll Make
♦ Put Creamy Garlic Dill Dressing on your salads (Butter For All)
♦ Make a garlic paste and use on roasted veggies and meats (recipe from Studio Botanica)
♦ Dip veggies in this delicious Creamy Stinging Nettles Dip with Roasted Garlic and Mint from And Here We Are
♦ Make your own Garlic and Chive Sunflower Cheese (Whole New Mom)
♦ Try Making Fermented Garlic (Learning and Yearning)
♦ Here’s a Honey Fermented Garlic recipe from Nitty Gritty Life
♦ Lacto Fermented Radishes with Garlic and Dill from Fearless Eating add the extra power of probiotics
♦ This Garlic Baked Brie from Yummy Inspirations looks decadent
♦ These Grain-Free Potato Latkes with Onions and Garlic from Raia’s Recipes will surely be a hit with your family
♦ Up the garlic ante with this Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic from All the Nourishing Things
♦ This Roasted Lemon Garlic Chicken with Shallots from The Organic Kitchen will impress your guests!
What’s your favorite way to enjoy the health benefits of garlic? Please share your favorites in the comments!
Pin to save these health benefits of garlic for later!
Love savvy health hacks like this one? Below are some of my favorite easy ways to ensure your body has what it needs to function optimally. Check out these other practical tips to help you sleep better, ward off disease, and have more energy:
- How to Eat For Better Sleep
- Are You Getting Enough Magnesium?
- Why You Need a Water Filter
- Easy Health Hack: Sit Less
- What are Pepitas? (& Why You Want Them!)
- Anti Inflammatory Food
- Health Benefits of Turmeric
- Are You D-ficient?
- Easy Ways to Reduce Cortisol
Photo credits: couleur, Free Photos, Oh, The Things We’ll Make, Nitty Gritty Life, Conger Design
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.