Garlic Boosts More Than Just Flavor in Food

Garlic Boosts More Than Just Flavor in Food

by M.C. Millman

While most of us use garlic for the great flavor it adds to our cooking, the vegetable has additionally been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.

In 1858, the famous microbiologist Louis Pasteur noted garlic's antibacterial activity. It was later used as an antiseptic to prevent infection and gangrene during World War I and II.

The most well-known compound in garlic is called allicin. It is responsible for many of the known health benefits of garlic. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the benefits of garlic include:

  • Boosting immunity
  • Providing anti-inflammatory benefits 
  • Improving heart health 
  • Clearing skin 
  • Protecting food from bacteria

Garlic is said to help many other conditions, such as the common cold and osteoarthritis. However, research has yet to be able to adequately back that claim.  

The American Heart Association questions, "Does it [garlic] really ward off as many health ills as its reputation suggests?"

"That might be a stretch," said Kristina Petersen, an assistant professor in the department of nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. "Typically, those effects are observed when quite high supplemental doses of garlic powder are given." 

To reap the health benefits of garlic, use raw garlic. Interestingly enough, the allicin compound produced by garlic is a defense mechanism for the plant. When garlic is attacked or injured, the allicin produced gives off a pungent smell and taste, offering protection. 

For this reason, Dr. David W. Kraus, associate professor of environmental science and biology at the University of Alabama, recommends waiting about fifteen minutes after mincing or chopping garlic before cooking it. This allows the enzymes from the allicin to start working to boost the health effects of the garlic. 

Although garlic can be a great addition to your diet, be careful not to overdo it. In excess, garlic can cause stomach sensitivity, and its smell can leach through pores. Also, check with your doctor before increasing intake because garlic can interact with some drugs, such as blood thinners.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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