Garlic Health Review - 2019
The name garlic is derived from an Old English word - Garleac, which means spear leek. Asia is the native source for garlic and was discovered almost 5000 to 6000 years ago. Garlic is one of the core Mediterranean cooking ingredients which is frequently consumed in Asian, European, Middle Eastern, and African regions.
'Garlic' botanically known as Allium sativum (its scientific plant term), belongs to Alliaceae family. Garlic's characteristic smell is also known as ' the stinking rose'.
Garlic is an underground grown crop widely used to prepare many foods due to its spicy flavor. Chopped, sliced, minced, or juiced raw, garlic is added in a variety of different cuisines to not only add flavor but also to enhance nutritional value to the food being prepared.
The nutritional value of garlic is high due to its macro, micro, and bioactive nutrients. The contents of raw garlic is made up of 65% moisture. 97% of garlic's active ingredients are water-soluble, while the remaining 3% are fat soluble.
Garlic (in its raw form) contains carbohydrates, protein, fibre, and free chains amino acids. There are different micro-nutrients present in garlic as well such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and B-complex vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, sulphur, magnesium, calcium, iron, sodium, selenium, and manganese.
Apart from the commonly discussed nutrients, garlic has a high phenolic acid and saponin content. The metabolic byproducts of garlic contains sulphuric compounds, which produces a sulphide (called allyl methyl sulphide) and releases it through our lungs and skin.
Thus, garlic odor stays in our bodies for an extended period of time before being fully flushed out of our systems.
The ancestors of Asian descent had discovered the health benefits of garlic much before the scientific evidence has explained its medicinal property, now solidifying the benefits of garlic. Up until the 12th century, garlic was used for sun heat relieving effects, when most of the labour was done in extreme heat conditions.
During the plague endemics, spread over the European regions during the middle ages, Europeans ate whole garlic cloves to feel protected against the 'black death' plague.
During World Wars I and II, the soldiers were treated with garlic, as a natural antiseptic to prevent gangrene (to heal body tissue related injuries).
Ancient Egyptians believed that garlic can prevent 22 different ailments, and the Asians used garlic as a traditional medicine for treating hypertension, tuberculosis, bronchitis, rheumatic arthritis, intestinal worms, dysentery, liver disorder, diabetes, and fevers.
The Greek physician Hippocrates also acknowledged the health benefits of garlic against parasitic infections, poor digestion, respiratory problem, and fatigue.
It was only until the early 20th century, where garlic was first introduced in American cuisine.
The nutritional value of garlic is excellent due to its wide range of health benefits. On top of that, garlic is not only a kitchen ingredient but has vast medicinal properties and many defence mechanisms against a variety of health disorders.
S-alkyl cysteine sulfoxides (alliin) and the γ-glutamyl-S-alkyl cysteine are two of the sulphur compounds. Allicin is the main thiosulfate present in garlic providing the majority of its health benefits.
It's the presence of allicin (a sulfuric compound) in raw garlic that is responsible for releasing a neurotransmitter that can produce a burning sensation due to heat release. Allicin also has a free radical scavenging property and is one of the primary bioactive ingredient present in garlic.
The activation of these nerves causes vasodilatation (makes your veins more visible). Recent research findings also reported that phenolic and steroidal properties found in garlic are beneficial to your overall health.
1. Multipurpose Cooking Ingredient
So let's ask ourselves, does processing garlic to be used in food diminish any medicinal values?
We usually don't consume directly raw fresh garlic, which is best because all other treatments will increases the health benefits you'd get. The application of heat with peeling and cutting, chopping, mincing or juicing of the raw ingredients are common during food processing.
Garlic is most commonly crushed or sliced during the cooking process. Research experts suggest that you should avoid adding whole cloves of garlic because Allicin (active ingredient that promotes weight loss) only becomes active when the garlic cloves are broken down, add crushed garlic instead to increase the health benefits and its overall nutritious contents.
The temperature at which you should cook your food must be medium to medium-high, as high heat can decrease the health benefits of garlic.
Peeled and crushed raw garlic cloves with prolonging environmental exposure can break the defence mechanism and cause the garlic to turn green (a form of pickling when left in the open).
Freshly crushed garlic cloves is a healthier alternative when adding flavor and nutrition to your food, as the color of whole garlic cloves turns to a slightly blue-green pigment due to the release of its sulphur and nitrogen contents. In case you want to leave your garlic out without having it start to turn green, or pickle, the addition of citric acid from a lemon can prevent garlic-greening.
