You’d be hard-pressed to find a meal that didn’t benefit from a little garlic. From omelets, to pasta dishes, to meat marinades, a little bit of garlic goes a long way in adding major flavor.
Not only is the tiny clove small but mighty in the cooking department, but consuming garlic has been shown to have promising health benefits for several health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and metabolic syndrome. As a matter of fact, garlic contains such potent antioxidants that much of the research is looking into the effects of using it in supplemental form.
Learn the nutrition facts and health benefits of garlic, plus some creative recipes to use it in everyday cooking.
Garlic nutrition facts
One clove of garlic has:
- 5 calories
- 0 grams protein
- 0 grams fat
- 1 gram carbohydrates
Garlic has some vitamins and minerals, but the amount in one garlic clove is minimal.
Benefits of garlic
The amount of garlic called for in most recipes is small compared to other ingredients, but the health benefits are abundant. Garlic has phenolic compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that even a small amount of these plant compounds in the diet may contribute positively to overall health.
While there has been much research conducted on the health benefits of garlic, it is important to keep in mind that most of the human research observes the effects of ingesting large doses in supplemental form, rather than eating it in food.
A recent review found that supplementing with garlic has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and the risk of atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, heart attack and stroke. The authors attribute these findings to the antioxidant properties of garlic, which protect the heart from stress and damage.
Garlic has also been studied for its role in cancer treatment. The doses and length of time of garlic ingestion vary, but many of the studies show a link between garlic supplementation and cancer treatment. For instance, a randomized controlled trial concluded that long-term supplementation with garlic among gastric cancer patients was associated with lower mortality rates.
In addition, garlic has been researched for its role in metabolic syndrome, a cluster of diseases like hypertension and obesity, which increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. All of the research in this area shows that consuming garlic is inversely associated with developing metabolic syndrome. One study examined the effects of eating single garlic cloves daily for 30 days on type 2 diabetes patients. The participants experienced reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as improvements in HDL (good) cholesterol.
In another study, researchers looked at the effects on metabolic syndrome when participants were given raw, crushed garlic. They found that after eating a single meal with 5 grams (about 1.5 clove) of garlic, the genes for immunity and death of cancer cells were increased. The results over a 4-week period were also promising: The amounts of garlic eaten differed based on the body weight of participants, but a 150-pound person ate about 6 grams (or about 2 cloves) per day, and the results showed decreases in blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and blood sugar.
Garlic supplement benefits
Garlic supplements have a much higher quantity of garlic as compared to eating the food. As a result, taking garlic pills is the ideal way to reap all the benefits from garlic. But it’s also important to keep in mind that dietary supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so look for products that have undergone third party testing.
That said, some research does show that there are health advantages to including fresh, chopped garlic in your daily diet — plus, it’s a delicious way to season foods in a healthy way, which can encourage you to include more lean meat, seafood, whole grains and vegetables in your diet.
Benefis of garlic oil and garlic powder
Garlic powder is the dehydrated form of fresh garlic, which has been ground into a fine powder. There is some research on how garlic powder affects health, but the results are largely inconclusive. The same can be said for garlic oil, which doesn’t have much conclusive evidence surrounding it.
Side effects of garlic
Garlic is inexpensive and easy to use and it imparts big flavor and nutrition. However, it may cause digestive issues for people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).
Garlic contains fructans, a type of carbohydrate that can cause unwanted abdominal gas and bloating in those with IBS. However, people with IBS may still be able to get some garlic flavor without the unwanted side effects. According to Monash University, fructans do not leech out into oil. Therefore, you can add garlic to oil when cooking and scoop it out before serving the final dish. The oil should have the garlic flavor without the annoying side effects.
In addition, garlic’s active compound — allicin — increases acidity in the stomach and relaxes the esophageal sphincter. These mechanisms cause more reflux in people who have GERD. Unfortunately, there’s no workaround for this, other than avoiding garlic.
Fun facts about garlic
Here are a few more interesting tidbits about garlic:
Try black garlic for a more delicate flavor
If you’ve ever watched a cooking show, you’ve likely seen the chefs use black garlic. This is not a different garlic varietal, rather it’s a garlic that has undergone an aging process. To make black garlic, a head of garlic is cured in a hot environment (155 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit) with 70 to 90% humidity for several weeks. During this process, a scientific reaction occurs that changes the color of the garlic and makes it sweeter and chewy. You can make your own black garlic at home, but it’s also widely available in supermarkets like Trader Joe’s.
How to remove the garlic smell from your hands
After chopping garlic, the smell lingers on your hands for hours (and sometimes days). Unfortunately, soap alone is not enough to remove this pungent smell. However, placing your hands under running water and rubbing something that is stainless steel, like the lid of a pot, may actually remove the odor. Another method suggests filling your hands with 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, and a few drops of water. Create a paste on your hand and scrub for at least 30 seconds. Rinse with water, then wash with soap. The garlic smell should disappear!
Healthy garlic recipes
Chances are you’re no stranger to garlic, but here are a few simple and healthy ways to include more of it in your cooking.