Garlic (scientific name Allium Sativum) is a species in the onion genus Allium, which includes onion, leeks, chives, shallots, and Chinese onions. It has a history that spans several thousand years and its origins are from Central Asia and Iran. It’s grown in nearly every corner of the earth and its use is wide-spread due to its strong smell and delicious flavor. However, the primary use of garlic throughout ancient history was not culinary but for its health and medicinal properties. These medicinal properties were known and their usage is well documented by all major ancient civilizations including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese.
Hippocrates the ancient Greek physician often called the father of modern western medicine had a famous quote, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”. Hippocrates actually prescribed garlic to treat a variety of medical conditions. Modern medicine and medical studies have confirmed many of the beneficial health effects.
When eaten raw, it has a powerful, pungent flavor to match it’s truly mighty medicinal benefits. Garlic is particularly high in certain sulfur compounds that are responsible for its scent and taste, as well as its very positive effects on human health. This compound is known as Allicin. We know that Allicin is released when the garlic clove is chopped, crushed, or chewed. A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of garlic contains:
Manganese: 23% of the RDA
Vitamin B6: 17% of the RDA
Vitamin C: 15% of the RDA
Selenium: 6% of the RDA
Fiber: .06% of the RDA
Garlic also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients such as copper, potassium, phosphorus, calcium iron and vitamin B1. In fact, it contains a little bit of almost everything we need. This, at 42 calories, with 1.8 grams of protein and 9 grams of carbs.
The entire head of the garlic plant is called the bulb, while each segment is called a clove. There are 10-20 cloves per bulb. Garlic is low in calories and very rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and Manganese. It also has trace amounts of various other nutrients. Calorie for calorie, garlic is incredibly nutritious.
Garlic benefits rank second only to turmeric benefits in the amount of research backing this superfood. To date, there have been over 5100 peer-reviewed articles that evaluate garlic’s ability to prevent and improve a wide array of diseases. Let’s now look at some of the major medicinal benefits of garlic.
Garlic for Heart Disease
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States, followed by cancer. Garlic has been widely recognized as both a preventative agent and treatment of many cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. This includes atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia, thrombosis, hypertension, and diabetes. A scientific review of experimental and clinical studies of garlic benefits found that, overall, consumption has significant cardioprotective effects in both animal and human studies. The most amazing characteristic is that it’s been shown to reverse early heart disease by reversing plaque buildup in arteries.
Garlic for Cancer
Allium vegetables, especially garlic and onions, and their bioactive sulfur compounds are believed to have effects at each stage of cancer formation and affect many biological processes that modify cancer risk. In the words of the NIH National Cancer Institute, “Several population studies show an association between increased intake of garlic and reduced risk of certain cancers. This includes cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and breast.”
Garlic for High Blood Pressure
The number one cause of death in the United States is heart disease and one of the driving factors contributing to heart disease is hypertension. Human studies have found garlic supplementation to have a significant impact on reducing high blood pressure in people. In one study, aged garlic extract at doses of 600-1,500 mg was just as effective as the drug Atenolol at reducing blood pressure over a 24-week period. The supplemental doses must be fairly high to achieve these results. It would be the equivalent of 3 to 4 cloves of raw garlic a day.
Garlic for Colds and Infections
Experiments have shown that garlic and specifically the chemical compound Allicin is highly effective as an antiviral, antifungal, and an antimicrobial. That’s what makes it so effective at preventing colds, the flu, infections, and even many rare diseases.
Garlic for Diabetes and Cholesterol
Garlic has shown its ability to help diabetics as well. Eating it helps regulate blood sugar levels, potentially stop or decrease some effects of diabetes complication, lower LDL cholesterol, and increase circulation. Laboratory studies in rats have shown that garlic is beneficial in improving the overall health of diabetics. The rats that received daily doses of garlic extract for seven weeks showed significant signs of lowered serum glucose (blood sugar levels), cholesterol and triglycerides level. The serum glucose levels were lowered by 57%, LDL cholesterol by 40%, and triglycerides by 35%. In addition, urinary protein levels in treated rats were 50 percent lower.
Garlic for Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Garlic contains antioxidants that can support the body’s protective mechanisms against oxidative damage that can contribute to these cognitive illnesses. The amyloid-peptide plaque is in the central nervous system of Alzheimer’s patients and is the main cause of neuronal damage of the Alzheimer’s patient’s central nervous system. A study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry found “significant neuroprotective and neurorescue properties” of aged garlic extract and its active compound S-allyl-L-cysteine (SAC). These findings give hope to developing more effective Alzheimer’s treatment.
Traditional cultures that have a steady intake of garlic typically do not struggle with these types of diseases. A regular dietary intake precludes medical intervention because, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and inflammatory-related illnesses are easily prevented when eating it.
Best Ways to Use Garlic
Garlic is best when eaten raw. When it’s cooked the active ingredient that is so medically beneficial, allicin, is broken down. However, oddly enough when it’s cooked the antioxidant properties are increased. You can add raw garlic to recipes that are sautéed, roasted or baked. You can also toss some into your next homemade salad dressing, marinade, tomato sauce, soup or stew to get all the wonderful benefits. Adding raw garlic to any vegetable, fish or meat is sure to intensify the flavor and health benefits.
Whether you’re eating garlic raw or cooked it’s best to let it sit after you crush or chop it. The chopping activates alliinase enzymes in the garlic’s cells. The sitting allows these enzymes to convert some of the garlic’s alliin into allicin. The allicin then rapidly breaks down into a variety of organo-sulfur compounds. Experts suggest letting the garlic sit for 10 minutes after chopping or crushing before you cook it.
Another way to use it is for infections. Using garlic oil is an excellent ear infection home remedy that really works.
To store, keep dry and at room temperature. This will keep it from sprouting.
After reading this you can see why Garlic is good for whatever ails you. Its benefits outweigh the bad breath you might experience, which can be taken care of with milk, mouthwash, mints or chewing gum. For your health and the health of your family start adding garlic to your cooking and daily food intake.
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