There may be some truth to the old New York proverb: ‘A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat’!
Known as ‘the stinking rose’, garlic has been used since ancient times as both a food and a medicine. It has been found in Egyptian pyramids and ancient Greek temples, and has even been referenced in the Bible!
It’s not by chance that these ancient cultures all came to the same conclusion about garlic – it’s a pretty awesome herb.
And modern science tends to see garlic in the same light, as a powerful food to help prevent and treat so many different health issues.
The Issue of Garlic Breath
Before we go any further, let’s address your most obvious concern (and mine!): garlic’s less than desirable eau de parfum.
I don’t want it to hold you back from eating more garlic – you’ll be missing out on some incredible health benefits.
Yes, your breath may have that distinctive odor after eating it but there are certain ways to lessen the smell.
You could also try oil pulling, which improves breath and has added health benefits.
And, you don’t have to eat that much to reap some of the benefits. Try a clove a day and see how that works for you…and those around you.
Garlic’s Secret Ingredient:
So what makes garlic so amazing?
The secret behind this herb’s superpower is a sulfur compound called allicin.
When allicin is digested, it produces sulfenic acid. Amazingly, this acid reacts with free radicals faster than any other known compound.
This makes sulfenic acid a potent antioxidant and is behind some of garlic’s most impressive health benefits.
But, you have to know the trick behind releasing allicin in order to fully benefit from garlic’s antioxidant and other properties.
The Trick to Releasing Garlic’s Super Power
Garlic actually contains two separate compounds that need to come together to form allicin. Because these compounds are stored in different compartments of the clove, you need to crush, chew, or chop the garlic to enable them to react with each other.
It’s pretty clever when you understand why garlic is built like this.
You see, garlic needs to protect itself from insects. So, when an unsuspecting bug comes along and bites into the clove, these compounds react…and this natural pesticide is released.
It may also explain why garlic is so good at killing the ‘bugs’ that cause colds, flu, and other illness – but I’ll get into that later.
I keep coming across articles that highlight the incredible vitamin and mineral content of garlic, which surprised me a little.
After all, a tiny clove can’t contain 23% of your recommended daily value (RDV) of manganese, can it?
It turns out, it can’t! But 9 cloves can.
Who eats 9 cloves of garlic a day though? (And do their friends run a mile when they smell them coming?)
Here’s the nutritional profile of one garlic clove, from NutritionData.com.
While garlic is really low calorie and low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, one clove contains a meager:
- 3% of your RDV of manganese
- 2% of vitamin C and vitamin B6
- 1% of both calcium and selenium.
Of course, calorie for calorie it’s nutrient dense but in the real world, it’s not going to be your primary source of vitamins and minerals.
That said, garlic is an amazing healing food and definitely gives you plenty of bang for your nutrition buck. Here are 10 reasons why you should be eating garlic every day.
Immune Health: Anti-Everything
Thanks to its ability to enhance the immune system with its antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, garlic has been used almost forever as a natural medicine.
I always add a little more garlic to my daily meals around cold and flu season – it’s probably one of the reasons why I never get sick.
A study of 146 people, carried out over a 12 week period during the winter months, showed that taking a garlic supplement every day reduced the number of colds by 63%, compared with not taking supplements.
What’s more, of those taking the supplement that did get colds, the average length of symptoms was reduced by 70%, from 5 days in the control group to just 1.5 days in the garlic group.
Smooth Skin: No More Wrinkles
What would you do to keep your youthful appearance?
Would you put up with a little garlic odor in exchange for wrinkle free skin?
If so, you’re in luck.
Garlic may possess some youth-preserving, anti-aging properties, most likely down to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
What’s more, three compounds in garlic have been proven to have anti-wrinkle effects – meaning there are three more reasons to add this wonder-herb to your meals.
And, if you suffer from acne or pimples, then garlic may help by killing acne-causing bacteria.
Some recommend rubbing it on your face for extra benefits but I’d worry it might sting. I prefer to rub it on my chicken instead.
Remove Heavy Metals from the Body
If you have dental amalgams or eat a lot of mercury containing fish like king mackerel, swordfish or shark, you might need a little more garlic.
Studies have shown that there is a link between garlic and removing heavy metals, like mercury and lead, from the body.
One study on rats showed a decrease in lead content in the liver, kidneys, brain, and bone, thanks to high doses of garlic extract.
Another study, this time on 117 workers at a car battery plant who had chronic lead poisoning, showed that garlic was successful at reducing lead in the body. It was deemed by researchers as being as effective as medication, and clinically safer.
Stay Heart Healthy
According to CNN, fresh garlic will protect your heart.
Scientists believe that eating a clove of garlic every day will reduce damage to your heart and maintain a good blood flow in the aorta.
It can also slow down hardening of the arteries (known as atherosclerosis), as demonstrated in a four year study where participants took garlic powder every day. Over the course of the research, men who took garlic had only a 1.1% increase in plaque volume; but those who took placebo had a 5.5% increase.
Garlic also appears to have an effect on lowering LDL cholesterol levels, although it’s modest at best, so I wouldn’t quit the statins or start filling up on junk food (which is probably killing you anyway)!
