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A Brief History Of Garlic- The Benefits Of Adding Garlic In Your Diet – Nutritional Benefits of Garlic- Garlic Effects – Are There Any?

What kitchen items do you usually get every time you go to the grocery? You will always have your favorites but surely, you cannot leave without garlic in your cart.

Garlic is among the staple ingredients found in many households. In fact, it has many uses, especially in the kitchen. More than ensuring your dishes taste good, garlic also comes with tons of health benefits to keep your health in tiptop shape.

What exactly are these benefits? Find out and more by reading this post.

Garlic, In A Nutshell

Scientifically known as Allium sativum, garlic belongs to the Allium family, thereby making it cousins with onions, chives, shallot, and leek among others. It is neither a herb or spice but actually a member of the lily family.

Did you know that the name, garlic, was derived from Anglo-Saxon words? The word “gar” means “spear” while “lac” means “plant.” This is in reference to the shape of garlic’s leaves.

This bulbous plant could grow up to 1.2 meters in height. It can also grow easily and will survive in mild climates. It also grows underground with a shoot that grows above and roots extend below.

In terms of smell, garlic is known for its pungent scent. You can blame this on its sulfur-containing compounds. You may also notice that your eyes burn when chopping garlic, although the effects are milder compared to onions. Garlic releases enzymes that could trigger irritation and cause your eyes to water.

Garlic is readily available in the market and can be used in many ways inside the kitchen. When buying garlic, make sure that the bulbs are still white and has no black or brown spots. Make sure that it is firm and intact, and with no loose cloves or soft spots.

Garlic History

Garlic played a crucial role both as a cooking ingredient and as a medicine for many years. It was reported that early Egyptian civilization already used garlic about 5,000 years ago although there were accounts saying that garlic originated in China some 4,000 years ago.

Sometime between 460 and 370 BC, Hippocrates, also known as the “Father of Western Medicine,” prescribed garlic and promoted its use to treat respiratory problems, fatigue,, and poor digestion. Garlic was also used as a “performance-enhancing” agent by the athletes in the Olympics.

Eventually, garlic found its way from Egypt to India and then to China.

People from India believed that garlic has therapeutic effects and is considered as an aphrodisiac. As a result, those who belong in the upper class avoided it because of the strong odor. Monks, widows, adolescents, and those who took a vow were prevented from eating garlic to avoid its stimulant quality.

As garlic made its way in Asia, experts believed that those who are in Middle East, East Asia, and Nepal used garlic to treat various conditions like high blood pressure, bronchitis, tuberculosis, rheumatism, diabetes, fever, and liver disorder among others.

Fast forward today, garlic is among the most used ingredients in the kitchen. In fact, an estimated 10 million tons of garlic are used worldwide.  China is also the biggest producer of garlic in the world, which is believed to be about 46 billion pounds every year.

Check out the succeeding sections to find out its nutrition components and many health benefits.

Garlic Nutrition Facts

Garlic contains essential nutrients, which is why it was used for centuries as a treatment for various conditions. Still, there is one component that sets garlic apart from the rest: allicin.

Allicin is a bioactive compound that is responsible for garlic’s many health benefits. However, this compound is unstable and may be briefly present once the garlic is crushed or cut.

Apart from this bioactive compound, one clove or three grams of garlic has the following nutritional profile:

  • Water
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fiber
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin C
  • Selenium
  • B vitamins such as Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamin, Pantothenic Acid, vitamin B6, Folate, and Choline
  • Vitamin K

Aside from this, garlic also contains sulfur compounds such as diallyl disulfide and sallyl cysteine. These compounds are responsible for garlic’s potent biological effects.

Take note that garlic also comes with good amount of calories that won’t affect one’s weight loss goals.

Garlic Benefits

Given this nutritional profile, it is safe to say that garlic is among the healthiest foods around. Also, it’s not surprising why garlic is used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.

Let’s take a deeper look at garlic’s health benefits:

An Immune System Booster

Flu is a common condition experienced by many, regardless of where you are in the world. It is often accompanied by fever, cough, colds, and body pain.

How can you treat it? While antibiotics or paracetamol helps, why not try garlic instead?

According to a study published in Advances Therapy, garlic, through allicin, could prevent the attack of the common colds virus. In fact, a daily garlic supplement helped reduce the number of colds by 63 percent.

Another more recent study published in Clinical Nutrition showed that 2.56 grams of aged garlic extract every day could help reduce the number of sick days caused by flu or colds by 61 percent.

In another study published in the American Family Physician journal, experts also concluded that regular use of garlic could decrease the frequency of colds in adults.   

Despite the astounding studies, experts believed that more research is needed to test how effective garlic is. Nonetheless, it won’t hurt if you add this in your diet, don’t you think?

Lower Blood Pressure

Cardiovascular diseases are among the top causes of death worldwide.

According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, regardless of gender, race, and ethnicity. In fact, one in every four deaths every year can be attributed to heart disease.

Can you prevent this? Yes, with proper and healthy lifestyle plus garlic. It turns out that garlic has prostaglandin-like effects that helps reduce peripheral vascular resistance.

