Garlic is a perennial herb in the family Alliaceae. It is native to Central Asia and north-eastern Iran and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe. The bulb of the garlic plant is used as a food ingredient for flavour. It is also used for medicinal purposes.
Garlic Nutrition Facts
Garlic is a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin B6, and manganese. It also contains trace amounts of other nutrients such as calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamin B1.
In terms of micronutrients, Garlic is particularly rich in sulphur compounds, which are responsible for its characteristic odour and many of its health benefits. The most well-known sulphur compound in garlic is allicin, which is responsible for many of its medicinal properties.
Additionally, garlic also contains compounds like flavonoids and antioxidants, which help protect against cellular damage and support overall health.
10 Science-backed Health Benefits
Garlic is a common ingredient in many dishes and has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Garlic has been proven to have the following health benefits:
- Cardiovascular health: Garlic is known to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
- Immune system support: Garlic is a natural antibiotic and can help boost the immune system, making it easier for the body to fight off infections.
- Cancer prevention: Some studies have suggested that garlic may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, such as stomach and colon cancer.
- Antioxidant properties: Garlic contains antioxidants that can help protect the body against damage from free radicals, which can contribute to the development of chronic diseases.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the body, which is linked to a number of chronic diseases.
- Blood sugar control: Some studies have found that consuming garlic can help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
- Bone health: Garlic may help improve bone health by increasing bone mineral density, which can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Brain health: Some research suggests that garlic may have a positive effect on brain health, including reducing the risk of cognitive decline and improving memory and cognitive function.
- Anti-aging effects: Garlic’s antioxidant properties may help protect the body against the effects of aging, helping to keep skin looking youthful and reducing the risk of age-related diseases.
- Anti-inflammatory benefits: Garlic’s anti-inflammatory effects may also help to reduce the symptoms of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
It’s worth noting that more research is needed to fully understand the extent of garlic’s health benefits and how best to consume it for maximum benefit. As always, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before adding any supplement to your diet.
Side effects of garlic
While garlic is generally considered safe when consumed in moderate amounts, there are some potential side effects to be aware of:
- Digestive issues: Consuming large amounts of garlic can cause upset stomach, gas, and diarrhoea.
- Bad breath and body odour: Garlic can cause bad breath and body odour due to the sulphur compounds it contains.
- Allergic reactions: Some people may be allergic to garlic and may experience symptoms such as a rash, itching, and difficulty breathing.
- Interaction with certain medications: Garlic may interact with certain medications, including blood thinners and blood pressure medications, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before consuming large amounts of garlic if you’re taking any medications.
- Bleeding: Garlic is a blood thinner, so if you are taking blood thinning medication or going through surgery it’s important to stop consuming garlic a week before the procedure.
It’s also important to note that consuming large amounts of raw garlic can be quite pungent and may cause irritation to the mouth and throat. In addition, consuming garlic supplements may cause stomach upset, gas, or other digestive discomfort if taken on an empty stomach. It’s recommended to start with small doses and increasing gradually. It’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate amount of garlic for your individual needs.
How to use garlic
Garlic can be incorporated into your diet in a variety of ways. Several ideas are listed below:
- Fresh garlic: One of the most effective ways to consume garlic is to use it fresh. Peel the garlic and chop or mince it, and add it to salads, soups, stews, sauces, and marinades.
- Roasted garlic: Roasting garlic brings out its natural sweetness and makes it a delicious spread for bread or crackers. To roast garlic, slice off the top of a bulb of garlic to expose the cloves, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap in foil. Roast in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for 30-40 minutes, or until the cloves are soft and golden.
- Garlic supplements: You can buy garlic supplements in the form of capsules, tablets, and oils. They are a convenient way to consume garlic and are especially useful if you’re not a fan of its taste or smell.
- Garlic oil: Garlic oil can be used as a seasoning or cooking oil. It has a very strong garlic flavour, so use it sparingly.
- Garlic powder: Garlic powder is a convenient way to add garlic flavour to dishes without a strong odour. It can be used in soups, sauces, marinades, and rubs for meats.
Simple Garlic recipes
Here are a few simple recipes that incorporate garlic:
- Garlic bread: Mix together softened butter, minced garlic, parsley, and grated Parmesan cheese. Spread the mixture on slices of French bread and bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for 10-15 minutes, or until the bread is golden and crispy.
- Garlic pasta: Cook spaghetti or any pasta of your choice. While the pasta is cooking, sauté minced garlic in olive oil. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and toss it with the garlic oil and some grated Parmesan cheese.
- Garlic shrimp: Marinate raw shrimp in a mixture of minced garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs such as parsley, oregano, and thyme. Grill or sauté the shrimp until they turn pink and are cooked through.
- Garlic chicken: Mix together minced garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano to make a marinade. Marinate chicken breasts for at least an hour and grill or bake them until cooked through.
- Garlic soup: Sauté minced garlic and onion in butter or olive oil. Add chicken or vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add cooked potatoes and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
These are just a few ideas, feel free to get creative and experiment with different flavour combinations to find your favourite garlic recipe.
The benefits of garlic are maximized when it’s consumed raw. This is because cooking garlic can destroy many of its beneficial compounds, so try to consume it as raw as possible.
It’s also worth noting that more research is needed to confirm these potential health benefits and to determine the appropriate dosage for garlic supplements.