5 On Your Side

More than flavor: Garlic brings health benefits

Posted July 20

— While some claims are overblown, there is some truth to the health benefits of garlic.

"The research isn't quite there yet, but the strongest evidence to date does suggest that garlic may benefit the heart," said Julia Calderone ofConsumer Reports.

Some data indicates a daily dose of garlic can help reduce elevated levels of cholesterol and blood pressure.

"It's not quite as good as our medications, but it does certainly have a nice effect," Calderone said. 

Other research shows people who took a daily garlic supplement for a year had slower plaque buildup from coronary artery disease, versus people who took a placebo.

While one or two cloves a day has health benefits, for those who take blood thinners, too much garlic may pose a bleeding risk.

"The best way to reap the health benefits of garlic is to use it fresh. In fact, the fresher the garlic, the higher the concentration of the active ingredients," Calderone said.

Chopping, smashing and slicing garlic triggers an enzyme reaction that increases its healthful compounds. Heat prevents this reaction, so it is best to let garlic sit for at least 10 minutes before cooking it.

Garlic can be an important element of the Mediterranean diet, which has been linked to a better quality of life, a lower risk of chronic disease and better brain health in older adults.

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