Years of research have shown that garlic may protect against heart disease—but only if you use it in heart-healthy ways! Garlic has the potential to help protect against cardiovascular disease in many important ways. These include lowering blood pressure, preventing damage to red blood cells and lipoproteins, slowing down the process of hardening arteries, and interfering with blood clot formation.

In those who have previously suffered a heart attack, garlic may significantly reduce the risk of a second heart attack and death from heart attack. In the kitchen, there are countless ways to include garlic in foods eaten at every meal. Be sure your heart benefits by combining this member of the onion family with other nutritious ingredients and prepare them in healthful ways.

1. Boost the flavor of scrambled egg whites or a yolk-free omelet. Although eating whole eggs is okay from time to time, the American Heart Association recommends substituting egg whites, or egg substitutes, in place of yolks as often as possible. Use two egg whites in place of each yolk called for in a recipe.

For instance, in an omelet recipe that calls for two whole eggs, use four egg whites. In a nonstick pan, sauté finely chopped garlic and onion in a little olive, canola, or other heart-smart cooking oil, with or without other vegetables, before adding beaten egg whites to the skillet.

2. Season a veggie side dish with cooked garlic and nothing else. Sautée minced garlic in olive oil in a large skillet over low heat for 30 seconds; add trimmed and cut-up broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, tomatoes, spinach, kale, or other fresh or frozen (thawed) veggies, and sauté over medium heat just until tender.

3. The AHA recommends serving omega-3-rich oily fish, such as salmon or trout, at least twice a week. Grilling, steaming, poaching, and roasting—with lemon and garlic seasoning—are heart-healthy seafood cooking methods.

4. Garlic and legumes are a wonderful meat substitute and excellent sources of protein in main dishes, soups, and salads. Flavor powerhouse foods like beans, lentils, and soy products such as tofu with garlic. Since the sharp flavor of garlic mellows out with cooking, you can use as much as you like in slow-simmering foods like chilies and stews.

5. For meat eaters, there may be no better flavor match than meat and garlic. For the sake of your heart, choose leaner cuts of beef and pork, such as "loin" or "round." And lighter cuts of poultry, such as chicken breasts and turkey cutlets without skin. Heart-healthy cooking methods such as roasting, grilling, and broiling on a rack allows fat to drain away from the meat; stir-frying is a tasty way to cook meat dishes in combination with lots of veggies and garlic, using just a small amount of heart-smart vegetable oil such as soybean, safflower, or sunflower.

Susan McQuillan, MS, RDN, reviewed this article.


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