Eating garlic daily keeps you healthy and illness-free.
Garlic is more than just a flavorful herb added to food. Used for its medicinal properties as long ago as ancient Egypt, garlic was also believed to have protective properties against plague in medieval Europe. Several natural compounds with biological activity have been identified as components of garlic. If you consume garlic, these chemicals may help keep you in general good health and might also help you avoid some potentially serious problems.
Garlic contains a chemical called allin, which is converted into another compound, allicin, when you chew a fresh garlic clove. Allicin is an oily chemical that decomposes very rapidly once it is formed, producing an acidic compound that reacts quickly with free radicals, destroying them. Free radicals are byproducts of digestion and also result from break down of environmental toxins by your liver and other organs. They can damage cellular membranes and DNA and, in the long term, accelerate aging and raise your risk of cancer and other diseases. Garlic also contains several other compounds, including enzymes and water-soluble chemicals. These additional compounds may be responsible for some of the health benefits of garlic, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, although this still needs more study.
Consuming fresh garlic regularly might help you avoid certain cancers, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, whose website says that people who eat large amounts of garlic have less incidence of certain types of cancer. These include cancer of the prostate, uterus, breast and colon, as well as cancers that originate in the blood. In a laboratory study of garlic compounds published in 2011 in “Anticancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry,” researchers found that oily compounds from garlic suppressed growth of cultured human breast cancer cells and reduced the incidence of breast cancer in laboratory animals. They also found that garlic-derived compounds reduce the side effects of chemotherapy drugs and suggest that these chemicals might be useful for breast cancer therapy.
Effects on Cholesterol and Clotting
Cholesterol is a fatty compound that travels in your blood combined with protein in a lipoprotein. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is sometimes called bad cholesterol because when its level is too high, your risk of atherosclerosis and heart attack increases. Compounds in fresh garlic might be beneficial in keeping your LDL levels in a healthy range, helping you avoid cardiovascular disease. In a review of many clinical trials published in 2010 in “Current Pharmaceutical Design,” researchers concluded that garlic contains compounds effective in lowering blood levels of both LDL and total cholesterol, and suggested that garlic should be studied further as a possible therapy for those at risk of heart disease. According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering, garlic may also suppress aggregation of blood platelets, possibly reducing your risk of stroke and other problems caused by blood clots.
Chewing garlic regularly is considered safe and without any significant side effects, although chemicals in garlic might have some unpleasant gastrointestinal effects. These could include bad breath, a feeling of bloating, intestinal gas or nausea. When handling fresh garlic, exercise care to keep its juice away from your eyes, since the juice can be an irritant. Garlic might interact with some medicines, such as blood thinners. Before you self-treat with garlic, discuss its use with your doctor to determine the right course for your situation.