Garlic is a vegetable grown and used in cooking for giving good taste and aroma to food. Besides, people use garlic as a home medicine for common minor ailments like a cold. But, there is a lot to garlic than that. There are major health benefits of garlic that most people don't know about. Even die-hard garlic lovers may not know this.
This forms the main topic of our discussion today: the health benefits of garlic. With this in mind, it would be important for us to start by asking ourselves what actually is garlic.
What is garlic?
Garlic is a vegetable plant belonging to the same family as onion and leek. It grows to about a meter tall and forms a bulb underground. Segments called cloves form the bulb, and each of the segments has an individual outer cover. One bulb of garlic has four or more cloves. Depending on the variety, a bulb can even have more than ten cloves.
People use the bulb as food, medicine, and for seasoning. We derive most of the health benefits of garlic from eating or using the bulb cloves than any other part of the plant. Raw garlic has a typical stinging, hot flavor. When cooked, its flavor becomes soft but yet aromatic.
There are two main subspecies of garlic; the hard-neck garlic and the soft-neck garlic. The soft-neck garlic, as the name implies, has a soft stock or stem. This makes it easier to braid together newly-harvested garlic plants for storage. Hard-necked garlic has hard stock. The other difference between the two is that soft-neck garlic has a longer shelve live. You are more to likely find soft-neck garlic in your local vegetable store than the hard-neck garlic.
The hard-neck variety contains two times more health benefits of garlic than the soft-neck. It has more allicin than its soft-neck cousin.
People have been using garlic for many years as a seasoning agent and for its health benefits. Most people use garlic in cooking for its rich aroma. But still unknown to most of us, garlic has far-reaching benefits on one's health. It is even more so when eating raw garlic on a regular basis.
We know that garlic is one of the foods that contain good amounts of a prebiotic fiber called inulin. Inulin provides nutrition for the essential bacteria found in the colon of all the animals including humans. This is one of the many other health benefits of garlic in addition to those I have mentioned below.
Experts of natural remedies argue that raw garlic is the best natural antibiotic you can get. As we chop, cut or chew a clove of raw garlic it releases sulfur compounds, allicin being one of them. Experts of natural remedies believe allicin can protect people against many health problems. These include chronic conditions, inflammatory and infectious conditions that we know of.
Let us take a closer look at the health benefits of garlic.
The Health Benefits of Garlic
Below are some of the most important health benefits of garlic and eating raw garlic. Let me hasten to point out that eating more garlic, eating raw garlic in particular, could have some undesirable results. Well, this is the case with many other foods!
Most people avoid garlic (particularly raw garlic) because of two main reasons. Do you know what they could be? You guessed it, bad breath and bad body odor. For this reason, somewhere in this article, we will come back to discuss these concerns in full. We will also suggest ways that you can follow to deal with them. For now, let us look at the health benefits of garlic. They are well summarized in the infographic below.
Garlic Helps to Fight Cancer
Cancer is a disease or a group of diseases in which some of the cells in the body replicate without stopping. As they replicate, they form growths called tumors. Cancer cells do not die off like the normal cells. They do not respond to normal body signals that regulate the growth and lifespan of body cells. This allows them to live much longer than normal cells. As they grow, cancer cells trespass into surrounding spaces to cause complications.
The National Cancer Institute (USA) carried out a study to determine whether nutrition plays a role in the development of cancer. The study discovered that nutrition does play a role in the development of cancer in humans. The study also found that eating garlic and other types of onions can lead to a reduced risk of various types of cancer. The list ranges from stomach cancer, intestinal cancer, cancer of the colon, to esophageal cancer. The website cites another study carried out in France found out eating more garlic lowers the risk of breast cancer.
You can ask yourself; how does garlic do that? Garlic is able to block the formation and the activation of the substances that cause cancer. Remember, genes control how body cells form and grow. Sometimes the genes get damaged because of foreign substances that enter the body. This causes the genes to malfunction when they have to check the formation of the cells.
