It may not get the same glory as goji berries or kale, but garlic is regarded by many as a superfood. Low in calories and dense in nutrients (such as Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Manganese), there are thousands of scientific publications which attest to the health benefits of eating garlic.
Garlic was used medicinally long before it was used for its flavor, and this is well documented in many ancient civilizations across the world including the Egyptians, the Romans, and the Chinese. According to Authority Nutrition, most of the health benefits arise thanks to a sulfur compound called Allicin which is released when the garlic is chopped or crushed. Read on to find out just what this little food can do...
1) Combat the common cold. This one isn't an old wives' tale. A clinical trial found that a garlic supplement taken daily was effective in reducing the number of colds by 63%, and in those who did get sick the length of cold was reduced from five days to less than two days with the garlic supplement. Try mixing 2-3 garlic cloves with 1 tablespoon of honey for the ultimate cold remedy.
2) Prevent Alzheimer's. The important antioxidants found in garlic help to protect against the cell damage which can contribute to dementia (and its most common form - Alzheimer's). Studies have shown that Garlic Extract, which is a concentrated and aged form of garlic, helps to reduce the risk of these diseases, as well as cardiovascular disease.
3) Kill bad bacteria. According to Health Extremist, the anti-bacterial properties in garlic work to kill off bad bacteria but leave the good stuff, unlike chemical antibiotics which kill bacteria indiscriminately.
4) Reduce the risk of cancer. Studies have revealed that those who eat raw garlic regularly have a lower incidence of certain types of cancer, including stomach, prostate and uterine cancers. Laboratory studies have also proven oils derived from garlic to combat the growth of breast cancer. As explained by Healthy Eating, these studies have shown that the compounds in garlic stop the cancer cells from dividing, which is how cancer grows. Additionally, garlic is known to boost the immune system, which helps the body to pinpoint and kill the cancer cells. Even the National Cancer Institute recognizes garlic as a food with cancer-fighting properties.
5) Avoid food poisoning. The Huffington Post cites studies which have shown garlic's anti-fungal properties to be an effective way to kill bad bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. One study even showed that fresh garlic was more effective at treating Campylobacter than two types of chemical antibiotic.
6) Treat acne. Those same anti-bacterial qualities that combat gut bacteria can also work to kill off the acne-causing bacteria on your skin, says Medical Daily. Simply crush and dab onto pimples. It is best to avoid treating broken skin, and always use a sanitary means of application, like a cotton bud.
7) Lower your blood pressure. In China garlic has been used as an agent to lower blood pressure for a long time, and according to Health Extremist, the Japanese government officially recognize garlic as a blood pressure depressor.
8) Fight heart disease. Garlic has been shown to combat heart disease by reversing the build-up of plaque in our arteries. Dr Axe cites a clinical study which proves that garlic can literally reverse the early stages of heart disease.
9) Detox your liver. According to Natural Society, garlic contains sulfur compounds which activate the liver enzymes responsible for flushing toxins out of your body. Allicin and selenium (another nutrient found in garlic) also help to protect your liver from future damage.
10) Improve bone health. Medical Daily explains that garlic is full of bone-healthy nutrients such as zinc, manganese, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C, as well as enzymes and antioxidants which help with calcium absorption and the formation of bone and connective tissues.
With all of the proven health benefits of garlic and no unsafe side effects, it is a welcome addition to our daily diets. However, do note that garlic doesn't agree with all stomachs, and if it brings you discomfort then you shouldn't pursue it without speaking to a doctor first. Remember also that the compound Allicin becomes inactive when garlic is cooked, so to reap the health benefits you'll need to eat it raw. The garlic needs to be crushed in order to release the enzymes, and it's best to let it air for ten minutes before consuming. If you've never eaten garlic without cooking it first, don't worry - raw garlic crushed into an Italian tomato salad or in a dressing for meat and vegetables is delicious. Don't believe me? Try these recipes.