Five reasons why GARLIC is the ultimate health and beauty food
Updated: Sep 4, 2021
It may be small, but garlic packs a powerful punch; and I don’t just mean its odour.
Read on to discover five amazing health benefits of garlic - as well as advice on how you should consume it.
Garlic is recognised as a superfood and for good reason. It contains:
Flavonoids - that help maximise the benefits of vitamin C.
Amino acids - the building blocks for protein. They help to preserve muscle mass, improve exercise performance and aid better sleep.
Allicin - has many health benefits, as you will find out…
Sulphur - protects cells from damage. Helps your body metabolise food. Relieves joint pain and inflammation,
Let’s look at these benefits in a bit more detail…
Five reasons why you need more garlic in your diet
1. It helps regulate blood sugar levels
This is not just good news for diabetics, but also for women who experience polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Garlic improves the body’s sensitivity to the hormone insulin. People with a diagnosis of type-2 diabetes and PCOS are often insulin resistant . This makes regulating blood sugar levels very difficult; meaning their bodies can make insulin but cannot process it effectively.
Many women with PCOS experience insulin resistance and more than half go on to develop diabetes or pre-diabetes before the age of 40.
In a 2007 study, diabetic rats were given a daily extract of raw garlic for seven weeks. Compared with the control group, this group of rats showed significantly lower blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
2. It improves the appearance of skin
When you stabilise your blood sugar levels, you stabilise your hormones - meaning clearer, healthier skin.
The allicin in garlic reduces inflammation and boosts circulation, which is not only great news for your skin but for your heart too. Allicin also helps to prevent the hardening and scarring of the arteries, which comes with age.
One study, showed that participants experienced an 80% reduction in the soft plaque lining their arteries, after one year of taking a garlic supplement. A build-up of soft plaque can lead to health issues, including heart attacks and dementia.
Good circulation also helps with cell regrowth, which is essential in the production of collagen. Collagen keeps skin looking plump, youthful and firm. Additionally, an efficient flow of blood to the skin ensures that it is getting enough nutrients, and that any waste is removed. When circulation is poor, skin tends to be dull, dry and irritated.
3. It boosts immunity
Garlic is proven to be highly effective at killing the microorganisms responsible for many infections, including the common cold.
In fact, eating garlic may even prevent colds, as demonstrated by one study which took place over a 12-week period, during the winter months. Volunteers were either given a garlic supplement or a placebo to take; those who took the placebo were significantly more likely to contract a cold.
Once again, allicin is credited as the reason for this, due to its antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties.
4. It makes you smarter
Well, perhaps I exaggerate, but it does help to improve your cognitive function.
As garlic is bursting with antioxidants, it protects against the oxidative damage that can lead to poor cognitive functioning and illnesses such as dementia.
A study on the long-term use of garlic showed that it enhanced memory function. There is also evidence that it affects the brain serotonin in rats; serotonin is a neurotransmitter known to boost cognitive performance.
5. Protects against cancer - at all stages
Garlic, alongside other allium vegetables, (including onions), are thought to have an impact at each stage of cancer formation, according to a review published in Cancer Prevention Research (2015).
Studies have indicated a connection with eating allium vegetables and the decreased risk of cancer (particularly of the gastrointestinal tract), although limited intervention research has been carried out to support these connections.
What else do I need to know about garlic?
Raw vs cooked
Many recommend eating garlic raw to make the most of its microbial properties, however, I can never bring myself to do that.
Lightly cooked garlic has a lot of nutritional value, and its antioxidant value is at least equal to raw garlic.
Eating raw garlic can also have some nasty side effects, including a burning sensation in the mouth, nausea and bloating.
Adding garlic is always the final stage of the cooking process for me, and I will usually cook it for about five minutes.
You need to eat a generous amount. In Britain, we can be quite restrained in our garlic consumption. You need to use at least two or three cloves per person (I always opt for the giant bulbs and use two per person), for maximum benefit.
The 10-minute rule
I always chop up my garlic early on in the cooking process and then I leave it on a plate for at least ten minutes. This maximises the amount of allicin generated, which will remain throughout the cooking process. Allicin is garlic’s superpower, so you want to keep as much as possible!
Where should I store it?
If you’re buying dried, fresh garlic (which is the type most readily available in supermarkets), then keep it in a dry, cool cupboard and not the fridge.
Can’t I just buy pre-chopped garlic?
Sorry lazybones, the answer is no! Fresh garlic contains higher levels of our good friend allicin.
What about garlic supplements?
According to my research, there is conflicting opinion on the usefulness of garlic-based supplements.
My understanding is that garlic oil is highly rated. In this article by Nourish, Web MD, garlic oil is praised as the most effective way to get all the goodness from the spice.
In contrast, this 2015 piece by the Center for Science in the Public Interest argues against the benefits of garlic supplementation, and the consumption of raw garlic, as a way to manage cholesterol.
There are lots of reasons to love garlic, the main one of course being that it tastes delicious. It has lots of proven health benefits but for optimal health you need to eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables and get sufficient exercise.
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