I Heart Garlic

By Kristin Bjornsen

This Valentine’s Day don’t let the prospect of smooch-repelling garlic breath keep you from protecting your heart. Garlic, specifically a compound called allicin, helps control high blood pressure (aka hypertension)—a dangerous condition that afflicts one in five Americans and increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia found that in hypertensive patients, garlic decreased systolic pressure (the top number) by an average of 8.4 points and diastolic pressure by 7.3 points—reductions similar to those achieved with drugs like ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers. Lead researcher Karin Ried, PhD, says allicin dilates blood vessels, allowing for less constricted, less pressurized blood flow. However, “Cooking may destroy the active components, so raw garlic or supplements are more likely to help,” Ried says. Shoot for one clove daily (chop it first, since exposure to air activates the allicin). Or choose supplements like Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract or New Chapter GarlicForce.