Garlic is delicious, but many people avoid it because they don’t love stinky breath. (Eat enough and your body odor becomes more pungent, too.) Still, garlic’s many health benefits often outweigh the stinky downsides — especially for diabetics, people with high blood pressure or heart disease. Read on to learn four key health benefits that come from adding this plant into your daily diet.

1. Garlic Significantly Lowers Blood Pressure In People Diagnosed With Hypertension

High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can lead to serious cardiovascular problems, like strokes or heart attacks. But recent studies show aged-garlic extract can reduce blood pressure just as well as prescription beta blocker Atenolol. Nearly 1,000 test subjects participated in these studies between 2008 and 2013. Hypertensive patients given garlic supplements for 24 weeks saw their top and bottom blood-pressure readings drop significantly. Each patient’s systolic blood pressure (the top number) fell 8.6; diagnostic readings (the bottom number) fell 6.1, on average. In other words, if you start with a BP reading like 150/95, your final number should equal 141/89 from taking garlic supplements.

What triggers this health benefit? Each bulb releases active sulfur compounds whenever you chop, crush or chew it. Some doctors and scientists believe people with high blood pressure may actually have a sulfur deficiency. One garlic-based sulfur compound called allicin helps relax hardened blood vessels and prevent their constriction.

Unfortunately, this health benefit doesn’t apply equally to everyone. People with pre-hypertension or normal blood pressure won’t get the same benefit from a garlic-rich diet.

2. It Temporarily Reduces Total Cholesterol & Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Levels

A 2016 meta-analysis with 2,300 subjects shows garlic can trigger a 10% reduction in total blood cholesterol and LDL readings. Subjects that started the study with total cholesterol readings above 200 saw this health benefit after the eight-week mark. Garlic-based treatments to lower cholesterol could help many people that suffer serious side effects from prescription drugs, such as statins. Keep in mind that if you have very high cholesterol, garlic’s lipid-lowering effect isn’t strong enough to help you. It’s also only effective at lowering lipid levels for about three months or less. At the six-month mark, daily garlic consumption no longer lowers your blood-lipid readings.  

Why does garlic have this effect on total cholesterol and LDL, but not HDL or triglycerides? It stops the enzymes inside your liver from creating new cholesterol particles and releasing them into your bloodstream. Garlic also attacks free radicals inside your body, which play a role in the oxidation process. Put it this way: Those LDL-based cholesterol plaques that make your blood vessels stiff, leading to heart attacks? Garlic appears to dissolve the “glue” that helps those plaques get stuck inside your blood vessel walls.

3. Supplements Naturally Increase Your Immune-System Response to Colds, Flu & Upper Respiratory Infections

Because garlic has prebiotic properties (i.e., it kills bugs like E. coli in your stomach), it’s especially effective in winter. Garlic’s also naturally high in vitamin C, which explains its natural antibiotic, anti-fungal and parasite-killing properties. In fact, here’s how eating garlic daily can help you stay healthier all winter long:

  • 37% fewer colds/30% shorter in duration (you won’t get sick as often, and when you do, you’ll get well faster). You’ll need to consume at least 180 grams of powder daily for three months to get this health benefit.
  • Reduces duration of upper-respiratory infections by 61% with 21% fewer symptoms (you’ll get well at least twice as fast and won’t feel nearly as bad). For this particular health benefit, you’ll need to consume 2.56 grams of aged garlic extract (AGE) daily for three months.  

4. It Lowers Fasting Blood Sugar Levels in Type 2 Diabetics

A 2017 meta-analysis examining nine different controlled trials found garlic could lower fasting blood glucose levels significantly. How much is “significant” to these scientists? At the 24-week mark, some diabetics had up to 50% lower fasting blood sugar readings. What’s great about this study is that patients saw major blood-sugar reductions just one week after starting daily garlic-containing supplements. (Daily supplement doses ranged anywhere from .05 to 1.5 grams.)

And garlic can help with other conditions diabetics may face, such as insulin resistance. However, most type 2 diabetics that benefit from adding it to their daily diets cannot stop taking prescription medication. Other studies show the greatest insulin resistance improvements in patients taking metformin as well as garlic-based supplements daily.

How Much Garlic Do You Need To Eat In Order To Get These Health Benefits?

The good news is, you don’t even have to eat garlic to reap these health benefits! (But you can, obviously. Garlic is tasty.)

Here’s the recommended daily dosage, and different ways you can get more of this magical stuff into your diet:

  • 1-2 cloves, raw
  • 300 mg. powder, 2x-3x per day
  • 7.2 g. aged extract (AGE)

Pick one option shown above, then run with it. Can’t stomach raw garlic? You can also crush two cloves, then leave them sitting on the counter for 10-15 minutes. Cook in your usual recipes once that timeframe passes. It’s the only method that saves most health-boosting compounds found in fresh garlic. However, you won’t get the same health benefits using the minced or chopped kind from a jar.