Garlic can stop these chemicals from exerting their effect on the genes. Furthermore, garlic stimulates the repair of already damaged genes. Two factors lead the way cancer forms. The first is that cell numbers increase out of control. The second is that old cells remain alive forever, they do not die. Garlic can reduce the cell multiplication and help the genes induce death to the old cells.
In this modern era, cancer and auto-immune conditions like type 1 diabetes are rife. Because of this, it is only reasonable to conclude that amongst all the health benefits of garlic this remains the most important.
"Peace and prosperity begin, geographically, where garlic is used in cooking." - by Louis Diat
Garlic Can Help Manage High Blood Pressure
Garlic is effective in reducing blood pressure in patients with uncontrolled hypertension. This is according to a study done in Melbourne, Australia, from September 2013 to August 2014. It involved 88 known hypertension patients.
How does garlic do that? Well, garlic produces chemical compounds like sulfur. Sulfur triggers blood vessels to produce a chemical called nitrite oxide. Nitrite oxide works on the muscles of the blood vessels to make them more elastic and wider. This has a direct effect on lowering both peripheral and central blood pressure.
Helps to Lower the Risk of Heart Diseases
Cholesterol is a fatty matter found in the bodies of all animals and humans. It is the major constituent of all cell membranes and the body uses it to produce hormones. The human body is able to manufacture cholesterol. It can also get it from animal products like dairy products, eggs, and meat.
As much as it is necessary for the normal functioning of the body, cholesterol can also be bad for your health. It can accumulate in the blood vessels and cause them to block partially or completely. Raw garlic is one of the best ways to reduce cholesterol levels naturally.
A combination of garlic and lemon juice leads to lowering of fat levels in the body. Garlic reduces various types of fats like triglycerides, cholesterol, and lipids. This is according to an article published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Garlic Helps in Fighting Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is a condition of the blood vessels, especially the arteries. It happens where fats and other substances like calcium stick to the inner walls of the arteries. It leads to narrowing of the vessels over time. This can limit the amount of blood supply to vital organs like the heart and the brain. Serious health risks like stroke and heart attack occur in this manner.
Dietary fiber should be the starting point when treating atherosclerosis. This is recommended by the World Health Organization. Nutrients such as soy protein and garlic, rich in fiber, should form part of the preventative diet. These nutrients should form part of a therapeutic plan as well.
Garlic has the capacity to lower cholesterol and triglycerides levels in the blood. This helps to disrupt the development and the progression of atherosclerosis.
Management of Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
Garlic contains chemical compounds that can help treat a variety of health conditions. Some of these chemicals can indeed help to raise insulin levels in the blood vessels. They do this by preventing the liver from inactivating insulin. This maintains and elevates insulin levels in the blood system. We know that good insulin levels allows cells to take up more glucose from the bloodstream.
Experts also believe that eating garlic now and then may help to lower blood glucose levels. Garlic contains fair amounts of vitamins C and vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 ensures that glucose gets easily broken down in the cells. This keeps blood glucose levels standard.
Vitamin C has the ability to lower blood glucose levels.
Management of Some Mental Conditions
The Indian Journal of Pharmacology website states that garlic can be used to treat depression. The study discovered that garlic gave the same result on patients of depression as does synthetic drugs. Furthermore, the study showed that garlic did not leave undesirable side effects as did the regular medications.
Garlic contains antioxidants that also help prevent Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Health Benefits of Garlic for Skin
The chemical compounds in garlic make it a very good remedy for skin problems. As mentioned above, garlic contains vitamins and minerals. These nutrients can help to boost skin health. Besides allicin, some of the nutrients it contains are copper, zinc, sulfur, vitamin B1 and E, and selenium. Zinc is really good at monitoring the production of sebum, which causes acne.
Garlic oil is effective in treating many other skin problems and infections. Garlic has both antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. It can act against pimples, acne, and fungal infections like ringworm and athlete's foot when applied directly to the skin in the form of garlic oil.
Before doing this, you need to make sure that you do not have garlic allergy. You can do that by rubbing a freshly sliced piece of garlic against the inside of your wrist. A skin irritation like rash may develop if you have garlic allergy.
