Can You Eat Garlic If You Have Diabetes?

Medically reviewed by Alana Biggers, MD, MPH on August 4, 2016Written by Daniela Ginta on August 4, 2016
garlic and diabetes

The basics

People who have diabetes are unable to produce enough insulin or use the insulin their body does produce in an efficient manner. This can affect your blood sugar levels. It’s important to monitor what you eat to keep your blood sugar levels as steady as possible.

One way to do this is by checking the glycemic index (GI) score of each food. The GI shows how much a certain food can increase your blood sugar levels. GI helps with the planning of daily meals and avoiding high-carbohydrate combinations. A low GI is between 1 and 55 and high is 70 and above.

It’s important to know that natural foods, such as garlic, though not rich in carbohydrates, can influence blood sugar levels.

What are the benefits of eating garlic if you have diabetes?

Most adults can safely consume garlic. For some people, taste, odor, or spiciness can be an issue.

Traditionally, garlic has been recommended to help reduce high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Garlic consumption may also reduce the incidence of heart disease, a condition that affects approximately 80 percent of people with diabetes.

A 2006 study found that raw garlic might help reduce blood sugar levels, as well as reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. This is particular interest, as diabetes increases a person’s risk of atherosclerosis-related inflammation.

Though this is still under investigation, a 2014 review of studies also supported the idea that regular garlic consumption may help lower blood sugar levels.

Garlic is also a good source of vitamins B-6 and C. Vitamin B-6 is involved in carbohydrate metabolism. Vitamin C may also play a role in maintaining blood sugar levels.

In general, garlic has been shown to:

  • improve the health of the cardiovascular system by reducing the levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood lipids
  • decrease blood pressure
  • have an anti-tumor effect
  • prevent cancer cell growth
  • have a strong antibacterial and antifungal effect

Risks and warnings

Garlic is quite potent both in taste and odor. Although it’s generally safe to eat, you may experience minor side effects. This includes:

  • heartburn
  • gas
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

You may be more likely to experience side effects if you eat raw garlic.

If you’re taking blood-thinning medications, consult your doctor. Garlic consumption may amplify the effects of these medications.

How to add garlic to your diet

If you don’t mind the taste, add a couple of finely chopped garlic cloves to your salads or potato salad. There isn’t a standard dosage for eating garlic, so feel free to add garlic whenever a recipe or snack allows.

If you prefer a less strong odor and taste, look for garlic greens, which are young plants, and garlic scapes, which are curly shoots that appear as the plant matures. They’re available at farmers markets and local produce stores during the spring season. Both have a milder flavor. You can chop them and mix them in salads, dips, and savory spreads.

It’s recommended that you let chopped garlic sit for at least 5 minutes to allow allicin, one of the herb’s main components, to be at its highest concentration. This may enhance the herb’s potential health benefits.

What about garlic supplements?

If you find the taste of raw garlic too offensive or are unable to have it as often as you’d like, you may want to try supplements. Look for aged garlic extract or other garlic extracts that contain allicin.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing supplements:

  • Consult with your doctor before adding supplements to your regimen. They can help you determine whether this is the best option for you.
  • Always buy from a reputable manufacturer that doesn’t use heat processing. This can destroy the active compounds in the garlic, which provide the most health benefits.
  • Avoid completely odorless products. They’re likely stripped of the sulfur compounds that give the characteristic smell and are responsible for some of its possible health benefits.

The bottom line

You can use garlic to improve the taste and quality of meals. Consuming it may also help you maintain better levels of health. For best results, consume garlic regularly in moderate amounts. Cooking garlic lowers its potential therapeutic qualities, so be sure to use fresh and raw garlic in your dishes. Supplements are also an option, but you should consult with your doctor before using them.

Keep reading: 9 Best places to find diabetes recipes »

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