The application of garlic is not limited to just culinary uses, but it has a wide range of health promoting, disease treating and preventative benefits due to its medicinal properties. There are multiple scientific trial reports which support the health benefits of garlic.
The health claims are highly evident as garlic supplements are available in complementary medicinal shelves in many pharmaceutical stores in North America.
2. Natural Antibiotic
Garlic has a broad-spectrum of antibacterial properties similarly to Coconut Oil, it's mostly effective against micro-organisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.
The allicin present in garlic can react with the enzymatic functions of the infection, suppresses their growth, and fights the infection. The strong antimicrobial property of garlic is also great for fighting stomach infections, and mostly effective against stomach bacteria such as Helicobacter Pylori, and prevents stomach ulcers.
Athlete's foot, thrush, and colon infections can also be treated with garlic by either applying it to the area or consuming it.
3. Increased Heart Health
Garlic lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) without affecting levels of good cholesterol (HDL) levels by limiting the production of LDL cholesterol in the liver. Garlic also has blood thinning properties and prevents blood clotting inside the blood vessels (this can also be a negative effect depending on your personal conditions).
In addition, the blood pressure lowering effect of garlic helps your heart fight off negative hypertensive effects.
4. Anti Carcinogenic Effects
The increasing prevalence of cancer became a great threat to mankind in the late 1900's to the present day. Two researchers, named Weisberger and Pensky first demonstrated the anti-tumourous property of garlic in 1958.
Following that find, multiple preclinical and clinical trials were conducted with garlic to determine the anti-carcinogenic effects it might have against a variety of different cancers including gastric, colorectal, and liver cancer.
Both in vivo and in vitro (in human and in glass) studies found that active constituents of garlic targets the specific cell cycle and induces cell death and helps the reparation of damaged blood vessels, thus provides anti-carcinogenic health benefits.
The anti-carcinogenic research study also recommended the daily intake of one clove of garlic can reduce the risk of gastric cancer by 9%, weekly consumption of more than 28 grams of garlic can reduce the risk of colorectal and gastric cancers.
5. Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels
Garlic helps to control blood sugar levels in experimental animals studies. A human trial also reported metformin, the conventional treatment of diabetes taken alongside a serving of garlic offers better blood sugar control in patients with diabetes.
6. Increased Brain Health Effects
The accumulation of free radicals in the body leads to a decrease in brain functionality, and in severe conditions can leads can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
The very potent antioxidant property of garlic can reduce the load of free radicals in brain tissue and improves cognitive functions. Research conducted in China also found that sallylcystein (a sulphuric compound found in garlic) has a preventive effect against the degeneration of the brain's frontal lobes. There are many pieces of research that claim that garlic could also improve intelligence (in the form of efficiency), especially since it improves the efficacity of neurons found in the brain.
7. Boosts Immune System Strength
The antioxidant and antimicrobial properties of garlic improves immune system functions. In addition, the nutrients like vitamins B6, vitamin C, selenium, and manganese present in garlic can also boost immune system strength.
Researchers found that garlic has the ability to inhibit antibiotic-resistant bacteria (like Staphylococcus Aureus) from growing by improving immune functioning. The respiratory conditions like colds and coughs can also be treated by garlic due to its decongestive and expectorant (mucus relieving) properties. The anti-viral property of garlic is effective against the HIV virus by increasing natural killer cell activity within the body.
8. Improves Weight Loss and Weight Management
The Allicin (when cutting or breaking up the cloves) present in garlic prevents weight gain. Research showed that the same amount of food consumption without allicin being supplemented led to an increase in body weight, whereas animals treated with an allicin supplement (garlic or pills) maintained a stable weight and witnessed a reduction of body weight.
9. Improves Bone Health
It's well documented that the chemical (phytoestrogenic) effects of garlic have preventive effects against bone loss, especially for women going through the pre-mature menopausal syndrome. Garlic helps to restore calcium content in the bones by modifying intestinal enzyme functions, all of which increases the calcium absorption rate.
According to the study reports, garlic supplements help to improve bone mineral content and bone tensile strength, which supports the claims of garlic having osteoporosis (bone weakening) preventive effects.
