9 health benefits of eating garlic you will love
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9 health benefits of eating garlic you will love

Aside from scaring off vampires, there are tons of health benefits to eating garlic. Don’t be fooled, this small vegetable is mighty! From its medicinal properties to its antimicrobial effects, garlic is a big superfood.

From boosting your immune system to reducing blood pressure and lowering your risk of heart disease, you’ll want to add as much garlic as possible to your diet. Best of all, you don’t need to eat it raw to enjoy its health benefits. 

Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of eating garlic and if there are any detriments to its regular consumption.

What is garlic?

Garlic, or Allium sativum, is a staple in cuisines from Italy to China. Known for centuries for its flavor and health properties, it is used in home remedies and pharmaceutical products to treat chronic conditions and diseases.

Moreover, garlic is a species of bulbous flowering, the Allium, from the same plant family as onions, shallots, leeks, and chives. Native to central Asia, garlic was already enjoyed by ancient Egyptians as a popular seasoning and in traditional medicine.

Sometimes nicknamed the “stinking rose” because of its strong odor, garlic is rich in sulfur-containing compounds allicin, ajoene, diallyl polysulfides, and S-allylcysteine; as well as enzymes, saponins, and flavonoids.

Interestingly, garlic develops its sharp flavor when its cells are crushed or damaged. It’s the processing of the garlic cloves that triggers the breakdown of sulfur-containing compounds and makes it smell and taste so strongly. This can explain why roasting a whole garlic head in the oven results in a much milder, sweeter food.

Green garlic

Garlic is consumed raw or cooked and is also found in powder and pill form. Aside from eating the bulb, some Asian cuisines also use the stem, leaves, and flowers of young garlic. Also called “green garlic,” it also provides health benefits but with a lighter flavor.

Black garlic

You might also have heard of “black garlic,” which originates from Korean cuisine. These unusual garlic heads become dark brown or black from fermentation. This technique gives garlic a sweet and syrupy taste. Some foodies even find it similar to tamarind or balsamic vinegar.

Garlic’s medicinal properties

Garlic is rich in compounds such as allicin, diallyl disulfide, and s-allyl cysteine known for their health properties.

Many of garlic’s medicinal properties are linked to sulfur compounds, which are formed when raw garlic cloves are chewed or chopped. Allicin is one of these sulfur compounds with a variety of health-promoting properties. It can notably lower cholesterol and blood pressure having a direct impact on heart health.[1]Borlinghaus J, Albrecht F, Gruhlke MC, Nwachukwu ID, Slusarenko AJ. Allicin: chemistry and biological properties. Molecules. 2014;19(8):12591-12618. Published 2014 Aug 19. … Continue reading

Garlic really is a superfood!

9 health benefits of eating garlic

1. Boost your immune system and help fight colds

Garlic is an immune system booster. It’s an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial. Garlic also offers sulfur compounds and a mix of vitamins and nutrients.[2]Arreola R, Quintero-Fabián S, López-Roa RI, et al. Immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic compoundsJ Immunol Res. 2015;2015:401630. doi:10.1155/2015/401630

This makes garlic a natural ally in fighting off colds. A 12-week study demonstrated that garlic reduced colds by 63% compared to a placebo. While symptoms were reduced by 70%.[3]Josling P. Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled surveyAdv Ther. 2001;18(4):189-193. doi:10.1007/BF02850113

Related: Boost your natural immunity: 6 easy health tips

2. Detoxify your body from heavy metals

The sulfur compounds in garlic can protect organs from heavy metal toxicity when consumed in high doses.

A study on lead poisoning among employees of a car battery factory showed that garlic decreased lead levels in the blood by 19%. In addition, garlic also diminished several toxicity symptoms, like headaches and blood pressure.[4]Kianoush S, Balali-Mood M, Mousavi SR, et al. Comparison of therapeutic effects of garlic and d-Penicillamine in patients with chronic occupational lead poisoning. Basic Clin Pharmacol … Continue reading

3. Improve your athleticism

Should you add a clove of garlic to your pre-workout smoothie?