Down With Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the biggest contributors to cardiovascular disease. Garlic seems to have double the heart protecting benefits by bringing down blood pressure levels.
In fact, garlic extract between 600 mg and 1,500 mg was found to be just as effective as medication prescribed for hypertension, when taken over a 24-week period.
Other studies have shown garlic powder has a significant effect over 12 weeks, but only in mild cases of high blood pressure.
Garlic is also said to be an excellent natural blood thinner.
It’s so good that cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra actually recommending that some of his patients avoid garlic if they take blood-thinning medication, for fear it will thin blood too much!
Cancer Fighting Properties
Wheatgrass isn’t the only cancer fighter I’ve talked about, garlic is said to be another great anti-cancer food.
Its antibacterial properties, high level of antioxidants, and its ability to enhance DNA repair, are just some of the reasons put forward by the National Cancer Institute for garlic’s possible anti-cancer benefits.
There are lots of studies out there, showing that garlic can protect against various cancers:
- Clinical studies suggest that eating garlic and onion regularly may prevent prostate cancer.
- Eating a lot of raw or cooked garlic is associated with a protective effect against stomach and colorectal cancers.
- Increased garlic consumption may reduce pancreatic cancer risk.
- Garlic has shown promise in preventing breast cancer.
While I recommend garlic as prevention method, it’s far from being a cure for this disease.
A Weight Loss Pill
This mighty bulb could help you keep your weight under control, and is much less harmful than a diet pill!
According to the Daily Mail, lab tests showed that rats given a high sugar diet put on less weight if they were also fed allicin. And, their blood pressure was lower than the control group. The head researcher, Dr. David Mirelman, described allicin as a ‘wonder drug’, in the same league as aspirin.
In another study, scientists fed mice a fattening diet for eight weeks, and then gave them the same diet supplemented with garlic for another seven weeks. The garlic reduced the mice’s body weight and fat levels, as well as safeguarding the creatures’ blood and liver from the unhealthy diet.
Protect Your Memories
As bad as garlic is for your breath, it could prove vital for your brain.
Another compound in garlic (this time not the amazing allicin) may protect the brain from age-related disease like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Both conditions are thought to be caused by inflammation in the brain, as well as oxidative stress from excess free radicals.
FruArg, the compound studied, was shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which is why it’s so effective at warding off these illnesses.
Levels of FruArg are particularly high in the dietary supplement aged garlic extract (AGE), something that has been found in other studies to protect against Alzheimer’s.
Fight Fungal Infections
Even if you’re not an athlete, you may have contracted the common contagious condition known as athlete’s foot.
Caused by sweaty or moist feet, spread from person to person, or contracted by walking on contaminated surfaces, it’s annoying and uncomfortable.
A study pitting the commonly prescribed medication Lamisil 1% against a garlic solution found that the garlic solution had a 100% cure rate, compared with the 94% cure rate of Lamisil.
Pretty impressive for a natural solution wouldn’t you say?
Dr. Weil recommends one or two cloves of garlic a day for anyone who suffers chronic or recurrent infections like ear or yeast infections.
Avoid Tick Bites
Tick bites are not just irritating, they can be downright dangerous.
Ticks (up to 70% of them) carry Lyme disease, a pretty serious bacterial infection that can last a lifetime if not caught early enough. Yahoo Health even claims you can have Lyme Disease and not even know it!
Taking garlic capsules has been found to reduce the risk of tick bites by 21% in a study of Swedish marines.
While there are very few studies out there to say that garlic can repel mosquitos and other insects, plenty of anecdotal evidence does exist to make it worth a try.
How to Get the Most out of Fresh Garlic
To get the most benefit out of garlic and allicin you should:
- Buy fresh, whole garlic bulbs – not dried or garlic that has already been chopped.
- Crush the fresh cloves, wait a few minutes for the reaction of compounds to occur and eat within 1 hour, before the allicin benefits drop off.
- If your garlic begins to sprout, don’t throw it out! That little green shoot may symbolize an increase in antioxidant and other health benefits, according to Medical News Today.
I always keep garlic in my kitchen to add it to any meals it will work in. It tastes great in my favorite Avocado Taco Salad or Slow-Cooked Asian Pork – find both recipes here.
Can I Take Garlic Supplements?
There is huge debate out there between ‘real’ garlic and garlic supplements with no real conclusions drawn yet.
If you like garlic, add it to your meals. If you can’t stand the taste or smell, consider buying a high quality garlic supplement.
Too Much of a Good Thing
The World Health Organization recommends a daily dose of 2 to 5 g of fresh garlic; 0.4 to 1.2 g of dried garlic powder, 2 to 5 mg of garlic oil, or 300 to 1,000 g of garlic extract.
Aside from the stink, eating too much garlic has been associated with:
- Nausea, bloating, gas, heartburn and other stomach problems
- Fatigue, muscle aches
- Dizziness, headache, lightheadedness
- Sweating, body odor
- Low blood sugar
- Loss of appetite
If you experience any of these, cut back on your intake and consult a doctor if you need to.
Overall, garlic is pretty amazing and I can see why it has been used throughout history for good health. I personally love garlic to add flavor to my food and help my immune system stay in tip-top shape.
What do you lot think? Will garlic’s health benefits convince you to overlook its pungent smell?