Garlic has been use for centuries for health benefits as far back as Egyptian civilization. Anecdotal evidence has shown that people whose diet includes a lot of garlic have less stomach cancer, better cholesterol levels and blood that does not clot quickly. This is beneficial because having lower lipid levels combined with slower clotting blood reduces the risk for heart attack and strokes. Garlic is also known for its anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. Recently, there has been a lot of interest in the health benefits of garlic and many promising research studies are beginning to prove that garlic is not just a folk remedy. Garlic benefits are being studied as an alternative for antibiotics, a cure for HIV and in cancer research.
Why You Should Crush Garlic
Garlic is in the allium family of plants. Other familiar plants in the same family include onions and leeks; and all are good sources of sulfur and selenium. There are many beneficial compounds in raw garlic that are responsible for garlic’s health properties. These compounds are derived from the allinase, aliin and allicin in the garlic. Sulfur is found in the aliin in raw garlic. The enzyme allinase interacts with aliin to form allicin when garlic is crushed or macerated. Allicin gives garlic its unmistakeable odor and taste. Researchers once believed that it was the allicin in the garlic that produced all of garlic’s health benefits, but studies have found that the allicin was not as bioavailable to the body as once thought. As soon as the garlic is cut or chopped, the allicin is released and starts to dissipate, quickly turning into other compounds. These powerful compounds make garlic beneficial.
Is Garlic a Cure?
One of the most promising compounds is ajoene. Many in vitro studies of ajoene have demonstrated its tremendous health benefits. Ajoenes helps thin the blood, have anti-fungal properties and have been used to fight tumors. It has been used successfully to treat superficial mycoses, which are fungal infections like athletes foot or yeast infections that affect the skin and hair. Recently, studies using topical application of ajoene have shown to be very promising in helping patients with skin cancer. In addition, studies are now underway to determine ajoene’s effectiveness in battling leukemia.
How to Eat It
Eaten raw, garlic could harm the digestive tract, so it is best to combine it with food. Crushing the garlic releases it good compounds, and light cooking alters some of the nutrients in the garlic, but these are beneficial nutrients. So mixing crushed garlic in olive oil then sautéing briefly is recommended so you can get all of the beneficial compounds from the garlic. Cooking too long destroys the beneficial compounds, so adding garlic at the end of cooking helps it keep all of its health benefits. It is also recommended letting the crushed garlic sit for about five minutes before using to allow the compounds to form.
Garlic has excellent health benefits; however, people who are taking certain medications should take care when eating garlic. Anyone taking a blood thinner like Warfarin or Coumadin should already be aware of the foods they should not eat, and should discuss garlic with their doctor.