Historically, garlic was already used in ancient Greece as a “performance-enhancing” drug. Other traditional medicines use garlic to combat fatigue and increase concentration.[5]Rivlin RS. Historical perspective on the use of garlicJ Nutr. 2001;131(3s):951S-4S. doi:10.1093/jn/131.3.951S

Some research shows that garlic can increase exercise capacity and lower heart rate during peak exertion[6]Verma SK, Rajeevan V, Jain P, Bordia A. Effect of garlic (Allium sativum) oil on exercise tolerance in patients with coronary artery diseaseIndian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2005;49(1):115-118, and reduce exercise-related fatigue.[7]Morihara N, Nishihama T, Ushijima M, Ide N, Takeda H, Hayama M. Garlic as an anti-fatigue agent. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007;51(11):1329-1334. doi:10.1002/mnfr.200700062

4. Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia

One of the culprits of our brain’s aging process is oxidative stress caused by free radicals. With its antioxidant properties, garlic can help protect your body from these damages.[8]Amagase H, Petesch BL, Matsuura H, Kasuga S, Itakura Y. Intake of garlic and its bioactive components. J Nutr. 2001;131(3s):955S-62S. doi:10.1093/jn/131.3.955S

High garlic supplement intake can increase our antioxidant enzymes and considerably lower oxidative stress in those with high blood pressure.[9]Dhawan V, Jain S. Garlic supplementation prevents oxidative DNA damage in essential hypertension. Mol Cell Biochem. 2005;275(1-2):85-94. doi:10.1007/s11010-005-0824-2

In addition to garlic’s antioxidant properties, the associated results of reducing cholesterol and blood pressure can decrease the risk of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.[10]Borek C. Garlic reduces dementia and heart-disease riskJ Nutr. 2006;136(3 Suppl):810S-812S. doi:10.1093/jn/136.3.810S

5. Prevent and control cancer

Numerous studies have explored the properties of garlic for the prevention and control of cancer. There’s evidence of its effect on lung cancer, brain cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, rectal cancer, and colon cancer.

These studies include:

  • Lung cancer: Chinese researchers found a protective effect between raw garlic consumption and lung cancer. They suggested that garlic may have a chemo-preventive quality for lung cancer.[11]Jin ZY ., Wu M, Han RQ ., et al. Raw Garlic Consumption as a Protective Factor for Lung Cancer, a Population-Based Case-Control Study in a Chinese Population. Cancer Prevention Research. … Continue reading
  • Brain cancer: Garlic’s organo-sulfur compounds are effective in eradicating the cells in glioblastomas, a kind of deadly brain tumor.[12]Das A, Banik NL, Ray SK. Garlic compounds generate reactive oxygen species leading to activation of stress kinases and cysteine proteases for apoptosis in human glioblastoma T98G and U87MG … Continue reading According to the authors, “this research highlights the great promise of plant-originated compounds as a natural medicine for controlling the malignant growth of human brain tumor cells.“
  • Prostate cancer: A review of the research on the topic confirmed that allium vegetable consumption, specifically garlic, has been linked to decreased risk of prostate cancer.[13]Zhou XF, Ding ZS, Liu NB. Allium Vegetables and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Evidence from 132,192 Subjects. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2013;14(7):4131-4134. … Continue reading

6. Reduce your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease

Heart attacks and strokes are some of the biggest killers of our time. These cardiovascular diseases are typically linked to high blood pressure or hypertension. 

The health benefits of eating garlic can also help improve blood pressure. Aside from lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet and physical activity, there’s evidence that garlic supplements can reduce hypertension.[14]Dhawan V, Jain S. Garlic supplementation prevents oxidative DNA damage in essential hypertensionMol Cell Biochem. 2005;275(1-2):85-94. doi:10.1007/s11010-005-0824-2 [15]Sobenin IA, Andrianova IV, Demidova ON, Gorchakova T, Orekhov AN. Lipid-lowering effects of time-released garlic powder tablets in double-blinded placebo-controlled randomized study. J … Continue reading

Research shows that 600 to 1,500 mg of garlic extract was as potent as the drug Atenolol to reduce blood pressure.[16]Ashraf R, Khan RA, Ashraf I, Qureshi AA. Effects of Allium sativum (garlic) on systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with essential hypertension. Pak J Pharm Sci. … Continue reading

