Over 2,500 years ago, the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates was prescribing garlic for a number of conditions and illnesses, including respiratory problems, parasites, poor digestion and fatigue.
These days, the reported health benefits range from the treatment of common colds, to preventing cancer. We take a look at the research to see if it deserves superfood status.
What we know
Garlic is packed with nutrients including vitamin C, B6, zinc, manganese and selenium.
It is also widely accepted as a powerful plant-based antioxidant. It’s thought the compound allicin, which is responsible for garlic’s distinctive smell and flavour, may be responsible for its antioxidant properties.
Garlic’s health claims
- The common cold
Garlic is popularly believed to be useful for preventing and treating the common cold. A Cochrane review found one study that suggests garlic may be effective to prevent occurrences of the common colds. However, given this is a single, small-scale study, more evidence is needed to prove whether or not garlic can combat the sniffles.
- Heart health
Can garlic help lower cholesterol? A review of research on the impact of garlic on cholesterol (mainly garlic powder) found that it can produce ‘modest reductions’ in total cholesterol levels. While this is good news for garlic lovers, if you’re looking to lower your cholesterol, there are lots of other effective ways to do so. Another 2012 review found evidence that garlic may have some blood pressure lowering effects, but more evidence is needed to substantiate the link.
- Cancer prevention
Some population studies have suggested a link between increased levels of garlic consumptions and reduced risk of certain cancers, including stomach and bowel cancer. But the jury is still out. Study limitations, like the accuracy of reporting, and the use of multi-ingredient products, makes it extremely difficult to draw a conclusion on garlic and cancer prevention.
The bottom line
There is some limited evidence garlic can be good for your heart health, but the evidence is lacking in terms of other popular health claims.
However, garlic’s antioxidant properties and its range of vitamins and minerals are reason enough to have a bulb or two in the kitchen cupboard. Plus, it’s a great way to add flavour to dishes full of nutritious vegetables, legumes, lean meats and whole grains.
Inspired to eat more garlic?
Grow your own and use them in some of our popular be.magazine recipes: