What Are The Health Benefits of Garlic?

garlic health benefits

Garlic is an extremely potent medicinal food providing health benefits by boosting our immune system, helping to lower blood pressure and in cancer prevention.

It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral, helps lower blood pressure and promotes cardiovascular health and even helps men with impotence and  supports prostate health. It has often been called a ‘super food’ because of the enormous range of health benefits it provides, mostly to do with the main active compound within it – allicin. This is formed when garlic is crushed or cut and the enzyme allinase converts another compound present within garlic, alliin (yes, almost spelled the same) into allicin. In garlic the purpose is to defend against attacks by pests but this substance has proven to be particularly beneficial for human health too.

But here’s a tip to ensure you gain the most health benefit from the allicin in garlic:

The allicin in garlic  is a very unstable compound so it is important to take it soon after cutting or crushing a raw clove (or just chew it, if you can handle the strong taste), as cooking or microwaving it or adding substances such as lemon juice or other acidic substances will degrade it and the benefits are soon lost. In fact, it breaks down particularly quickly in vegetable oil, compared to water, and so when it is used for flavour in cooking, a lot of the health benefits from allicin are lost.

 

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So let’s now look in more detail at some of the health benefits of garlic….

Garlic Boosts the Immune system

Garlic has been found to decrease the likelihood of succumbing to the common cold and, if it is caught, to reduce the length of the symptoms significantly. The  research showed that allicin had  a potent anti-viral impact on cold and flu development and recovery . If you are prone to colds and flu, or want more protection from them over the winter months, regularly taking garlic either as a supplement or a clove a day cut into small pieces and washed down with water would seem to be a great way of protecting yourself against the likelihood of infection.

 

Garlic is anti-bacterial,

Allicin in garlic has been studied and found to be effective in eliminating MRSA, the infection that has been a concern in hospitals for some years. It was found to be more effective than using the standard chemical agents.

 

And….anti-fungal

Another important compound present in garlic is ajoene and this has been found to have a powerful inhibiting effect on the fungus candida albicans, which can be the cause of oral and genital infections in humans as well as fungal nail infections. It is also a cause of death in people with a weakened immune system as a result of cancer chemotherapy, AIDS, organ or bone marrow transplants and so taking garlic or ajoene extract can be particularly supportive if you are prone to this fungus.

 health benefits of garlic

A healthy blood pressure with the help of garlic

Garlic helps to lower blood pressure in many different ways not all of which are fully understood, but here are a couple of examples of the conclusions research has come to as possible reasons:

1. Allicin blocks the activity of a protein that causes blood vessels to contract. While this is part of the necessary expansion and contraction of any blood vessels, where the contraction is causing high blood pressure it assists in reducing that by inhibiting the protein’s contraction effect, thus enabling the blood vessel to expand and reducing the pressure of the blood flow.

2. Another way in which garlic helps to lower blood pressure is through the sulphur containing molecules within it. Our red blood cells convert them into Hydrogen Sulphine (H2S) and this gas causes dilation of the blood vessels. As these expand the consequence is a lowering of blood pressure.

There has even been research that found that garlic supplements are as effective as Atenolol, a common medication for treating high blood pressure.Cancer prevention

 

How garlic helps with impotence and prostate health

Garlic is thought to assist men in maintaining erections through causing the release of Nitric Oxide into the blood. Combined with the benefits of garlic to blood pressure (see above) and to reducing LDL Cholesterol (see below) it enables good blood flow into the penis enabling the maintenance of a firm erection.

Garlic has also been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer as well as a wide range of other cancers. It also reduces the likelihood of developing an enlarged prostate gland, a common development in men as they grow older, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia. When enlarged this is what leads to men urinating more frequently but of a lesser amount, often causing disturbance to sleep at night.

 

Garlic is beneficial to cardiovascular health as well…..

It is found to provide blood cell and blood vessel protection from  oxidative stress  – damage to blood vessel linings by highly reactive oxygen molecules (free radicals) – which increases our risk of cardiovascular problems, including heart attack and atherosclerosis. This can also lead to chronic inflammation, and it is this combination of unwanted inflammation and free radical damage that puts our blood vessels at risk of unwanted plaque formation and clogging of the blood vessels.

Some of the sulphur compounds found in garlic reduce the likelihood of inflammation, preventing it from becoming chronic and therefore damaging. Ajoene, another of the compounds found in garlic, prevents clotting by stopping the platelets from becoming ‘sticky’ and forming a clot in the blood vessels.

Another way in which garlic supports cardiovascular health is through the Vitamin C it contains. This  also prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol  by free radicals which leads to damage to the blood vessel walls.

 

Garlic may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Research suggests that because of the combination of positive effects of garlic on blood pressure, cardiovascular health, reduced free radical damage and inflammation, this can help reduce the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia  developing.

 

Here’s a great video summarising many of the benefits of garlic including some that are not mentioned in this article:

 

Sources:

http://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-health-benefits-of-garlic/

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=60

 

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What other health benefits from eating garlic are you aware of?

Please list them in the comments section below. 

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