7. Improve your cholesterol

If you’re conscious about your cholesterol levels, garlic is a tasty solution. Garlic supplements can help reduce your cholesterol by about 10% to 15%.[17]Ried K, Toben C, Fakler P. Effect of garlic on serum lipids: an updated meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2013;71(5):282-299. doi:10.1111/nure.12012

Furthermore, garlic seems to have more influence on what is considered “bad” cholesterol (LDL), but not as much on “good” cholesterol (or HDL). This confirms garlic’s health properties for heart disease prevention.[18]Kojuri J, Vosoughi AR, Akrami M. Effects of anethum graveolens and garlic on lipid profile in hyperlipidemic patients. Lipids Health Dis. 2007;6:5. Published 2007 Mar 1. … Continue reading

8. Reduce preterm delivery during pregnancy

Microbial infections are quite dangerous during pregnancy as they can lead to preterm delivery. Therefore, finding natural solutions to warding and fighting off microbial infections for pregnant women can have a tremendous impact on their child’s life.

A 2013 study looked at the effects of garlic on preterm delivery risk. Specifically, they analyzed the influence of food with antimicrobial and prebiotic components on the risk of spontaneous preterm delivery.

Using dried fruits and alliums, they found that these foods with antimicrobial and prebiotic properties may be of importance to reduce the risk of preterm delivery. “In particular, garlic was associated with an overall lower risk of spontaneous preterm delivery”. While, “dried fruits, especially raisins, were associated with reduced risk of preterm prelabour rupture of membranes”. [19]Myhre R, Brantsæter AL, Myking S, et al. Intakes of garlic and dried fruits are associated with lower risk of spontaneous preterm delivery. J Nutr. 2013;143(7):1100-1108. … Continue reading

9. Improve your bone health

Studies on rodents have shown that garlic consumption can minimize bone loss by increasing estrogen in females.[20]Mukherjee M, Das AS, Das D, Mukherjee S, Mitra S, Mitra C. Role of peritoneal macrophages and lymphocytes in the development of hypogonadal osteoporosis in an ovariectomized rat model: possible … Continue reading

There’s not enough data on the effects of garlic on bone loss in humans yet, but if we extrapolate on rodent studies it seems quite promising.

In addition, a study on women going through menopause saw that daily supplements of dry garlic extract (approximately 2 grams of raw garlic) significantly improved a marker of estrogen deficiency.[21]Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Hesabgar HA, Owlia MB, Hadinedoushan H, Barzegar K, Fllahzadeh MH. The effect of garlic tablet on pro-inflammatory cytokines in postmenopausal osteoporotic women: a … Continue reading

Furthermore, there’s also evidence of the impact of garlic on arthritis. A 2010 research found that garlic and other alliums have a protective effect on osteoarthritis,[22]Williams FM, Skinner J, Spector TD, et al. Dietary garlic and hip osteoarthritis: evidence of a protective effect and putative mechanism of action. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2010;11:280. … Continue reading a common form of arthritis mainly affecting joints in hands, knees, hips, and the spine. Garlic can be a natural way to help prevent and manage symptoms. 

Is raw garlic good for you?

Fried, baked, roasted… There are thousands of ways to use garlic in everyday recipes. From garlic pasta to shrimps with garlic, the options are tasty and full of flavor.

When cooked, garlic’s taste becomes softer and slightly sweet. Fried, it becomes crispy and a little tangy. However, we can also use raw garlic in sauces like aioli and spicy dressings.

From the fear of getting garlic breath to an upset stomach, raw garlic tends to have a bad reputation. However, there’s an argument that raw garlic can have more health benefits.

Turns out it’s true. A 2018 study confirmed that one of garlic’s most powerful compounds, allicin, deteriorates from heat and cooking. Yet, it’s not as simple as swallowing a garlic clove whole to avoid its strong flavor. For allicin to be released garlic must be crushed.

In addition to being pungent, raw garlic can also lead to heartburn and irritate the digestive tract. Which can lead to stomach aches and terrible garlic burps.

