Garlic is found in almost every kitchen in our homes and restaurants. It is used worldwide as a flavor in many different cuisines. Because of the health benefits of garlic, it is believed to prevent and treat a vast number of ailments and health conditions.
But what is garlic?
According to Wikipedia, Garlic is a species in the onion genus, Allium. It is closely related to the onion, shallot, chive, and Chinese onion.
Garlic is native to central Asia and north-eastern Iran and has long been a common seasoning worldwide. Garlic has been used both as a food flavoring and traditional medicine over a period of years.
In this article, we are going to discuss the health benefits of garlic.
The health benefits of garlic in this article are; Reducing cold, Fighting cancer, Anti-inflammatory properties, Antibiotic properties, Heart protection, Blood pressure regulation, Protecting the liver, Preserving food, Cholesterol regulation, Liver protection and skin and hair protection.
You may also be wondering how garlic works
Garlic contains compounds such as sulfur, amino acids, minerals and more. These chemical compounds have anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, and antibiotic properties are the reason behind the vast health benefits of garlic.
Let us look at the health benefits of garlic in detail
1. Garlic for heart protection
Garlic helps to lower cholesterol and triglyceride because of the antioxidant properties of allicin. This is of the major aspects that protect your heart. It is important to eat raw garlic or semi-cooked to derive the benefits. Cooked garlic tends to lose its benefits.
2. Garlic fights cancer
Studies have revealed that garlic reduces the risk of several types of cancer including; brain cancer, lung cancer, and prostate cancer. Organosulfur in garlic is said to be good at destroying cells in glioblastomas, a dangerous brain tumor.
The study conducted at the Jiangsu provincial Centre for disease control and prevention in china suggested that garlic potentially serves as a chemopreventive agent for lung cancer.
3. Garlic treats common cold
The common cold is a virus that affects the upper respiratory tract. Studies show that the intake of allicin in garlic may reduce the frequency of cold in adults.
4. Garlic a great antibiotic
The anti-bacterial properties of garlic help to guard us against bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. Research shows that ajoene, an organosulfur compound in garlic can treat athlete’s foot, ringworm, and tapeworm in children.
5. Garlic a food preservative
The anti-viral properties of garlic keep away the bacteria not only from our bodies but also from contaminating our food. A clove of garlic or minced garlic in your dish help to keep harmful bacteria controlled and the food will stay safe and fresh for much more time.
6. Garlic is an anti-inflammatory
Apart from being a tasty addition to any dish, garlic boosts of diallyl disulfide which is an anti-inflammatory. This limits after inflammation effects. For example, garlic may stop cartilage damage from arthritis.
7. Garlic regulates blood sugar
Studies show that garlic reduces blood sugar level before eating (fasting blood glucose) and the risk of atherosclerosis.
Similarly, garlic is a source of vitamins B-6 and C. B-6 is important in the metabolism of carbs. All these are attributed to the maintenance of blood sugar levels.
8. Garlic reduces hypertension
With garlic, the body produces more nitric oxide. The nitric oxide compound relaxes the body muscles and dilates the blood vessels. This, in turn, reduces high blood pressure.
9. Garlic improves your skin and hair
The antioxidant property of garlic protects the human skin from the aging effects of free radicals as well as killing the acne-causing bacteria
10. Garlic protects the liver
The selenium, a compound found in garlic can detoxify your liver. Selenium can also help the body to naturally flush out those toxins in your body through the secretion of the liver enzymes.
Having seen the health benefits of Garlic, let us now look at some of the types of garlic
For most of you, unless you grow garlic, you may not know or differentiate the different types of garlic. Others only know garlic from the cloves they see in grocery stores or from labeled containers that store crushed garlic.
As a matter of fact, garlic can be divided into two groups and each group has several varieties. The two garlic groups include;
Soft neck garlic
This is the type that most of you see in the grocery store. It has a beautiful creamy white skin with several layers of cloves surrounding the bulb. The cloves become thinner and softer as you move from the outer layer to the innermost layers close to the bulb. The most common soft neck varieties include;
- Silverskin garlic: this has a very strong flavor, easy to grow and stored well in dry form
- Artichoke garlic: Artichoke has a mild flavor compared to silverskin, has purple spots on the skin with fewer larger cloves.
Hard neck garlic
This type has an extremely strong firm stalk; protruding a few inches from the bulb top. It forms a thin green long extension (scapes) from the central stalk when growing. The most common hard neck varieties include;
- Purple stripe: this has bright purple streaks on its papery sheath. It boasts of making the best-baked garlic. Purple stripe can last for about 6 months.
- Porcelain: this has about 4 large cloves; covered with a smooth white sheath.
