Are you a garlic lover? You may not have realized that with all that garlic breath you’re actually improving your health (and maybe warding off vampires). In fact, it's health benefits have been noted dating all the way back to ancient Rome and Egypt, but what exactly does it do for you?
A great source of vitamin-C, vitamin B6, phosphorus, potassium, copper, iron, zinc, selenium, calcium, magnesium, and manganese, garlic’s secret lies in the compound called allicin. This compound is responsible for all the purported health benefits by increasing the body’s production of hydrogen sulfide and leading to a number of changes. Believed to protects against cancers, it is an anti-inflammatory vegetable which boosts the immune system, It is also antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal. As if that's not enough, it's also highly supportive for detoxification.
With the increase in interest in detoxing your body, it’s good to know how garlic helps with this process. Remember those sulfur compounds mentioned above? Those compounds activate liver enzymes that rid the body of toxins. On top of that, it provides both allicin and selenium, which protect the liver from damage. So next time you’re looking for a new detox recipe, try using garlic.
An interesting health benefit of garlic is that it helps with cough, sore throats, and stuffy noses or congestion. [editor note: when we have illness in our home a favorite remedy is to chop up a fresh clove of garlic and swallow it down with water. It may be a bit pungent but it seems to do the trick. Note of caution, do not do this on an empty stomach or you may vomit.]
Also good for circulation; the hydrogen sulfide compounds found in this vegetable relaxes the blood vessels. It is believed to increase blood flow and it may even help protect the heart. Because of the changes in blood and circulation, it may also improve aerobic performance. A study done on college endurance athletes showed that both VO2 max and endurance performance time increased following garlic supplementation; perhaps that's why ancient Egypt fed their athletes garlic before the Olympic Games and the Romans believed it aided strength. Consider taking supplements (or even try it fresh) before you exercise and see if it helps improve your performance.
You can easily maximize the health benefits that you do get from garlic by putting a little thought into preparation. The healthy compounds are boosted and can withstand cooking when the cloves are crushed or cut at room temperature and then allowed to sit for 10- 15 minutes. To get the most out of your garlic for health and flavor, cook it the least amount as possible. When adding it to a recipe that calls for onions and other aromatics always put the garlic in last. Finally, researchers believe that aged garlic contains the healthiest properties.
If you’re a garlic lover, you may not even care about the negative effects, but for some they can be a large deterrent. Negative effects include bad breath, gastric upset, body odor, heartburn, and bloating. However, if you’re opting for supplements rather than fresh, some rare effects can happen including headaches, fatigue, and dizziness. Lastly, because it is a blood thinner, you may bruise more easily or if you combine a high garlic intake with blood thinners, you run the risk of severe bleeding.
Randi Upshaw is a Certified Athletic Trainer who loves health and fitness and uses writing to share it with others. Like what she writes? Then check out www.HomeGymReview.net.
photo: Donovan Govan