The Health Benefits of Garlic

Although many people think of garlic as being a spice or an herb, it's actually neither. Garlic is considered a bulb.

Because of its distinct odor and flavor, people typically either love it or hate it. But learning about the bounty of health benefits offered by garlic may be enough for you to make it a daily part of your diet.

Garlic is rich in a variety of sulfur-containing compounds, which are responsible for garlic's odor, but also many of the following health-promoting effects.

It protects the heart: Most notably, garlic consumption has been associated with a decreased risk for cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack, coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis.

Garlic's sulfides can be used by the body's red blood cells to produce hydrogen sulfide gas, which helps dilate the blood vessels and keep blood pressure under control. This can also be beneficial to runners as blood-vessel dilation can allow for more blood and oxygen to be transported to working muscles (increased VO2 max).

More: 8 Heart-Healthy Soups for Athletes

Garlic can also be heart-protective due to its role in lowering blood triglycerides and total cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for developing heart disease. The final way garlic can help protect the heart is through its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. Garlic can help counter oxidative stress and subsequent inflammation of the blood vessels, which will help decrease the risk for cardiovascular problems that can result from plaque formation and clogging of the arteries.

It boosts the immune system: Garlic stimulates the multiplication of white blood cells, which help fight infections and promote the efficiency of antibody production. There are more than 100 active compounds in garlic that fires up the immune system.

More: 9 Foods That Fire Up the Immune System

It aids the respiratory system: Finally, there's preliminary research that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of garlic may stretch musculoskeletal and respiratory systems. Garlic may help relieve inflammation and pain resulting from arthritis and may also improve allergic airway inflammation, such as allergic asthma.

More: 3 Post-Workout Snacks That Lower Inflammation

It's vitamin-rich: In addition to scoring high on the antioxidant scale, it's also a good source of health-promoting sulfur compounds, manganese, selenium and vitamins B6 and C.

How to Use Garlic

Garlic should be used fresh whenever possible. It can be chopped, minced or pressed into a variety of dishes, including fresh salsa, pastas and sauces, marinades and dressings. The possibilities are endless.

More: Chicken With Mushrooms, Red Wine and Roasted Garlic

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About the Author

Emily Brown

Emily is a former professional runner and the 2009 U.S. cross country champion. She formerly trained with Team USA Minnesota, and is currently the resident nutritionist for RunnersConnect.net. Find her on Facebook.

Emily is a former professional runner and the 2009 U.S. cross country champion. She formerly trained with Team USA Minnesota, and is currently the resident nutritionist for RunnersConnect.net. Find her on Facebook.

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