Last Updated on October 12, 2020
What used to give children a bit of courage and encouraged them to eat more garlic is a humorous myth that said garlic possesses some kind of magic that repels vampires and other blood-sucking monsters.
Everyone is familiar with the shape, taste, and aroma of garlic. We may grow up hating it for its pungent taste and aroma but eventually loving it so much that we find many ways to include it in savory dishes.
Some of the world’s most popular cuisines, such as French, Chinese, and Mediterranean, widely use garlic to improve the flavor and aroma of dishes.
In ancient Egypt, a clove of garlic was regularly given to laborers to keep illnesses away and to keep their energy up for building pyramids and other monuments.
Hippocrates, the Father of Western Medicine, often prescribed garlic against many conditions that ail the common Greek.
Even athletes of Ancient Greece regularly consumed garlic for its fortifying and energizing effects on the body.
The Chinese and Indians often used it as an aid to digestion or a treatment for stomach ails.
Since then, many modern scientific studies have supported these uses of garlic. It is considered a very good source of the vitamin B-Complex, vitamin C, calcium, copper, iron, manganese, selenium, and zinc. But what else can garlic do that isn’t mentioned above?
Garlic Improves Metabolism, Detoxification, and Heart Health
Garlic takes longer to digest than most herbs and spices and uses more calories for it to be digested properly.
Burning more calories is one of the ways to speed up metabolism in the body. When a food stays longer in your stomach, your appetite is suppressed due to the feeling of being full for an extended period of time.
This knowledge is commonly used by people trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy body mass index. They eat raw garlic with honey — to prevent garlic from causing stomach aches — before a meal to suppress the appetite. An experiment has proven that garlic oil contains anti-obesity and hypolipidemic effects.
Garlic increases the activity of the antioxidant and detoxifying enzyme, glutathione. This is very important in helping the liver become less fatty.
It also detoxifies harmful toxins that may build up during the liver’s function of cleaning the blood.
A nutrient bioactive compound in garlic called myricetin actively influences the body’s detoxification process, which is why garlic has long been used as a naturopathic medicine dating thousands of years back.
People who regularly consume garlic and pair it with a healthy diet and active lifestyle are shown to have a healthier lipid profile.
It lowers both low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and the blood pressure which can lead to a less strained heart.
The cholesterol-producing or preserving enzymes in the body are deactivated and produced at a lower rate with the help of organic sulfur compounds of garlic.
Another experiment involved type 2 diabetic patients with an abnormally high amount of triglycerides, cholesterols, and fat in the blood. They were given daily garlic tablets and adhered strictly to a diet and exercise plan.
At the end of the experiments, these patients showed a significant improvement in their lipid profile and an increased level of good cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein.
Garlic and Its Antimicrobial Activity
Garlic is rich in a thiosulfinate called allicin. Allicin is a potent antimicrobial that inhibits the growth of bacteria, fungi, parasites, yeast, and virus.
The protein synthesis in these microbes are stopped to prevent further development of new strains or its parasitic spread throughout its host. It destroys the fats in the mucous lining of microbes, which leaves them susceptible.
It also helps the digestive system flush out the harmful toxins that are in the body.
Here are some of the microbes effectively controlled and treated by garlic:
- Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes an infection in the digestive tract that can lead to ulcers in the intestinal lining or on the small intestine
- Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus in the mouth that causes dental hygiene issues such as cavities, tooth aches, and tooth decays
- Candida, which is a yeast that causes infections that can lead to thrush, sore throat, vaginal yeast infection, and fungal infections in the skin and nails
- Giardiasis and tapeworm infections in the intestines
- Flu virus and common colds
Inhibits Growth of Keloid Scars, Treats Skin and Hair Conditions
Allicin also has antioxidant properties which scavenge the body for free radicals to eliminate. A big part of oxidative stress is caused by the harmful UV rays and environmental stressors that affect the body.