However, the researchers also found that the allicin bioavailability (the rate at which a substance can be absorbed by our organism) in cooked garlic is higher than was predicted. So whether boiled, roasted, or pickled, garlic still has plenty of nutrition to offer.[23]Lawson LD, Hunsaker SM. Allicin Bioavailability and Bioequivalence from Garlic Supplements and Garlic Foods. Nutrients. 2018;10(7):812. Published 2018 Jun 24. doi:10.3390/nu10070812 This is great news if the thought of eating raw garlic scares you off!

How much garlic should you eat?

As a general rule of thumb, having 1 or 2 garlic cloves daily is considered beneficial.

Here is an overview of daily recommended garlic quantities in different forms:

  • Raw garlic: 2 to 5 g
  • Dried garlic powder: 0.4 to 1.2 g
  • Garlic extract: 300 to 1,000 mg
  • Aged garlic extract: up to 2,400 mg

If you are fighting off a cold or want to boost your immune system, it’s a good idea to up the dosage.

Garlic supplements are standardized and typically contain 1.1% to 1.3% of allicin. Garlic extract that is coated can help the pills dissolve in the intestine rather than the stomach.

There’s no real limitation to how much garlic you can eat, but just like any good thing, don’t abuse it. If you start feeling heartburn, lower the amount you’re having, and best not to have it raw.

Does garlic have risks or side effects?

Garlic breath

If you suffer from bad breath after eating garlic, the best solution is to have your friends and spouse eat some too!

Kidding aside, garlic, especially raw, can lead to a strong breath. The culprits are the sulfur-containing compounds that are also beneficial to our health. So rather than avoiding garlic, prefer it cooked or in supplements.

To eradicate garlic breath try fragrant foods such as mint leaves or pineapple. 

Eating garlic during pregnancy

It is safe to eat garlic during pregnancy or lactation. In large quantities, it could alter the taste of breast milk. Still, unless your child dislikes it, feel free to eat as much garlic as you like.

Garlic can act as an anticoagulant 

Raw garlic can increase the risk of bleeding, especially for people suffering from a bleeding disorder.

Similarly, it’s best not to have raw garlic in the days leading to surgery because of its anticoagulant properties.

On the other hand, garlic has blood-thinning properties. It can reduce blood clot formation and help thin blood.[24]Fukao H, Yoshida H, Tazawa Y, Hada T. Antithrombotic effects of odorless garlic powder both in vitro and in vivoBiosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2007;71(1):84-90. doi:10.1271/bbb.60380 [25]Ackermann RT, Mulrow CD, Ramirez G, Gardner CD, Morbidoni L, Lawrence VA. Garlic Shows Promise for Improving Some Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Arch Intern Med. 2001;161(6):813–824. … Continue reading

How to keep garlic?

Storing a head of garlic

In a dry, cool, dark pantry, whole garlic heads can be stored for 3 to 6 months. Don’t use a plastic bag, as the trapped moisture will rot your vegetables. Use a mesh or paper bag instead.

Storing unpeeled garlic cloves

Once separated, unpeeled garlic cloves can only last a few weeks. Store as you would a head of garlic and use it within three weeks.

Storing peeled garlic cloves

Peeled, you can keep garlic whole or crushed in the fridge for up to a week. Use a glass jar or an airtight container to avoid your fridge smelling like garlic.

Key takeaways

  • Garlic is a superfood you can easily add to your everyday meals.
  • Garlic’s health benefits derive from its sulfur compounds, allicin, diallyl disulfide, and s-allyl cysteine.
  • It’s only once we crush, slice, or chew garlic cloves that they become strong and fragrant.
  • 9 health benefits of eating garlic:
    • Boosting your immune system and helping fight colds
    • Detoxify your body from heavy metals
    • Improving your athleticism
    • Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia
    • Cancer prevention and control
    • Reducing your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease
    • Improving your cholesterol
    • Reducing preterm delivery during pregnancy
    • Improving your bone health
  • Raw garlic is most potent as nutrients and sulfuric compounds deteriorate with heat.
  • However, raw garlic is harder to digest and can cause heartburn. Cooked garlic offers smaller amounts of beneficial compounds but is still effective.

Related: 13 factual health benefits of ginger

References[+]

*Be mindful about your health. This article is provided for informational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.