Garlic – Health Benefits
Garlic is the bulb portion of the plant that is used as a vegetable. It belongs to lily family and closely related to onion and leeks. The scientific name of Garlic is Allium sativum. It is grown almost all over the world.
It is one of the most commonly used ingredient in South Asian cooking as well as in foods across continents. Garlic is mainly used to enhance flavor. It has characteristic pungent smell that is due to the high sulphur content.
Since ancient times, it has been used for healing purposes by Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Japanese and Chinese. It was used to treat varying conditions such as high blood pressure, wound care, parasites, tumors and even treating low energy.
Garlic contains many beneficial plant chemicals (referred as phytochemicals). Allicin is the main compound, which is highly enriched with Sulphur content. Allicin is believed to have strong antioxidant properties. Additionally, garlic contains many distinct chemicals such as Selenium, flavonoids and Sulphur rich amino acids, which are all beneficial to health.
Garlic is also available in the form of garlic powder, garlic oil, tablets or capsules as supplements in the market. However, it is much more beneficial to use natural form of garlic.
Possible Health Benefits
Considerable research is conducted by international research institutes to study the health benefits of garlic in preventing or treating different medical conditions.
Reliable resources suggest that noticeable health benefits of garlic can be obtained when consumed in significant amount on daily-basis for example it was found that people who consume more garlic prevent many different types of cancers especially stomach and upper digestive tract cancers.
Most research studies utilized supplements or extracts made from garlic instead of using the whole garlic vegetable. However, many reliable research institutes suggest consuming natural form of garlic in diet instead of supplements or extracts.
Garlic is currently used for the following conditions:
High Blood Pressure and Heart Diseases
The anti-inflammatory properties in allicin prevent unwanted inflammation (swelling) in the walls of the arteries and thus reducing the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening and blocking) of arteries. Garlic helps in maintaining the flexibility of tissues of the arteries.
Platelets are very small cells in the blood; and their one of the key function is to stop the blood loss in case of an open wound by clumping blood cells. In some cases, platelets cause unnecessary clumping of bloods cells resulting in blood clot formation that can cause heart attack or stroke. Studies support garlic use in reducing the formation of unnecessary blood clots and preventing heart disease and stroke.
In many large scale population studies, it was found that people who eat more garlic regularly have lower risk of developing many cancers including stomach, esophagus, colon, pancreas and breast cancers. Additionally, large population studies carried out in Europe and China showed strong association between consumption of higher quantity of garlic with reduction in risks for stomach and colorectal cancers. Another study in the USA found association between eating large amount of garlic and allium vegetables with 50% reduction in prostate cancer.
Studies are underway to assess the health benefits of garlic in sugar metabolism and preventing type 2 diabetes.
Some studies support use of garlic in the reduction of cholesterol, especially LDL (bad cholesterol). More research studies are required to confirm these results.
How to use
Garlic can be added almost in any dish. It enhances the flavor – try adding a few cloves of crushed garlic while cooking instead of adding too much spices or salt.
The World Health Organization recommends 2 – 5 grams of garlic (1 – 2 cloves) on daily-basis for maintaining general health.
To gain noticeable health benefits, it is recommended to consume approx. 2 – 3 cloves of garlic per day. The 2-3 cloves will provide the required quantity of allicin. The allicin can also be obtained from other related vegetables for instance onions and leeks.
Possible Side Effects
Garlic is generally safe to use since most people consume some quantity in the food they eat. Eating raw or natural garlic can produce pungent smell in breath and body.
Eating fresh garlic in empty stomach may cause heartburn (acid reflux), nausea and vomiting in some people.
Avoid use with medicines or other foods
Patients who are taking blood thinning medicines should discuss with their doctor before consuming high quantity of fresh garlic on regular basis.
Based on available research garlic is safe to use. It is recommended to use 1 – 2 cloves per day to see noticeable benefits.