Garlic: The Food Warrior for Heart Health

Updated: 12/24/18 For a long time, we’ve heard that garlic is good for us. Garlic tablets and garlic oil have been around for a while. However, the true benefits of garlic for example, to prevent cancer…are only becoming clear with recent research.

Garlic is a good source of micro-nutrients, and also contains compounds known to fight cancer, protect the heart, boost the immune system, aid iron absorption, and fight infection.

The best way to get the benefits of garlic may be to consume it in lightly cooked food form.

Consume garlic for heart health

Garlic has been found helpful for the heart and circulation in two ways so far. First, its sulfur compounds (diallyl, disulfide (DADS)) help to promote blood flow by preventing the platelets from sticking together and clotting. Second, it lowers levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

  • Allicin, or 2-Propene-1-sulfinothioic acid S-2-propenyl ester, an organosulphur compound found in garlic, dilates blood vessels and can help lower blood pressure. Allicin is garlic’s defense mechanism against attacks by pests, and is produced by the enzymatic action of alliinase on alliin upon tissue damage. Note that allicinase is irreversibly deactivated below a pH of 3; therefore, allicin is not produced in the body by consumption of fresh or powdered garlic.

Take garlic for your upper-respiratory problems

Improve breathing and resist or minimize cold and flu germs with garlic. Garlic contains allicin and alliin, chemically active compounds that researchers have found kill germs directly and stimulate the immune system to release killer cells which can target cold and flu germs. In order to reap these benefits though, you’ll need to be consuming garlic regularly, and probably at least one bulb a day.

  • Garlic added to food or garlic capsules can relieve nasal congestion when taken daily. Garlic tablets can also reduce mucus production; too much mucus can cause airway narrowing during an asthmatic attack.
  • During a cold, you might help to minimize the impacts by consuming a half a clove of garlic or two garlic capsules or tablets every two hours. Symptoms of a cold have been shown to recede faster for those taking garlic over those who do not.

Use garlic to help minimize and heal a fungal infection

Research studies have shown the ability of garlic to prevent cell changes that can cause cancer, to stop tumor growth, and to kill cancer cells. Its role in boosting or supporting your immune system is possibly part of its power against cancer.

Take garlic to activate liver enzymes that support your toxin filtration system

Known as a “prebiotic,” garlic can help the growth of “good” bacteria in your digestive system, and help to prevent diarrhea. Garlic also improves digestion and enhances the absorption of minerals.

Use garlic as a possible form of protection against cancer.

Garlic is one of the most powerful anti-fungals known. Rub crushed garlic over the fungal infected skin area every day until it improves.

  • Other research has shown that yeast infections can be effectively treated by eating several raw cloves or even an entire raw bulb of garlic each day.

Cooking Garlic

The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends that the intake of garlic be 2-4 grams fresh garlic daily (each clove approximates 1 gram), or 600-1200mg of aged garlic extract, daily, dividing up the doses. Other methods of intake include: freeze-dried garlic tablets 200mg, 2 tablets 3 times a day; 4ml fluid extract daily; 20ml tincture daily; and garlic oil 0.03-12ml, 3 times daily. Use of garlic can be ongoing and frequent. In general, garlic is safe for most people (The US Food and Drug Administration rates it GRAS, or generally recognized as safe) but see the warnings for existing stomach inflammation, pregnancy, nursing, developing an allergy.

Get at least the recommended daily dose of garlic.

Cook garlic lightly. Overcooking garlic can destroy some of its healthful compounds. Light cooking also ensures that the heart-protective compounds are not reduced. However, be aware that cooking probably entirely destroys the antibiotic elements of garlic.

  • Do not microwave garlic. Researchers tried various preparation methods including boiling, baking, and microwaving both crushed and uncrushed garlic cloves. Lightly cooked crushed garlic passed the tests – “as long as” it was not cooked in the microwave.

Use an extract or tablets or capsules if you’re concerned about the taste or odor

If you really don’t like garlic but you’d like to benefit from its protective qualities, look for an aged garlic extract in your local health food store. Even if you do like garlic, the effects of cooking on garlic’s healthful compounds is still not certain, so it is probably a good idea to also take the extract even if you’re enjoying garlic as food.

Warnings

  • Note that the science on the benefits of garlic for heart disease and cancer protection is promising but is not yet considered “conclusive.”
  • Microwaving sapped the garlic of all its good-for-you attributes in the research.
  • Do not use garlic (in large amounts or stay off of it):
    • If you have inflammation of the stomach (gastroenteritis) or an ulcer.
    • If you are pregnant, garlic may stimulate uterine contractions (pain) and secretions (Farnsworth et al 1975).
    • If nursing, avoid garlic.
  • Allergy in some people: rarely, after frequent contact with garlic, an inflammatory condition of the skin (eczema) or other allergic reactions may develop.
  • Speak with your doctor about possible interactions with medications such as blood-thinners, protease inhibitors and anti-platelet medications.

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