People have been using garlic for thousands of years and it's probably a key ingredient in some of your favorite foods –– but what exactly is it?
Garlic is a member of the onion genus and is known for its strong smell, distinct taste, and many health benefits. Native to Central Asia, garlic grows in the ground as a bulb and is covered in a papery skin, which is to be peeled when ready for use. The bulb is separated into sections called cloves, which can then chopped, crushed, sliced, juiced, or used whole depending on what recipe it is being used in.
Though garlic can be eaten raw, most people prefer to cook it or add it to recipes because the flavor is very strong. It is incredibly versatile and be used in salads, soups, pastas, stews, vegetables, fish, and meat. It can also be used in toothpaste because it helps prevent cavities and oral bacteria.
Besides being a delicious spice that can amp up practically any dish, garlic is loaded with a ton of health benefits! Before modern medicine, ancient civilizations used garlic primarily for its medicinal properties. Garlic contains sulfur compounds that are catalyzed when a clove is chopped, crushed, or chewed. Even if you don't like the taste of garlic, you can still reap its benefits by taking garlic supplements. Here all the benefits eating garlic can have on your health!
Though there's not a surefire cure for the common cold, garlic does have properties that help ease the symptoms of colds and coughs. According to the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, people who took a garlic supplement every day for three months had fewer colds than those who took a placebo pill.
Garlic is often used as an herbal remedy for lowering reducing hypertension (blood pressure). In one study, researchers found that 600-1500mg of aged garlic extract reduced blood pressure just as well as Atenolol, a common drug used to treat hypertension.
One of the sulfur compounds present in raw garlic is called allicin. One of the benefits of allicin is that lowers the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Allicin has no effect on HDL (good) cholesterol. By lowering LDL cholesterol levels, the risk for heart disease also lowers.
Garlic contains antioxidants that may help fight against neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer's and Dementia. These antioxidants help support the body's mechanical functions, protect cell damage, and cell aging.
Garlic doesn't just help aid the common cold. It is also a common herbal method to heal wounds! Allicin, one of the most active components of garlic, as antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies have shown that garlic helps wounds heal faster and keeps them from getting infected. All you have to do is place two crushed cloves on the infected area and then you should quickly feel relief.
You probably don't associate athletic performance with garlic, but it was actually one of the first "performing enhancing" substances in the world of sports. Olympic athletes in ancient Greece were given garlic to increase performance and reduce fatigue. In the modern age, studies have shown that garlic has helped improve the physical performance of lab rats and people with heart disease. However, garlic may not make that much of a difference in athletic performance for people who are already physically healthy.
Including garlic into your diet helps with digestion and overall gut health. Garlic is a prebiotic, which acts as food for the probiotics that live in your gut's microbiome. Garlic can help decrease inflammation and clear up major digestive problems like diarrhea, dysentery, colitis, and worms. It can also help with gas relief.
Garlic posses phytonutrients that helps decrease oxidative stress, which can help strengthen your immune system. It can also reduce fatigue and increase energy. According to a study published in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines, rats that were given high concentrations of garlic extract showed a significantly high white blood cell count than those who were given a lower concentration.
Like honey and turmeric, garlic can be used as an effective herbal remedy for treating and prevent acne. Due to it's antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, garlic can also be used as an effective skin cleanser that can help with rashes, psoriasis, cold sores, and blisters. It can also help delay the skin's aging and protect skin against UV rays.
Though there haven't been a lot of human studies on the effects of garlic on bone health, studies on female rats have shown that garlic helps increase estrogen levels which minimize bone loss and osteoporosis. In another study, menopausal women who took a dry garlic extract daily had a decrease in estrogen deficiency.
Though there's no actual definitive proof that garlic increases the longevity of human life, one could assume it does given all the ways it benefits other aspects of our health. The fact that it can help fight disease, lower cholesterol, and decrease hypertension, makes it likely that taking a garlic supplement could help use live a longer life.
Now that you know all the incredible benefits that come from eating garlic, I bet you're itchin' to chop some up and put it in your next meal. Here are our favorite recipes that use garlic!
Garlic has very robust and pungent flavor that has spicy undertones. When cooked, garlic mellows and sweetens. Garlic gets its flavor from a natural oil called, diallyl disulfide, which can turn bitter with air exposure. Bitter garlic can turn a dish from tasty to terrible really quickly, so make sure you start cooking your garlic as soon as you finish unwrapping it from the bulb and preparing it. Be careful not to overcook your garlic, because that can also make it bitter.