Garlic. A fragrant kitchen staple that punches well above its weight, but has developed a bad reputation for bad breath. At the end of the day, if it came down to choosing between a kiss or a slice of garlic bread, the food wins every time. Aside from warding off vampires and making a beautiful pasta sauce, garlic also houses a powerful compound - allicin. It’s mouthwatering, it’s satiating, and there’s an evergrowing list of health benefits that make a case for Team Garlic.
1. Packed With Vital Nutrients
Some people have even gone on to call garlic a nutrient powerhouse, with one clove housing numerous essential vitamins and minerals. Not only containing manganese, selenium, Vitamin C (hello healthy immune system), iron, potassium, and copper, garlic is a rich source of Vitamin B6 and magnesium, which have been linked to improved cognitive function. A loaf of homemade garlic bread makes you smarter? You can’t argue with science...
2. Broad Spectrum Antibiotic
The household staple has been praised for antimicrobial properties, in both old wives’ remedies and the medical sphere. Garlic has compounds that can be used as an antibiotic, and a 2015 study suggests consuming garlic alongside prescribed, pharmaceutical antibiotics can enhance the efficacy by improving the antibiotic resistance of pathogens. Some ayurvedic research suggests that garlic not only kills the bad bacteria in your gut but also the good. This can be countered by ensuring we eat fermented, gut-friendly foods to keep our micro-biome balanced. It is also best to ensure this is done with guidance by a licensed professional.
3. Happy Hearts: Lowers Bad Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Garlic is great on your plate, and even better for your heart. The compounds of the cloves have been praised for lowering levels of bad cholesterol and lowering increased blood pressure, preventing forms of heart disease. Allicin, the active ingredient in garlicky goodness, has antioxidant properties that reduce the hardening of the arteries. There also is some research to suggest that consuming garlic may aid in lowering high levels of blood pressure. This is due to the body’s increased nitric oxide, helping the smooth muscles of the body to relax and allowing the blood vessels to dilate.
4. The Anti-Inflammatory Action May Slow Cancer Cell Growth
Just when you think garlic can’t pack any more of a punch, the allyl sulfides present have been praised for their anti-inflammatory properties. This cancer-fighting compound has been the subject of recent research looking at slowing the rate of cancer cell growth. A 2014 review of the therapeutic effects suggested this may be due to garlic’s ability to inhibit carcinogen activation, enhancement of detoxification, and protection of DNA from activated carcinogens.
5. Getting Garlicky in the Bedroom
Ever wondered why garlic leaves you feeling all kinds of warm and satisfied? Allicin, the powerful antioxidant responsible for garlic’s pungent and un-kiss-worthy smell, is an aphrodisiac. That’s right, that embarrassing garlic breath may help in the bedroom, due to increased blood flow. By that same token, the sulfides secreted in our skin can smell pretty strong and unappealing to any future bedmates, so eat your garlic with caution next date night.
6. Unblock Your Ears
Suffering from a dull, constant earache? Sick of hopping on one leg every time you come out of the surf? Garlic’s got your back. Another of those time-old wives remedies with widespread benefits, it can be as simple as popping a clove in your ear to ease the pain. Commercially made garlic oil ear drops are available from most health stores and pharmacies, or you can try your hand at making your own. Putting a cut clove of garlic wrapped in gauze in your ear, with a hot flannel compress can have the same effect. Caution should be taken with children, or with adults with conditions such as ruptured eardrums and bacteria growth. If the pain persists, please consult your doctor.
7. Get Some Garlic In Your Guts
Now that you’re convinced of the magic of garlic, it’s time to get some of that goodness on our plates. I love it in a Tahini and Garlic Sauce, but it also adds a beautiful aroma in this Garlic and Rosemary Cauliflower Bread. It’s a staple in my kitchen; you’ll find it in salad dressings, tossed through a stirfry, or even rubbed raw on a slice of toast for a good dose of garlic with my smashed avo. However, remember to eat your garlic raw or only partially cooked to make sure you get all of the goodness the cloves hold. Allicin, the powerhouse compound, has its health benefits neutralized by heating for too long. Also remember to let your garlic cloves sit for a few moments after crushing them, as this allows the allicin compounds to fully form.