- Rocambole boosts for its rich full-bodied taste. It contains one set of soft cloves around the woody stalk. Rocambole can last for around six months.
But how do we consume garlic?
Garlic has a number of benefits including culinary and medicinal uses. Likewise, there are many ways we can incorporate garlic in our diet in order to tap its health benefits. These include;
Eating raw garlic
You can have one serving or ½ a clove in your daily meal. Ways of eating raw garlic may include;
- Making pesto
- Slicing garlic on salad
- Blending garlic with lemon, tomatoes, and ginger
- Mixing chopped garlic with fresh tomatoes
Eating cooked garlic
Although raw garlic can easily and effectively deliver the benefits, we can also get the nutrients by cooking garlic. Ways to have cooked garlic may include;
- Putting garlic into vegetable dishes
- Marinating meat in a garlic rub
- Simmering a garlic soup
Adding garlic powder to food
Although it is convenient to add garlic to your recipe, it may not have the same nutrient concentration as fresh garlic. One teaspoon of garlic powder is enough to add flavor to your recipe.
The Garlic oil
Flavor can also be added to your dish by using garlic-infused oils in the dish.
Mix a clove, chopped or minced garlic in hot water for a couple of minutes and later sieve out the garlic particles to make the garlic tea. Garlic tea is good at boosting the immune system.
Use garlic supplements
The health benefits of garlic can still be obtained using garlic supplements. An example of a garlic supplement is dried garlic capsules.
Which is healthier raw garlic or cooked garlic?
Apart from being nutritious, garlic boosts of a vast number of health benefits. However, the nutrient concentration and the effect of garlic on our health vary between raw and cooked garlic.
The majority of the health benefits from the fresh, raw garlic as opposed to cooked garlic. This is attributed to the reasons below.
- Cooking garlic vanishes its vitamin concentration i.e. vitamin C and B. These vitamins are soluble in water and easily evaporate during the cooking. This makes the fresh garlic healthier compared to cooked garlic
- Some minerals can be leached in the water and be lost on cooking. Minerals such as magnesium and calcium can be lost during the cooking
According to the Austin Community College, to retain vitamins and some other minerals in the garlic, add it to the dish a few minutes to the end of the cooking.
That said, raw garlic is, therefore, healthier compared to cooked garlic.
How much garlic should I eat a day?
As a matter of fact, there are no specific amounts of garlic that an individual should eat a day.
According to a review in Quora.com by Gouthami Mardi M. SC food and nutrition diet & Nutrition, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Garlic is usually medicinal. The regular individual, therefore, does not need any garlic except that which is added in curry. Otherwise, you need not take regularly.
She continues to say that garlic removes cholesterol from the blood and therefore the body may get used to the garlic and eventually fails to remove the cholesterol with time.
What spices mix well with garlic?
The seasoning blends of garlic highly depend on the style of the dish or cuisines.
According to a review by Olivia Clark (caterer/cooking instructor) in Quora.com, garlic is universal. It blends with most spices and herbs more than salts. The spices and herbs that may blend with garlic include;
- Fennel seed
Our article about the best homemade spice blends may also be beneficial to you.
Does garlic have any side effects?
I am sure you have come across a saying that goes “too much of everything is bad” in the same vein when garlic is used in large quantities, it may cause the following side effects
- When consumed by mouth especially raw garlic, it gives a bad breath and body odor.
- Garlic can cause irritation of the skin if when applied on the skin
- Since garlic has a property of lowering blood sugar, it can lower blood sugar to dangerous levels, leading to diabetes.
- Garlic can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels for people with low blood pressure
- Garlic can cause prolonged bleeding and distorts the blood pressure if one had surgery. It is advisable to avoid garlic if you just had surgery.
- Garlic may interact with some medication and affect the effectiveness of some drugs. A simple example is the absorption of isoniazid by the body. Garlic can reduce how much is absorbed which in turn affects the performance of the medication.
Do garlic and honey help sexually to a man?
Garlic and honey are potential natural remedies for erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.
Erectile dysfunction is when a man cannot have or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. This can either be attributed to physiological and psychological tendencies.
The study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science suggested that garlic can relax the blood vessels to improve blood circulation. When blood circulation to the lower abdomen improves, blood flows through the sexual organs which improve the male erections. This eventually solves impotence.
In addition to the culinary uses, garlic has a vast number of medicinal uses due to its antibiotic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. However, overconsumption comes with side effects and interaction with medicine.
Fresh garlic yields more benefits compared to cooked garlic. This is because some nutrients like vitamins are soluble water and cooking will lead to loss of these nutrients.
Therefore consider eating fresh garlic or add garlic to the dishes a few minutes to the end of cooking.
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