Garlic has been an integral part of our kitchen since times immemorial that uplifts the zest and aroma of the meal. The famous Greek physician Hippocrates used garlic extensively to treat a host of health maladies and even modern medicine vouches for its impressive beneficial qualities. The latest research reveals that this humble spice has some real wellness incentives like shielding against the common cold and the ability to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Garlic belongs to the allium family comprising onions, spring onions, leeks, chives, and shallots that is cultivated largely in most countries across the globe. This ubiquitous prized spice has a modified stem known as a bulb that encloses 10-20 pale white to yellow cloves. Garlic is a staple ingredient in kitchens across the world, being a quintessential ingredient in a rich array of culinary delights, it also packs a boast of nutrients with amazing curative and medicinal qualities. Garlic is the perfect ingredient to optimize your overall health and well-being.
Garlic is a perennial plant in the Allium family, each segment of the bulb is called a clove. The plant is indigenous to central Asia but also grows widely in Italy and southern France. It has a powerful aroma and pungent taste. The plant grows to about 2 feet tall and leaves usually arise from a short hard stem above the bulb. It is cultivated as an annual crop and is propagated by planting cloves or top bulbils, though seeds can also be used. The unbelievable health benefiting actions of garlic are attributed to sulfur compounds, which is formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed, or chewed. Though the most well-known compound is allicin, it is an unstable compound that is briefly present in fresh garlic. Diallyl disulfide and s-allyl cysteine are other compounds that hold a key role in garlic wellness incentives. The sulfur compounds present in garlic are readily absorbed in the system, exhibiting potent biological impacts.
Garlic is an extremely nutritious vegetable with very minimal calories about 4.5 calories, while it offers 0.2 grams of protein, and 1 gram of carbs. It also contains trace amounts of several other vital nutrients. A single clove of about 3 grams of raw garlic provides:
Manganese: 2% of the daily value (DV)
Vitamin B6: 2% of the DV
Vitamin C: 1% of the DV
Selenium: 1% of the DV
Fiber: 0.06 grams
* Source USDA
Potential Health Benefits Of Garlic
Combats Common Cold
Raw garlic has the incredible potential to fight common colds and coughs. Garlic when taken in the form of supplements is best known to trigger the immune system and keep infections at bay. Several studies have also revealed that adding garlic as part of a healthy meal plan can help one fight against cold and flu.
Controls High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the contributing factors to the increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Several pieces of evidence have found that garlic supplements have a remarkable impact on decreasing blood pressure in people with uncontrolled hypertension. Garlic is known to promote the synthesis of nitric oxide which dilates the blood vessels and inhibits the angiotensin-converting enzyme action (ACE) that relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow thereby regulating blood pressure.
Augments Cardiac Health
The presence of the bioactive compound allicin in garlic stops oxidizing LDL cholesterol, thus lowering the total and LDL cholesterol in the blood. Regular addition of garlic to the diet averts the formation of clots in the blood and lowers the incidence of heart diseases.
Boosts Brain Health
Oxidative damage caused by free radicals is one of the contributing factors to ageing. Garlic blessed with powerful antioxidants aids the body’s protective mechanisms against oxidative damage. Garlic supplements, when taken in high doses, increase antioxidant activities thus reducing oxidative stress in people with high blood pressure and maintaining lipid profile. The antioxidant activity of garlic helps in reducing the risk of brain problems like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Chronic inflammation is the root cause of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis. The potent anti-inflammatory action of garlic helps to inhibit inflammatory protein activity. Taking garlic supplements is valuable in lowering inflammatory markers, easing pain and fatigue, and improving the health conditions of patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
Garlic was valued as one of the earliest “natural performance-enhancing” ingredients. It was largely used in ancient centuries as a traditional remedy to lessen fatigue and increase the energy and stamina of labourers. Sources reveal that garlic supplements were given to Olympic athletes in ancient Greece. Several studies have also disclosed that garlic can significantly improve the symptoms of exercise fatigue.
Lowers Blood Toxicity
Garlic imbued with sulfur compounds has been shown to shield the body against organ damage from heavy metal toxicity. A study conducted at a car battery plant, where employees had been exposed to excessive lead, found that taking garlic supplements lowered lead levels in the blood by 19% and reduced signs of toxicity including headaches and blood pressure. Thus, garlic supplements may help to detoxify heavy metals in the body.
