Garlic sticks, Alfredo pasta, hummus: What do all of these foods have in common? Besides being super tasty, of course, they all deliver the amazing health benefits of garlic, and you might need them right about now. You may have made it through the holiday season and the jet lag that can come with traveling to celebrate, but flu season is far from over.
According to a recent announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu activity is increasing in the United States, which means it’s more important than ever to employ as many sickness-banishing strategies as possible to keep your body feeling its healthiest. In addition to general flu prevention tips, like washing your hands on a regular basis and getting vaccinated, nutrition can definitely play a role in keeping any flu or cold symptoms at bay. Luckily, steering clear of a winter cold has never tasted so delicious, because garlic can keep you from getting sick.
If you’re curious about what is so particularly powerful about the spicy little bulb, it pretty much comes down to one compound. “You can thank sulfuric compounds and other micronutrients in garlic for helping to keep you well,” says Kim Yawitz, a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in St. Louis. “Allicin has strong antimicrobial capabilities and may help you to ward off bacteria and viruses.”
What’s more, garlic is also a great source of the immunity-boosting vitamin C (it contains 15 percent of the recommended daily amount, according to Yawitz), which can help shorten a cold or illness. “Garlic is abundant in antioxidants, which help protect the body’s cells, boost white blood cell production, and reverse cell damage,” Yawitz adds in an email to Elite Daily. “In other words, garlic may help with immune system function.”
The thing is, the garlic in your everything bagel might not cut it if kicking a cold is your goal. Although I personally love garlic salt (and powder, and the little jars of the minced stuff) as much as anyone, in terms of warding off a cold, eating the fresh version of the bulb really is best, according to Yawitz. “Freshly cut or crushed garlic may be more healthy because it contains allicin — the sulfuric compound responsible for garlic’s pungent smell and taste,” she explains. “Allicin can also take credit for most of garlic’s antimicrobial properties. However, allicin is highly unstable and is only active for just a few seconds after cutting or crushing fresh garlic,” she tells Elite Daily. In other words, enjoy your kick of garlic as soon as possible after you chop it up so that you’re sure to reap as many of these benefits as you can.
Even if you swear you’re cold-immune, you might be interested to learn that garlic keeps your body healthy in tons of other ways, too. For instance, garlic can be great for your heart, and has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (that’s the “bad” kind) levels by up to 15 percent in people with high cholesterol, says Yawitz. Not only that, garlic has also been shown to help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension, as per research published in the medical journal Integrated Blood Pressure Control.
It’s probably not wise to depend on garlic’s superpowers as your only way to keep well this season, though, no matter how much garlic hummus you pile in your cart each time you hit up Trader Joe’s. “Before you bust out the garlic press (and the breath mints!), keep in mind that sharp increases in garlic intake may not be appropriate for everyone,” Yawitz cautions.
“Garlic can interfere with certain medications, including certain blood thinners. It may also worsen indigestion for those who are prone to it,” she explains. To be safe, just add a bit of the stuff to your dinner instead of eating multiple cloves at a time. As always, feel free to check in with your doctor for guidance if you aren’t sure how embracing the #GarlicLife will affect your body.