For the majority of Indians, garlic is a quintessential ingredient in a lot of dishes. You can use it in dishes in raw, pickled, minced, crushed, fried, pureed, or roasted forms. Calling it a seasoning is an understatement — it provides an enticing fragrance to dishes and elevates their flavour profiles.
But did you know that garlic has been linked with various health benefits? Garlic is rich in vitamins C and B6, which are important for the immune system, blood metabolism, and nervous system. It also contains minerals like zinc, magnesium, and selenium, which play roles in immune system health, nervous system health, and muscle health. Garlic bulbs have a special chemical called allicin which has antifungal and antibacterial properties. This chemical is thought to be behind the potential therapeutic effects of garlic.
Historically, garlic was used for medicinal purposes. The Ancient Greeks used garlic for respiratory ailments and digestion problems. Garlic was also believed to improve strength, so Egyptian slaves were fed this to enable them to build the pyramids. More recently, garlic has been demonstrated to regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Several research studies have shown that garlic significantly lowered blood pressure readings, and also lowered total and ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol levels.
But in most of these studies, the participants consumed garlic in the form of supplements or powder. The active components in these garlic forms may be much more than in the few cloves we add while cooking. Moreover, chopped garlic stored in oil or water may have lower allicin levels than natural garlic.
Thus, there isn’t strong evidence out there about the link between natural garlic and the lower risk of heart disease. But if you are convinced about the benefits of garlic supplements, it is best to consult your doctor before starting to take them. Consider using natural garlic as a flavour enhancer instead of salt. This would help reduce your susceptibility to hypertension, which can contribute to better heart health.
Remember, it is important to consider your overall diet instead of focusing on just one ingredient like garlic. Find out more about the components of a heart-healthy diet and the heart-friendly DASH diet in our previous blogs.
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