In a study published in the Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Science, 600 to 1,500 milligrams of garlic extract helped reduce blood pressure levels in 24 weeks. In fact, it is as effective as the pharmaceutical drug, Atenolol.

Another study also showed the positive effects of aged garlic extract in lowering systolic blood pressure. One study also noted the cardioprotective action of garlic to help reduce blood pressure levels.

To enjoy this benefit, keep in mind that high supplementation is needed. If you prefer to keep it natural, then consuming four cloves of garlic per day is recommended.

Improves Cholesterol Levels

Garlic is known to lower blood pressure. This is why it’s not surprising to know that it is helpful against high cholesterol, too.

In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, experts concluded that garlic is helpful in reducing total cholesterol levels. This is because it prevents oxidative DNA damage, thereby offering cardioprotection and reduce hypertension.

In another study published in Lipids in Health and Disease, garlic tablets could also have favorable effects on your overall cholesterol level.

Further studies are needed to check how effective garlic is in maintaining healthy level of cholesterol. Nonetheless, adding garlic in your diet is a good start, don’t you think?

Keeps The Heart Protected

High cholesterol and blood pressure levels could lead to several conditions, including cardiovascular diseases. Thankfully, garlic is there to reduce the risk.

Experts attribute it to diallyl trisulfide. This is among garlic’s many components that helps protect the heart, especially during cardiac surgery and after heart attack. This component is also a safe way to transport and deliver hydrogen sulfide to the heart.

This claim was supported by an animal study showing that mice who received diallyl sulfide have 61 percent less damage in the heart compared to those who did not receive any.

That’s not all. Garlic can also be helpful for diabetes patients.

According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, garlic can protect diabetes patients from cardiomyopathy, a leading cause of death among diabetes patients. This happens when heart muscles are abnormally enlarged, thickened, and/or stiffened.

However, this study was conducted on laboratory rats. Further studies are needed to check its effect on humans.

Protection Against Oxidative Damage

Oxidative damage is the imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in the body. Because of this imbalance, free radicals could easily damage fatty tissues, protein, and DNA in the body. This could contribute to the formation of diseases such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory condition
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s

The good news is garlic could provide protection against oxidative damage. In fact, a study published in Gerontology showed how high doses of garlic supplements for participants with high blood pressure could increase antioxidants, thereby reducing oxidative stress.

In another study published in the journal, Cancer, scientists identified garlic as an effective tool in destroying cells in glioblastomas, a type of deadly brain tumor. The pure organo-sulfur compounds from garlic effectively eradicated brain cancer cells. Although more studies are needed, experts noted that this is a good start in controlling the malignant growth of brain tumor cells.

The best part is aside from reducing oxidative damage in the body, it could also lead to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. These activities could help reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Detoxifying Agent

You know what free radicals can do to your body. Thanks to garlic’s antioxidant properties, there is a way to protect yourself against oxidative damage.

Apparently, it’s not just antioxidants. Garlic contains sulfur compounds that can help protect the body against heavy metal toxicity. In fact, a study published in Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology examined the effects of garlic and d-Penicillamine on patients with occupational lead poisoning, specifically excessive exposure to lead.

The study revealed that garlic reduced lead levels in the blood by 19 percent. Apart from this, garlic lowered clinical signs of toxicity such as elevated blood pressure and headache. Frequency of side effects is likewise lower compared to d-Penicillamine. Therefore, those who conducted this study recommended garlic as a safer treatment of mild to moderate lead poisoning.

A Potential Antibiotic

Antibiotics are prescribed to fight the virus that makes people weak. While effective, relying heavily on antibiotics is not recommended.

This is where garlic comes in. Garlic comes with diallyl sulfide, a type of compound that is 100 times more effective in fighting Campylobacter bacterium. This type of bacterium is among the most common causes of intestinal infections.

Although further studies are needed, the potential is there in reducing disease-causing bacteria in the environment.

Gives Athletic Performance A Boost

Back in the day, athletes who are participating in the Olympics take garlic to boost their performance and reduce fatigue. This is why it is known as one of the earliest performance-enhancing substances.

Garlic is beneficial for non-athletes, too. In a study published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, experts noted an improvement in heart rate and exercise tolerance after taking garlic oil for six weeks.

In another study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, experts acknowledged garlic as an anti-fatigue agent. However, further studies are needed to better understand the specific mechanisms of garlic that make it an effective booster.

Lower Risk Of Preterm Delivery

Preterm or premature delivery is characterized as babies being born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. According to the World Health Organization, the preterm birth rate around the world is between five and 18 percent.

There are many reasons why preterm delivery (PTD) happens. On the other hand, there are foods that could reduce the risk.

According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, experts examined the effect of Allium and dried fruits on the possibility of reducing the risk of PTD. In the said study, experts noted that foods with antimicrobial compounds such garlic reduce the risk of spontaneous PTD.

