Five reasons to include garlic in your diet

Abi Jackson recommends tucking into some fresh, raw garlic.

Five reasons to include garlic in your diet

We’re all familiar with garlic’s flavour credentials — but how much do you know about its health-enhancing qualities? This foodie favourite doesn’t just pack a culinary punch. Packed with manganese, vitamins C and B6 and selenium, it’s also highly nutritious.

Of course, the usual rules apply: eating tonnes of garlic, or popping garlic extract supplements, won’t ‘undo’ other unhealthy habits, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest it’s a worthy staple.

Here are five reasons to include garlic as part of a healthy, balanced diet...

Garlic could help protect the brain

Some studies have also linked garlic with lower risks of developing age-related brain diseases, including dementia.

It’s believed this could be due to garlic’s antioxidant contents — which, in the case of garlic, largely lies in its sulphuric compounds, the stuff that also makes it stinky!

Antioxidants play a role in protecting the body from oxidative stress, basically helping ‘mop up’ free radicals associated with cell ageing and damage.

Anti-inflammatory properties

Many of us think of inflammation as the acute reactions when we have an infection or problematic joints flare up.

Inflammation can also linger internally throughout the body as a chronic condition we may not even be aware of.

There is evidence that diet is an important factor, along with a healthy lifestyle. Garlic’s often hailed for its anti-inflammatory properties, thanks again to all that sulphur.

Beating high blood pressure

Consuming high levels of salt is one of the single biggest risk factors for high blood pressure, and associated conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

Looking for alternative ways to flavour food can be a good place to start; jazz up sauces, soups, stews and dressings with garlic, rather than reaching for the salt shaker.

Studies have also found that garlic extracts can directly reduce blood pressure too, backed up by recent analysis of data published in the Journal of Nutrition, which compared the effect between groups treated with garlic extract and a placebo.

Artery aids

As nutritionist Rob Hobson points out, black garlic — which is basically fresh garlic that’s gone through a particular fermentation process (and it’s quite the trendy ingredient right now) — has additional heart health-boosting qualities.

An LA BioMed study found black garlic supplements are linked with a reduction of certain types of plaque build-up in the arteries of people with metabolic syndrome (the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity), which suggests it could help prevent heart disease in certain high-risk groups.

All about the allicin

Allicin, a powerful antioxidant/antibacterial/anti-fungal compound — an active ingredient that’s released when fresh garlic is chopped or crushed (to reap the benefits, experts say garlic is best eaten raw) — has also been linked with protecting heart health, including helping reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol, along with a long list of other potential health boons, from supporting the immune system to improving blood circulation.

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