If you’re cooking up something warm and delicious this weekend like a soup or stew, you’re likely using one of my favorite ingredients — garlic. These tiny bulbs pack a flavorful punch and what can I say, whenever I read for the amount of garlic in a recipe, I'll double it. And apparently, garlic isn’t just good for amping up the taste of your most favorite dishes — it’s loaded with nutrients that can slow aging and boost your health in more ways than one!
Garlic has been used historically since the beginning of civilization. Hippocrates, known as the father of Western medicine, used to prescribe garlic to his patients for different conditions and ailments. Ancient medical texts from Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, and India all include medicinal uses for garlic. The Greeks even prescribing it to Olympic athletes for performance enhancement! And modern science is starting to understand what the hype was all about.
Many of garlic's health benefits come from the sulfur compounds released when a clove is cut or mashed. When eaten, these compounds go through the digestive tract and travel throughout the body producing profound effects on our health. Garlic is known to improve immunity, so one of its most common medicinal uses is to fight the common cold. Ingesting a garlic supplement has shown to both shorten the length of a cold and improve cold symptoms. In one 12-week study, it also reduced the overall number of colds subjects got by 63 percent when compared with a placebo. Just in time for flu season!
Garlic can also improve your heart health, but you need to ingest four cloves per day and at least 300 mg from a supplement. Several studies have shown that consuming a garlic supplement can lower both blood pressure and cholesterol. One review of studies suggests that garlic supplementation resulted in lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, while another trial showed that it significantly lowered LDL and raised HDL (good) cholesterol, demonstrating it’s cardio-protective benefits.
While getting older can sometimes feel like a drag, garlic can help in numerous ways. For one, it protects our bones. In several animal studies, garlic has shown to increase estrogen in females and decrease bone loss. In another study, it showed to decrease a marker or estrogen deficiency in postmenopausal women — and producing less estrogen as we age causes bone loss! What’s more, garlic supplements have shown to improve symptoms of age-related bone conditions like osteoarthritis.
Garlic is also loaded with age-fighting antioxidants. Oxidative damage to the cells speeds aging, and the antioxidants in garlic help to fight free radical damage to keep our cells young and healthy. Vascular health affects our brains because we need blood to flow uninhibitedly to each part of the brain in order to keep them functioning. Since the antioxidants in garlic have shown to improve vascular health, consuming garlic is considered a great way to protect your brain from the onset of cellular aging. That means you’ll stay sharper for longer!
Luckily, getting all the health benefits of garlic is pretty easy. Keep in mind that the active sulfur compounds in garlic are only active a short while after cutting your garlic, so you have to consume it relatively quickly! The best way to get the benefits of garlic is to consume it raw or cooked lightly. To add some more garlic into your routine, try mashing it with some salt, olive oil, and lemon juice for a tasty salad dressing. And if garlic breath is something you’re trying to avoid, you can also take garlic extract in the form of supplements! We love this one from Sports Research ($14.95, Amazon).
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