Garlic has been used for centuries as both a food ingredient and a medicine. Eating garlic provides a wide variety of health benefits, which include reducing risk of heart disease, improving mental health and enhancing immune function.
Garlic Can Boost Immune Function
Whole garlic contains a compound called alliin that helps the immune system fight germs. When garlic is crushed or chewed, this compound turns into allicin (with a c). Allicin contains sulfur- the source of garlic’s distinctive smell and taste. It’s also unstable; it quickly converts to other sulphur-containing compounds giving garlic its medicinal properties.
These compounds facilitate some types of white blood cells ward off diseases in the body when they encounter viruses, such as those that cause the common cold or flu.
Bottom Line: Garlic can be crushed, chewed or sliced to produce allicin, which is thought to give garlic its immune-boosting properties.
Can Garlic Help Prevent Colds and The Flu?
Garlic has shown promise as a treatment for preventing colds and the flu. Studies have shown that garlic reduces the risk of becoming sick in the first place and shortens the span of sickness. It can also reduce the severity of symptoms.
Garlic Cloves With Garlic Press
A study converted the power of garlic into statistics: over a period of 3 months, people who took garlic supplements experienced a lower risk of getting a cold by 63% and a shorter period of sickness by 70%. Another study found that subjects taking 2.56 grams of aged garlic extract per day recovered from sickness faster by 61%, compared to a placebo group.
However, it’s still unknown if you need to take garlic constantly, or if it also works as a short-term treatment when you start getting sick.
Bottom Line: Regularly eating garlic may help prevent the common cold or the flu. If you do get sick, eating garlic can reduce the severity of your symptoms and help you recover faster.
How to Maximize the Benefits of Garlic
The way garlic is processed or prepared can change its health benefits.
The enzyme alliinase, which converts alliin into the beneficial allicin, only works under certain conditions. In addition, it can be deactivated by heat. As little as 60 seconds in the microwave or 45 minutes in the oven can deactivate alliinase.
However, it was noted that crushing garlic and allowing it to stand for 10 minutes before cooking can help prevent the loss of its medicinal properties. The researchers also stated that the loss of health benefits due to cooking could be compensated for by increasing the amount of garlic used.
Here are a few ways to maximize the health benefits of garlic:
- Crush or slice garlic before you eat it. This increases the allicin content.
- Before you cook with your crushed garlic, let it stand for 10 minutes.
- Use a lot of garlic — more than one clove per meal, if you can.
Bottom Line: Ensure whole garlic is crushed, chewed or sliced before it’s eaten. Let crushed garlic stand for 10 minutes before you cook it.
Another easy way to increase your garlic intake is by taking a supplement. It is suggested, however, that it be taken with caution, as there are no regulated standards for garlic supplement. The allicin content and quality can vary, and so can the health benefits.
Powdered garlic is made from fresh garlic that has been sliced and dried. It does not contain allicin, but is said to have allicin potential. Powdered garlic is processed at a low temperature, and then put inside capsules, which helps the enzyme alliinase survive the harsh environment of the stomach so that it can convert alliin to the beneficial allicin in the intestine.
Nevertheless it is unclear how much allicin can be derived from powdered garlic supplements. This varies greatly depending on the brand and preparation.
Aged Garlic Extract
When raw garlic is sliced and stored in 15–20% ethanol for over 1.5 years, it becomes aged garlic extract. This type of supplement does not contain allicin, but it does retain the medical properties of garlic. Many of the studies showing benefits against colds and the flu used aged garlic extract.
Garlic oil is also an effective supplement, and is made by infusing raw garlic into cooking oils. You can add it directly to your meals, or take it in capsules.
However, it’s worth noting that animal studies have shown that garlic oil can be toxic to rats at higher doses and in certain conditions. Homemade garlic oil has also been linked with several cases of botulism, so if you’re going to make your own, make sure to use proper preservation methods.
Bottom Line: Common types of garlic supplements include powdered garlic, aged garlic extract and garlic oil. Aged garlic extract may be the best type.
How Much Garlic Should You Eat Per Day?
The minimum effective dose for raw garlic is one segment eaten two to three times per day. You can also take an aged garlic supplement. In that case, a normal dose is 600 to 1,200 mg per day. High intake of garlic supplements can be toxic, so don’t exceed the dosage recommendations.
Bottom Line: You can get a benefit from garlic by eating 2-3 garlic cloves per day. Supplement doses range from 600 to 1,200 mg per day.
Other Tips to Boost Immune Function
Here are 5 more ways to boost immune function and help you avoid colds and flu:
Take a probiotic: it keeps the gut healthy, enhances the immunity and reduces risk of infection.
Keep a healthy and balanced diet: keeping a balance of important nutrients will make sure your immune system stays in good shape.
Don’t smoke: cigarette can weaken your immune system and increase chance of infection.
Avoid excess alcohol: Excess alcohol is thought to damage your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections.
Take a zinc supplement: Take zinc lozenges or syrup within 24 hours of the start of a cold, as this may reduce the duration of the cold.
Bottom Line: A healthy diet and lifestyle are essential for keeping your immune system in good shape.
Take Home Message
Studies show that garlic can help fight colds and the flu. It can reduce your chances of catching an illness, and help you recover faster. To maximize these benefits, it is best to consume raw garlic or aged garlic extract. At the end of the day, garlic is both tasty and super healthy. Then there are many other great reasons to include it in your diet.
Source: Authority Nutrition
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