10. Prevents Liver and Kidney Diseases
Acetaminophen is one of the most common painkillers and antipyretic medicine used in today's medicine. The common side effect of this drug is its liver and kidney side effects. The antioxidant property of garlic prevents such drug-induced liver and kidney toxicity when taken alongside a painkiller or antipyretic.
Side Effects and Detriments
There is a specific recommended dose for garlic. However, excessive garlic intake is not recommended, and just like most herbs, this can produce some side effects like nausea, vomiting, burning sensation in mouth, throat or stomach, a major increase in body heat, lightheadedness, sweating, and many more.
The recommended daily amount is one to two cloves of raw garlic, that's sufficient to get all of the health benefits.
However, if you go overboard and begin to consume 4 to 5 cloves daily. You must stop all garlic consumption if you experience:
Common minor side effects include:
Garlic also does not work well with medications used for blood clots and should definitely not be used unless reviewed by a medical professional who can assess your situation if you suffer from any serious medical condition such as cancer, asthma, depression, heart-related issues, high blood pressure or cholesterol, and others.
If you are expecting to have surgery or any other major medical procedure you need to stop taking garlic 2 weeks ahead of time.
Rating and Recommendation
The following guideline can help consumers select the best application when it comes to using garlic, not only as a kitchen ingredient but also as a health-boosting product.
The bulbs of garlic can be stored for several months, but when they become dried, moldy, loose, and frayed, these become signs of aged garlic bulbs. Nutrients found in garlic are deactivated with ageing and less effective, providing lesser health benefits. Look for the freshest garlic bulbs which have a tight peel, those have the maximum amount of active healthy ingredients.
Garlic can be stored for several months, dried, moldy, loose, and frayed are signs of aged garlic bulbs. Nutrients found in garlic are deactivated with ageing and less effective, providing lesser health benefits. Look for the freshest garlic bulbs which have a tight peel with fleshy pulps, those have the maximum amount of active ingredients.
Proper storage is a good practice when storing garlic to prevent the growth of mold. Chopping or smashing of garlic cloves triggers an important chemical reaction to produce allicin, which has most of the health benefits.
However, immediate high heat exposure can reduce the production of allicin. Therefore, after chopping the garlic cloves wait between 5 to 10 minutes to complete the reaction and then cook it at medium heat.
Regarding the side effects of garlic, consuming mint leaves can prevent the garlicky odor from your mouth or body after consuming a garlic-heavy meal.
Although the benefits are well documented, garlic can't be recommended for people undergoing serious surgeries or diseases.
Articles and Sources
1. Harini K. (2013 Dec 04) Garlic: It's Role In Oral And Systemic Health
2. Avicenna J Phytomed. (2014 Feb 14) Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects
3. Julia Calderone. (2018 Apr 19) The Health Benefits of Garlic
4. J Tradit Complement Med. (2012 Sep 03) Recent Research Progress on Garlic (大蒜 dà suàn) as a Potential Anticarcinogenic Agent Against Major Digestive Cancers
5. J. Chem. Pharm. Res. (2010 Feb 01) Allium sativum (Garlic) and its health benefits: An overview
6. J. Agric. Food Chem. (2007 Jan 27) Effect of Cooking on Garlic (Allium sativum L.) Antiplatelet Activity and Thiosulfinates Content
7. https://irjponline.com/admin/php/uploads/2198_pdf.pdf (2014 Jul 17) Garlic: A Pungent Wonder From Nature
8. Peter B. Bongiorno, Patrick M. Fratellone, Pina LoGiudice (2008 Jan 01) Potential Health Benefits of Garlic (Allium Sativum): A Narrative Review
9. Drew Decagna. (2007) Inhibiting Enzymatic Formation Of Blue Green Pigments In Garlic Cloves
|Amount Per Serving|
|Calories 150||Calories from Fat 0|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0 g||0 %|
|Saturated Fat 0 g||0 %|
|Polyuns. fat 0 g|
|Monouns. fat 0 g|
|Trans Fat 0 g|
|Cholesterol 0 mg||0 %|
|Sodium 0 mg||0 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 32 g||10 %|
|Dietary Fiber 0.6 g||9 %|
|Sugars 0 g|
|Protein 6.4 g|
|Vitamin B6 17 %||Vitamin C 15 %|
|Vitamin E 11 %||Vitamin K 0 %|
|Manganese 23 %||Selenium 6 %|
Calories per gram:
Fat: 9 | Carbohydrate: 4 | Protein: 4