The plant's rich supply of minerals and vitamins make it so good for healthy hair and preventing hair loss. There is so much to talk about concerning the health benefits of garlic to the skin. The list can only go on and on.
Other Health Benefits of Garlic
We all know how eating raw garlic can help to fight common colds and flu. In fact, people have been using garlic as a flu remedy with success for ages. Even up to this day, some people still regard raw garlic as a trustworthy home remedy. As a natural remedy, garlic leaves no undesirable side effects when used moderately. It is, without doubt, nature's answer to the emerging problem of antimicrobial resistance.
Here is a step-by-step guide you can follow to use garlic for treating cold.
There is a belief that garlic can help in treating erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction can either have a physiological or psychological cause. Erectile dysfunction happens when there is insufficient blood supply to the penis. When an error in the functioning of the blood vessels is causing this, the cause is physiological.
As I have mentioned above, the sulfur compounds in garlic urge blood vessels to produce nitrite oxide. Nitrite oxide acts on the blood vessels, causing them to become more elastic and accommodate more blood.
To enjoy the health benefits of garlic, you can take this vegetable in different ways. You can take garlic in its raw form by either using the garlic cloves or the fresh garlic leaves. You can also apply finely chopped pieces of garlic clove to the skin. Allicin, an active ingredient in garlic, can enter the skin in this way through absorption. In any way you are comfortable with, you will find that eating raw garlic is highly beneficial for health.
"Garlic, like perfume, must be used with discretion and on proper occasions" - by MK Rawlings
Health Benefits of Garlic: Considerations Before Using Garlic
In your quest to get all the health benefits of garlic, you should take note of the following raw facts:
- Eating raw garlic will leave your mouth and throat with a stinging, hot sensation! When raw garlic is broken down, chopped or chewed, the sulfur compounds in it release allicin. This is the chemical responsible for the hot taste. The plant uses this mechanism to protect itself against feeding animals. However, when cooked the taste matures into an aromatic flavor.
- Eating garlic raw garlic will leave you with bad breath and a bad body odor. This is the main reason why most people avoid garlic. But there is an answer to this! Read on!
- Garlic is a natural blood thinner! Take extra care not to take it with other prescribed blood thinners like warfarin. You need to consult with your physician before doing this.
- When you eat raw garlic regularly it can cause gastritis or heartburn-like symptoms. Masking raw garlic in other foods as I have explained above can help in a big way. If you already have peptic ulcers then it would be best to switch to cooked garlic.
Eating Raw Garlic and Allergies
Eating raw garlic; can it cause allergies? Yes, but garlic allergies are very rare. People commonly experience intolerance to garlic rather than an allergic reaction. The difference is that in an allergic reaction the body's immune system sees garlic substances as foreign. It then releases inflammatory immune cells to fight them off. Symptoms of garlic allergy include skin inflammation, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and nasal congestion.
On the other hand, garlic intolerance is just an adverse reaction to eating garlic. The symptoms are heartburn, indigestion, or gas. They are mostly related to the gastrointestinal tract.
The above can by no means overshadow the immense health benefits of garlic to your life. All you need is to remain careful and moderate when dealing with this vegetable. That way you can reap its health benefits and still keep your friends close! So, instead of avoiding garlic altogether, just exercise more caution and moderation. See below.
How to soften the after-effects of eating raw garlic:
- Avoid eating raw garlic as is. I prefer to mask garlic in other foods. My favorite method is to add small pieces of raw garlic to a dish of cooked spinach. I would then swallow them up without thorough chewing. It works for me, and I know it will work for you as well.
- Milk is also known to lessen the body odor related to eating garlic. I've never tried this method. You can try it out yourself and see how it works out. If you do, please, tell us your findings in the comments below.
- I usually eat raw garlic when I know I am going to remain at home for at least the next day or two. It takes about two days for the body to get rid of garlic in the system.
- Have you ever experienced an allergic reaction before? If your answer is yes, then you may need to discuss taking a garlic allergy test with your physician to confirm the allergy. Before doing this, avoid eating raw garlic.
If you are still uncomfortable, consider taking only cooked garlic. Its side effects are less severe.