Garlic Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

garlic annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman  

Garlic is a food that many people either love or hate. Its strong, pungent flavor lends itself to several types of savory dishes, and garlic is used in traditional cuisines worldwide.

Garlic has been used to treat illness and disease for thousands of years. There are biblical references to the use of garlic in medicine. According to some sources, Hippocrates prescribed garlic for various illnesses, and early Olympic athletes used garlic to enhance performance. The benefits are mainly due to plant compounds, but garlic does contain several vitamins and minerals as well.

Garlic Nutrition Facts

This nutrition information for one clove of raw garlic (3g) is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 4.5
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 0.5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Fiber: 0.1g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0.2g
  • Vitamin C: 0.9mg
  • Zinc: 0.04mcg

Carbs

The calories in garlic come from carbohydrate, and because the serving size and calories are so low, the carbs in garlic are also very low. There is just one gram of carbs in a clove of garlic.

Fats

There is no fat in garlic.

Protein

Garlic provides no significant protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Garlic contains several vitamins and minerals, although a single clove doesn't provide much due to the small serving size. Each clove contains a small amount of vitamin C, zinc, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin K, and manganese, according to the USDA.

Calories

A 3-gram clove of garlic provides almost no calories. You'll only add four calories to your total intake if you consume the whole clove. Because you are likely to eat so little of the food, garlic calories are not likely to make a noticeable difference in your daily food intake. 

Summary

Garlic is low in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium, but since it is consumed in small quantities, it does not contribute to much of your nutritional intake overall. A single serving of garlic contains several vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, zinc, and calcium in small amounts.

Health Benefits

The potential therapeutic benefits of garlic primarily come from its bioactive compounds, including organic sulfides, saponins, phenolic compounds, and polysaccharides. Keep in mind that many studies on the health benefits of garlic involve garlic supplements and not the garlic you buy at the store. So you may not gain the health benefits of garlic simply by using it in your cooking unless you consume amounts that are equivalent to amounts found in supplements.

May Aid in Balanced Eating

Garlic can support your healthy eating program or a program to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Because it is so flavorful, a tiny amount can add a delicious savory flavor to your food without providing any fat or significant calories. Garlic can also be used as a replacement for salt if you are trying to cut back on sodium but still want food that has a satisfying taste.

May Reduce Inflammation

Studies have shown garlic to produce potent anti-inflammatory effects by decreasing biomarkers of inflammation. A double-blind randomized clinical trial showed a significant reduction of inflammatory cytokines with a 400 mg dose of garlic extract given twice a day for eight weeks. Keep in mind this study used an extract and may not reflect real-life consumption of garlic.

May Lower Blood Lipids

Garlic has been shown to lower serum cholesterol levels. Patients with diabetes who were given a combination of olive oil and garlic were able to regulate cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

These effects were seen with garlic in powder or non-powdered form dosed over one to three months. After four months, the garlic consumption raised HDL (good cholesterol) and lowered LDL (bad cholesterol) and total cholesterol levels.

May Protect Against Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress due to free radicals is thought to be mitigated with antioxidant consumption. Garlic contains phenolic compounds with potent antioxidant properties. Specifically, garlic has been shown to help reduce cardiovascular risk in patients with obesity via increased antioxidants and reduced inflammation.

A meta-analysis of clinical trials has shown that supplementing with garlic modulates oxidative stress markers, including total antioxidant capacity.

May Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Available research shows that garlic extract can significantly reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, myocardial infarction, and ischemic stroke due to the nutritional and phytochemical properties it contains. 

Allergies

Consuming garlic can trigger an allergic reaction in some people. The reaction may occur after  ingestion of garlic, contact with garlic, or exposure to garlic dust.

Symptoms range from mild (such as sneezing) to severe and may include red or swollen skin, stuffy nose, breathing difficulty, and skin welts. Anaphylaxis from garlic allergy is rare. Unfortunately, researchers don't know if heating garlic changes the allergy impact.

Adverse Effects

Garlic contains an enzyme that can cause your eyes to water. When you slice or chop garlic, the enzyme is released. If you get the substance on your hands and then touch your eyes with your hands, it can cause slight irritation, and your eyes might water.

And of course, garlic is famous for its effect on the breath. Consuming garlic cooked instead of raw lessens the bad-breath factor, but doesn't eliminate it.

Varieties

You can find garlic in its whole form, pre-minced and preserved, or in powdered form at most grocery stores.

There are hundreds of varieties of garlic. The most common varieties you'll see in stores include artichoke and silverskin. Artichoke garlic is named so because they resemble artichokes with overlapping layers of cloves.

When It's Best

Garlic is grown all over the world and shipped fresh all year long. Use it before it begins to brown, soften, or sprout.

Storage and Food Safety

When selecting garlic at the grocery store, avoid buying any bulbs that are starting to get soft. At home, store garlic at room temperature in a wire or mesh container. Avoid using plastic bags and keep the tops attached to keep garlic fresh longer.

How to Prepare

Garlic can be prepared in many ways. Usually, you first need to remove the papery, onion-like skin. You can buy a special tubular silicon device to remove garlic skin, or try shaking cloves garlic in an enclosed bowl or container. Or smash the garlic with the broad (flat) side of a knife to make removing the skin easier.

Garlic can be cooked whole, or chopped or minced. Recipes may call for it to be sautéed in oil or roasted.

Some people make tea with garlic by combining it with a variety of different ingredients, such as lemon and honey. Garlic tea does not have caffeine in it (unless you combine garlic tea with another type of tea from the Camellia sinensis plant,) and is rumored to provide certain health benefits such as weight loss and reduced blood pressure. But scientific evidence supporting most of the benefits is lacking.

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5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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