Three reasons a heart loves garlic

February 17, 2015 Providence Health Team

Adding garlic to your diet can do much more than merely spice things up. Some studies show a link between this seemingly simple food and a healthier heart. Don’t let something like a little garlic breath scare you away from this super food. Your heart will thank you. Here’s why.

1. A great source of antioxidants

Our bodies need antioxidants to help prevent or slow cell damage caused by unstable molecules called “free radicals.” Too many free radicals can lead to oxidation stress, a condition linked to chronic illnesses, including heart disease.

Garlic is an excellent source of antioxidants including selenium, vitamin C, quercetin (a type of phytochemical found in plants and with anti-inflammatory capabilities). Garlic also has small amounts of manganese, an important component of some antioxidant enzymes.

2. Lowers your blood pressure

High blood pressure is one of the key risk factors for cardiovascular disease. If left untreated, high blood pressure can cause the walls of your arteries to be overstretched, damage and scar. The American Heart Association reports roughly 78 million US adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Evidence suggests that eating garlic can help reduce high blood pressure by as much as 7% or 8%. It may also lower blood pressure in people with normal blood pressure levels.

3. Combats atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)

Healthy arteries are elastic and flexible. But as we age, they can become stiff, hard and may have plaque buildup – all of which restrict blood flow. Because garlic may help lower high blood pressure, it may also help prevent the scarring and hardening associated with atherosclerosis. And, some research suggests that garlic can relax muscles and dilate blood vessels, which may slow down effects of atherosclerosis.

What about garlic and cholesterol?

The research on garlic’s influence on lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol is inconsistent. While some initial studies indicated a relationship between garlic and cholesterol, most current, major studies suggest that garlic doesn’t have a lasting or measurable effect on LDL or HDL levels.

More reasons to love garlic

  • Cancer prevention: Research suggests eating fresh garlic may help reduce forms of colon, rectal, stomach and lung cancers. The Iowa Women’s Health Study showed that women who regularly included garlic in their diet (along with other fruits and vegetables) had a 35% reduced risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Treating skin infections: Applying topical garlic creams or gels to the skin may help treat ringworm, athlete’s foot and jock itch.
  • Preventing tick bites: Studies show people who have a lot of garlic in their diet are less susceptible to tick bites.
  • Fighting the common cold: Some studies suggest eating garlic helps ward off the common cold. And, it may help reduce overall symptoms and shorten your bout with the cough runny nose associated with a cold.

So, go ahead – add a little extra garlic to your soup or stir-fry. Your heart will thank you for it!

Learn more

Your Providence primary care provider is a good source for information about heart health and nutrition. Don’t have a primary care provider? Use our online tools to search for a primary care provider in your neighborhood.


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