In line with this claim, do you think garlic can help you live longer? The possibility is there. After all, garlic ensures that your cholesterol and blood pressure levels are in their right levels. Couple this with a steady supply of antioxidants to fight free radicals and you are surely on your way towards a healthier you.

Garlic Side Effects

Garlic is used for centuries as a treatment for various conditions. This means it doesn’t have any side effects, right?

Not necessarily.

Generally, garlic is safe to eat. Still, watch out for possible allergic reactions or sensitivity symptoms. Although spice allergies are not common, if you are allergic to birch pollen, then there is a possibility that you are also allergic to garlic and other related spices.

Signs of allergic reactions include:

  • Facial swelling
  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing

Symptoms of food sensitivity are:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Other signs of gastrointestinal discomfort

Garlic supplements are also popular these days. Keep in mind that the more processed garlic is, the lesser the flavor and aroma will be. The nutritional components of garlic are  also reduced, thereby making the supplement less effective.

In line with this, make sure to watch out for the following side effects after taking garlic supplements:

  • Bad breath
  • Heartburn
  • Body odor
  • Diarrhea
  • Burning sensation in the mouth or throat
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Ulcer

What about if you’re on medication? Eating garlic will less likely interfere with your current medications. On the other hand, take it easy on garlic supplements. Ask your doctor first if it is safe since garlic supplements could interfere with HIV drugs and anticoagulants, thereby increasing the risk of bleeding.

Essential oils are also popular these days. Garlic essential oil is generally safe, but make sure to use it correctly. Otherwise, it could lead to burns, irritations, and eczema. More importantly, never ingest it.

Garlic Storage

Garlic is required in many, if not all dishes, regardless of the type of cuisine. Because of this, one must have a steady supply of garlic at home.

Here’s the thing: just like other kitchen stapes, proper storage techniques are essential to prolong its shelf life.

Here are tips you need to remember to make sure that your supply of garlic will last longer:

  • Keep the whole head or bulb. Once you break it apart, the life span of garlic will decrease and must be used within three to 10 days.
  • Place garlic in mesh bags or loosely woven baskets. Open paper bag is fine, too.
  • Room temperature is the best temperature for garlic. ‘
  • Avoid storing garlic in the fridge. Cold environment triggers garlic to sprout and result to bitter taste. It damages the flavor and texture as well.
  • Store garlic in dark and dry place. As much as possible, avoid light and moisture, which are garlic’s worst enemies.

What about peeled or chopped garlic?

If that’s the case, then put the chopped or peeled garlic inside an airtight container. Then, store it inside the refrigerator. Make sure to use the garlic as soon as possible to prevent sprouting and losing its flavor.

If you got tons of garlic and you’re worried that you won’t be able to consume all, then consider roasting it. If kept refrigerated or frozen, then it could go as long as two weeks or three months, respectively.

Garlic Alternatives

Garlic is often readily available since a grocery run won’t be complete without it. Just in case you ran out of garlic, here are some of your alternatives:

  • Garlic Oil – This is readily available in the market. This is also ideal for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome since you can still get the garlic flavor sans the fibrous part.
  • Garlic Powder – This spice should be part of the rack for some reason. Even if it cannot replace the taste of fresh garlic, garlic powder can be a good alternative for breads or as a spice blend.
  • Onion – Most recipes call for garlic and onion but in case you ran out of garlic, you can still do away with onion alone.
  • Garlic Chives – This may not replace garlic but it’s a good addition to your dishes if you want to maintain the garlicky flavor.
  • Lemon Zest – Believe it or not, this can be a great alternative to garlic. Adding lemon zest in your dishes will give the distinct lemon freshness and give them more flavor unlike the pungency of raw garlic.

Of course, nothing beats what fresh garlic can offer. In the meantime, these substitutes will do in case you ran out of supply.

Garlic Recipe / Usage

Since thousands of years ago up until today, garlic is among those ingredients that are used for variety of reasons. This is because it is flexible, easier to add in your daily diet, and comes with tons of health benefits.

Here are some ideas you can try:

  • Crush garlic and mix it with your favorite soup, sauce, or even hummus.
  • Roast them for 45 minutes then use it as a side dish and on salad and dips. You can also mix this on mashed sweet potatoes.
  • Mix raw garlic into a bowl of salad.
  • Combine garlic with thyme, rosemary, pepper, and lemon. Rub this mixture on fish, chicken, or meat.
  • Blend garlic until smooth. Then blend in your preferred veggies and season it with salt and pepper. Transfer into a pan and add vegetable broth to make soup.

You can also use garlic outside the kitchen. Here’s what you can do:

  • Infuse oil with garlic and massage it on your hair to fight hair loss.
  • Thanks to its natural anti-inflammatory properties, apply crushed garlic on cold sores to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Mix garlic with mineral oil, liquid Castille soap, and water. Pour it on spray bottle and use it to spray on plants to keep them protected from critters.

The Bottom Line

Garlic has been around for thousands of years for variety of reasons. It comes with many health benefits that ensures one’s health is in tiptop shape. Now, Science even confirmed what garlic can do to protect your health.

The best part is garlic is easier to add in your daily diet.

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