It's amazing how many nutrients are packed into a single glove of garlic: 33 sulfur compounds, 17 amino acids, antioxidants such as germanium and selenium, and multiple vitamins and minerals.
These beneficial chemical compounds, including a substance called allicin, give garlic its unmistakable odor as well as its pharmacological edge in cardiovascular disease prevention.
Think of this herb as a multivitamin—not only is it full of nutrients, it's useful for a host of ailments, including enhancing blood thinning (to prevent blood clots), lowering blood pressure levels and reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Research on the Benefits of Eating Garlic
Clinical research has determined that the benefits of eating garlic include inhibiting platelet aggregation (stickiness and clumping), thus enhancing blood thinning much like aspirin or thrombolytic drugs do. Clumped platelets can render you vulnerable to heart attack and cerebrovascular strokes.
In double-blind research, patients given garlic demonstrated thinner, more slippery blood when compared to matched controls. Specifically, garlic reduces fibrinogen (a blood clotting component) levels, thus preventing the formation of blood clots, a major cause of heart attack and stroke.
Garlic for High Blood Pressure
I also recommend garlic for high blood pressure.
Since this herb's chemistry is so complex, researchers aren't sure how it helps lower blood pressure, but my patients and I have been pleased with the results.
Garlic's antihypertensive effect may be related to its antioxidant and sulfur content. But some studies suggest that garlic lowers blood pressure levels by increasing the dilation of blood vessels and reducing peripheral vascular resistance. Others indicate that garlic's antihypertensive value may be related to its ability to prevent the digestive system from turning fat into cholesterol.
In fact, eating one-half to one clove of garlic daily or taking a garlic supplement can reduce your cholesterol levels by about 9 percent to12 percent. Numerous double-blind, placebo-controlled studies attest to garlic's ability to lower serum cholesterol and triglycerides (by approximately 15 percent) while increasing HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels at the same time.
The Best Types of Garlic
Although evidence to date indicates that raw, cold-aged garlic offers the greatest medicinal value, studies have also demonstrated that cooked garlic is effective. The highest quality is grown organically.
Although eating garlic has few side effects, some people are allergic to it and others may experience some stomach or intestinal upset. If garlic breath is a problem, try chewing fresh parsley, rosemary or fennel. Freshly squeezed lemon, a piece of grapefruit or orange peel may also assuage garlic's pungent odor. Don't worry, these minor drawbacks are worth the results you'll get.
When it comes to all-around heart protection, eating garlic is a winner.