There’s much more to garlic than vampire-vanquishing flavour – it’s has been used by humans for tens of thousands of years as both an ingredient and medicine. Indeed, it may have become part of our diet many years after it was first identified as a topical remedy for cuts, burns and infections of the skin.
Its potent flavour means only a small amount of the bulb is required: it may be true that 100g contains 95% of your daily vitamin B6 requirement, but if you’re eating 100g of garlic in one go you’re going to have bigger problems than a vitamin deficiency. Eat it regularly, however, and you’ll get plenty of health benefits. Here’s five things garlic has going for it.
1. Stronger immunity
Garlic is high in compounds that your body needs to keep your immune system on high alert to quickly seek and destroy any unpleasant outside invaders. Subjects who took a garlic pill every day were three times less likely to catch the common cold than a placebo group in a study at the University of Western Australia – and even if they did, they suffered for a full day less with the symptoms.
2. Reduces inflammation
The cloves contain four types of sulphuric compounds that are potent anti-inflammatory agents, according to the Journal Of Food Medicine. Anti-inflammatory agents offer huge health benefits to reduce the physical damage caused by stress, pollution and, well, just living your life, as well as helping you recover faster from exercise-induced swelling and inflammation.
3. Scare away insects
The acrid smell that seeps from your pores after a garlicky meal may make people give you a wide berth but it also gives mosquitos and other biting bugs a reason to keep their distance, according to Colorado State University research. Test its efficacy – and the strength of your relationship – by rubbing a cut clove over exposed skin.
4. Better heart health
The same reason garlic causes bad breath is the one that makes your heart healthier: allicin, which gets broken down into sulphur compounds that (a) stink and (b) react with red blood cells to produce hydrogen sulphide, which relaxes blood vessels so your heart doesn’t need to pump as hard to get it flowing, according to the University of Alabama.
5. Avoid food poisoning
Garlic also contains powerful anti-bacterial properties. Researchers from Washington State University found that one particular compound in it, diallyl sulphide, is 100 times more effective than two commonly used antibiotics at wiping out bacteria such as campylobacter, E. coli and salmonella.