Promote Blood Flow
Garlic is valuable in improving blood circulation, which is effective for treating problems like erectile dysfunction in men. The richness of bioactive compounds in garlic can increase blood flow and blood vessel function. Further, it can also up the levels of nitric oxide, which aids to dilate blood vessels and optimize better blood flow.
Fortifies Bone Health
Adding garlic to the diet regimen may help to lower the onset of osteoarthritis. The presence of the bioactive compound diallyl disulphide in garlic supports maintaining bone density and thus reduce the incidence of bone-related health conditions like osteoarthritis and also strengthens bone health in post-menopausal women.
Good For Losing Weight
Garlic decreases the gene expression responsible for the formation of adipose cells that store fat. Further, it also increases thermogenesis in the body which aids in the burning of fat cells and diminishing LDL (bad cholesterol). Aside from these, bestowed with a wealth of essential nutrients garlic triggers the metabolism and sustains weight.
Garlic supplements are obtained from pounding garlic and collecting its oil, which is then combined with a suitable carrier vegetable oil and sealed in gelatin. Supplements are easily available in the form of soft gels or capsules. It is bequeathed with more than 100 sulphur compounds and powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial traits.
Is It Good To Have Raw Garlic?
Yes, raw garlic is packed with a treasure trove of nutrients than cooked, which is why doctors and nutritionists recommend eating raw garlic on an empty stomach to derive its umpteen health benefits. Though it may not be best for your breath, health incentives outweigh this effect.
Ensure to have fresh raw garlic, as the allicin starts to degrade slowly when left peeled over a longer period. The recommended intake of raw garlic is about 2-5 grams or 1-2 cloves per day.
Ways To Add Garlic To Diet
Garlic is an easy-to-add vegetable to your meal plan. It enhances the flavour and aroma of most savoury dishes, mainly soups, curries and sauces. The strong taste of garlic can add an extra zest to an otherwise bland dish.
You can use garlic in several forms from whole cloves, chopped, salad dressing oil and smooth pastes to powders to add that extra taste and essence.
Garlic thokku is a simple and easy-to-make dish with a blend of spices that goes well with idly, dosa, roti or hot rice.
1 cup of peeled garlic cloves
6 tbsp gingelly/ sesame oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp red chilli powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp asafoetida
In a pan add 3 tsp sesame oil and half of the mustard seeds, asafoetida and let it mustard splutters and then add garlic.
Saute it well in a medium flame until light golden colour and then switch off the flame. Let this cool and pulse once in a blender.
In a pan 2 tbsp oil and remaining mustard seeds, pulsed garlic, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt.
Blend well and cook on a low flame for 10 minutes, adding a little oil at regular intervals.
Once the garlic thokku starts leaving oil on the sides, switch off the flame.
Let it cool completely and store garlic thokku in a clean dry container.
Garlic is an outstanding spice for boosting the immune system and keeping infections and diseases at bay. Mustard seeds lend an exotic flavour and aroma to the dish and confer healing health incentives. Gingelly oil laden with healthy omega-3 fatty acids augments heart health and skin tone.
Garlic bread is a crispy and delicious appetiser that has the power to kindle your appetite when served with a bowl of soup. It can also be served as a standalone snack for kids.
2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp butter
4 slice bread
1/4 tsp oregano
In a bowl add butter, chopped garlic, and oregano and whisk it up well to make a smooth garlic butter.
Spread the butter generously either on one side or both sides of the bread.
Toast it on tawa one side on a medium flame or bake it in a preheated oven at 200*C for 10 minutes.
Once the bread turns golden remove it from the heat or oven.
The goodness of garlic helps in the smooth digestion process and triggers metabolism. Bread is loaded with carbs, calcium and vitamins delivering an instant source of energy and keeping you satiated.
Garlic has very minor downsides like bad breath when taken raw, but this outweighs the incredible benefits that it renders. However, some people who are allergic to it should avoid adding it to their meals. People with a bleeding disorder or those taking blood thinning medications should discuss this with their healthcare provider before increasing their intake of garlic or having it as a supplement.
The powerful aroma of garlic is so strong and tempting that it has been used for ages as a flavour enhancer in a rich array of culinary delights. Garlic can boost up any dish and treats some of the common health maladies. The sulphur-containing compound is activated when garlic is crushed, broken or sliced, exhibiting antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal qualities and remedying a host of diseases. Each clove is storehouse of aroma as well as medicinal properties.