These stressors are not always avoidable, but the damage can be reversed with the help of powerful antioxidants.
One effect or damage caused by free radicals and oxidation is inflammation and an over-reactive or compromised immune system. These effects easily manifest in the physical appearance of a person.
Premature aging, thinning hair and brittle nails, scaly and dry skin, psoriasis, and eczema are just some of the unwanted effects of oxidative stress. These conditions can improve with the regular intake of garlic.
Unattractive scars, such as keloids, can also be treated by garlic in its early stages. Scarring is a natural response of the body to heal wounds, but sometimes overproduction of collagen leads to thickened skin around the area.
Garlic can inhibit nitric oxide and enzymes which overstimulates collagen production.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, each 100 grams of garlic contains the following nutrients:
- 149 Kcal of energy
- 33.06 grams of carbohydrates
- 6.36 grams of protein
- 0.5 gram of total fat
- 2.1 grams of dietary fiber
- 3 µg of folates
- 0.700 mg of niacin
- 0.596 mg of pantothenic acid
- 1.235 mg of pyridoxine
- 0.110 mg of riboflavin
- 0.200 mg of thiamin
- 9 IU of Vitamin A
- 31.2 mg of Vitamin C
- 0.08 mg of Vitamin E
- 1.7 µg of Vitamin K
- 153 mg of sodium
- 401 mg of potassium
- 181 mg of calcium
- 0.299 mg of copper
- 1.70 mg of iron
- 25 mg of magnesium
- 1.672 mg of manganese
- 153 mg of phosphorus
- 14.2 µg of selenium
- 1.160 mg of zinc
- 5 µg of Carotene-ß
- 16 µg of Lutein-zeaxanthin
Including Garlic in Your Diet
Garlic is not that hard to include in your daily diet. Almost every savory dish calls for some garlic, and you can add as much as you like to cater to your own taste. Here are some ideas on where you can use garlic.
- Rubbed over bread or toast.
- Added to salsas and dips.
- Added to soups and chutneys.
- Steamed and mashed to be eaten on its own.
- Added to marinades for meat and other protein.
- Minced and added to butter, together with parsley and salt.
- Roasted as a whole, can be roasted together with other vegetables.
- Golden fried garlic is used to top dumplings and their dips, or to add to stir fried dishes.
- Heated in oil with onion and other aromatics to add flavor to a dish before adding in all ingredients.
- Made into pickles. However, one should proceed with caution as this could develop bacteria that causes botulism. Always refrigerate pickles that contain garlic.
Garlic is also available in powdered form, but fresh garlic is superior in taste and nutrient content. The leaves or sprouts of garlic can also be added to dishes as garnish or to add flavor.
It must be noted that the pungent aroma of garlic may seep through the sweat glands, and the heavy consumption of garlic may lead to an undesirable body odor or garlic breath.
Consuming excess raw or cooked garlic on an empty stomach may also cause some disturbance in digestion and could lead to stomach aches, flatulence, nausea, or throw off the balance of the intestinal flora.
Alllicin’s blood thinning effect can be potentially harmful for people who are already taking anticoagulant medicine.
Should a wound or cut appear, excessive bleeding may happen. Topical application of garlic may also be too much for sensitive skin or wounds and may lead to blisters, inflammation, skin burns, or allergies.
The humble bulb or a simple clove of garlic can have positive cumulative effects on the body inside and out.
Garlic has been used for thousands of years to treat infections and to keep the energy up of a person working hard all day.
It regulates the appetite and the body’s lipid profile, which is good for people who are obese or may have cardiovascular and/or digestive health diseases.
Garlic improves the skin, hair, and nail condition of a person due to being a strong anti-microbe and anti-oxidant.
If you think that you need to stay away from garlic, think again! There are ways to mask the unwanted scent of garlic and to include it in dishes without overpowering the overall taste.
You may not even realize that your favorite restaurant-served dishes have garlic in them!