Garlic has a long history of use for medicinal purposes. Ancient Greeks used garlic to treat respiratory infections and digestion troubles and Egyptian slaves were fed garlic in the belief that it would keep them strong to build the pyramids.
Garlic is a good source of Vitamins C and B6, involved in regulating blood metabolism and promoting a functioning nervous system, as well as minerals including zinc, magnesium and selenium, which assist in brain and nerve health.
In recent times, studies have linked garlic to improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels. An updated meta-analysis (a technique that combines the results from multiple studies) and review of the effects of garlic on blood pressure found that garlic supplements were effective in lowering blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure). The review also observed other cardiovascular protective effects including modest reductions in total serum and LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol) levels.
Benefits for the immune system were also observed in this meta-analysis. A number of studies found garlic to have antibacterial, antivirus, antifungal and antiparasitic properties and some clinical trials showed garlic to have a beneficial effect on the prevention, duration and severity of upper respiratory infections.
Increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels are two factors that contribute to poor heart health. Increasing your garlic intake may be a safe and simple way to promote a stronger, healthier heart. Other actions you can take to improve your heart health include not smoking, limiting alcohol intake, avoiding saturated fats and getting the recommended amount of exercise each week.