Nature provides, and through its bounty gives us everything we need to maintain our total health. Case in point, the lowly garlic bulb. This common vegetable can be found in kitchens all over the world, and is easily one of the most popular spices in the marketplace. It is also one of the most remarkable items in nature’s larder, boasting a wide range of health benefits. Researches into the benefits of garlic have yielded amazing results, proving that it is the pharmaceutical industry’s worst nightmare – an all-natural plant with innate healing properties. But beyond making our meals more delicious, what can garlic really do?
Garlic Fights Infection
There is a natural compound found in garlic called Allicin, and it acts as both an antibiotic and an antimicrobial. Research has shown that the Allicin found in raw garlic is the equal of standard dosages of penicillin and tetracycline, and is effective against a number of infectious bacteria. Studies have proven that garlic is effective as a broad spectrum antibiotic against a number of bacterial agents, including those associated with dysentery, typhoid, tuberculosis, staph and candida infections. In fact, its antibiotic properties can defeat more than seventy common infectious agents. It is antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic and antiviral. To get the full antibiotic benefits of garlic, it should be eaten raw as cooking destroys the Allicin compound.
Garlic and Heart Health
All adults need to be concerned with the overall health of their heart, and once again garlic has been shown to offer huge health benefits. High cholesterol has been directly linked to heart disease, and it is vital to keep cholesterol levels within acceptable limits. When taken regularly, it has been shown to have a profound effect on the way the body handles cholesterol. Test subjects who took the equivalent of three raw garlic cloves a day saw their LDL cholesterol (or “bad” cholesterol) reduced by as much as 15%. More importantly, they saw their HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol that protects against heart attacks) rise by nearly 23%.
Garlic also helps to control high blood pressure by relaxing the muscles in blood vessels, allowing them to dilate more freely. Furthermore, taken over time, it appears to remove the harmful plaque that can build up in the arteries of the heart. This allows the blood to flow more freely, reducing the risk of stroke or heart attack. Plus it is rich in the antioxidants necessary to protect the heart and arteries from damaging free radicals.
Garlic and Cancer
One of the more startling health benefits is its effect on cancer cells. A recent study of two Chinese counties revealed the power of garlic over cancer. In Gangshan County, where residents eat an average of 20 grams of garlic a day, incidents of gastric cancer were as low as 3.5 per 100,000 people. Conversely, in Quixia County, where residents ate little or no garlic, the average incidents of gastric cancer where roughly 40 per 100,000. Further studies suggest that as little as two cloves of raw garlic a day can help to prevent colon cancer. The antioxidants in the raw cloves protect the body from the toxic effect of cancer causing chemicals, and can even inhibit the growth of cancer cells once they develop.
Reaping the Benefits of Garlic
Not all garlic is created equal, and to reap the full benefits of this tasty vegetable you should only use the freshest, organically grown, garlic. Fresh garlic bulbs should be tightly closed, and all the cloves should be firm to the touch. If the bulb has started to swell or split, and if there are any sprouts to be seen, the garlic is past its prime. In most cases, garlic should be eaten raw to experience its full benefits. Cooking reduces the potency of the chemicals that fight bacteria, boost the immune system and combat cancer, so raw is generally best. If the bad breath often associated with garlic is a concern, peppermint oil can be taken to neutralize any unpleasant odors.
Garlic is a tasty addition to any meal, and has found its way into the hearts and kitchens of people all around the world. The significant health benefits associated with garlic is only further proof of nature’s bounty, and its ability to provide for so many of our needs.