Mind Your Breath: Top 5 Reasons to Eat Garlic

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Garlic has always been somewhat of a double-edged sword. It definitely adds flavor to your meal and is packed with many health benefits, true. However, the challenge is defending you and others from the unmistakable stench of garlic breath.

You could chew gum, use mouthwash or simply brush your teeth. But researchers from the University of Minnesota say the sulfur-like smell comes from your gut and not your mouth, so there are other methods to keep things less pungent.

Healthy foods do the trick, including apples, basil, spinach, parsley and green tea. The polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) within these foods are known to break down the stinky sulfur compounds when you cook them with garlic. Sauteed spinach with garlic, or an olive oil and garlic salad dressing with fresh basil sound appealing? Also try drinking green tea before or after your meal.

The tiny cloves have so much to offer. Garlic is known for its antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties; it’s also a good source of vitamin C, B6 (pyridoxine), selenium and manganese.

5 Top Health Benefits of Garlic

1. Boosts Your Heart

Garlic has been shown to help conditions related to the heart and blood, such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, stroke and high cholesterol. A study by Ankara University found that garlic extract supplements help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The sulfur compounds in garlic—manganese, selenium, vitamin C and vitamin B6—are all known to provide cardiovascular benefits as well.

2. Fights the Common Cold

Do away with colds, flu and other pesky viruses. Vitamin C and a number of enzymes and minerals such as sulfur and selenium play a role to help keep your immune system strong. Hold the Kleenex! Garlic also provides decongestant and expectorant effects. Crushing fresh garlic causes a chemical reaction that releases allicin, a potent antibacterial that reportedly bats away that icky feeling that comes with the onset of a cold or flu. Try eating it raw (minced into a salad or topping a soup) for best results.

3. Prevents All Kinds of Cancers

Many studies show garlic is your ally when it comes to cancer. This mighty root vegetable from the onion family helps protect against cancers such as colon, lung, brain, prostate and stomach. Some research suggests that garlic’s allicin can protect the colon cells from cancerous chemicals and stop the development of cancer cells. A Medical University of South Carolina study found that garlic’s organosulfur compounds help kill the cells from a deadly brain tumor called a glioblastomas. Garlic also helps protect against stomach cancer development by lowering H. pylori-induced gastritis.

4. Serves up Anti-Inflammatory Protection

Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma are common conditions related to inflammation. Garlic’s phytonutrient compounds and vitamin C help reduce inflammation; its thiacremonone and diallyl sulfide (DAS) are linked to relieving arthritis. The anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties in garlic are also known to reduce the fungus that results in athlete’s foot when you soak your feet in garlic water. Who knew?

5. Subs in for Antibiotics

Would you stop taking antibiotics? Garlic may be an effective replacement. A compound derived from garlic, diallyl sulfide, was considered more than 100 times more effective for fighting Campylobacter bacterium (an infectious diarrheal illness) than two well-known antibiotics, according to a study from the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. Intestinal infections are known to cause the Campylobacter bacterium.

Don’t let odors deter you! Keep garlic in your pantry and reap all of its many health-boosting benefits.

Mateljan, G., The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the healthiest way of eating (Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation, 2007), 258-266. 
“Garlic Breath: 6 Ways To Get Rid Of The Stench,” The Huffington Post Canada web site, May 24, 2013; http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/05/24/garlic-breath_n_3333178.html#slide=2494566, last updated May 28, 2014.
“What are the benefits of garlic?” Medical News Today web site, Sept. 9, 2013; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265853.php.