Bad For The Breath, Good For The Heart: Why This Cardiologist Swears By Garlic

Assistant Managing Editor By Abby Moore
Assistant Managing Editor
Abby Moore is an assistant managing editor at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Garlic head and garlic cloves in strong lighting and blue background

Garlic is notorious for two things: making the kitchen smell like a five-star restaurant, and making your breath smell completely unpleasant. While its aromatic qualities are pretty well known, what about the actual health benefits? 

According to Steven Gundry, M.D., cardiologist and mbg Functional Nutrition Coaching instructor, garlic is one of the most underrated heart-healthy foods.

The heart-health benefits of garlic. 

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Oddly enough, some of the cardiovascular benefits are rooted in the vegetable's gut-health benefits. Garlic is rich in prebiotic fibers, which are essential for the flourishing of probiotics (aka good bacteria) in the gut. 

According to a study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research, probiotics have been shown to manage blood cholesterol by lowering cholesterol production, breaking down liver bile acids, and even eating excess cholesterol as a source of nourishment. Other studies have suggested that pre-, pro-, and synbiotics may play a role in overall cardiovascular health.

"Not only is [garlic] a great prebiotic, but it also has antibacterial properties," Gundry adds, "which, if you like the infectious theory of heart disease—which I do—may explain why garlic eaters have little plaque in their arteries," he says. 

The infectious theory of heart disease states that exposure to certain infectious agents, like viruses, bacteria, and parasites, might lead to plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) and eventually coronary artery disease. 

But since garlic contains anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties, eating it may lower the risk of developing an infection and, therefore, the risk of developing heart-related problems. 

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Bottom line. 

Anecdotally, these claims show promise: "I have several patients who I would have predicted to have horrible plaque buildup but who had none on angiograms," Gundry tells us. And the scientific research on garlic consumption and cardiovascular disease risk seems to back it up, as well. So, tell your date the garlic breath might be worth it.

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