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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

Seven Ways Garlic Boosts Your Health

Is there anything better than the scent of a few garlic cloves cooking away on the stovetop? Except for a whole head of it in the oven. From garlic butter to chicken, pasta and potato recipes, garlic adds a unique flavor to many dishes. The taste of roasted garlic can melt in your mouth like butter, while chopped and raw, it can taste sharp, pungent and overwhelming. Garlic offers significant benefits — It’s the organic sulfur compound allicin in garlic that gives it its pungent smell and makes it a healthy addition to your diet. Our doctor's advice to eat vegetables is right on. People who eat lots of vegetables are less likely to get sick. But one vegetable in particular should be on your eat-to-stay-healthy list, especially during cold and flu season: garlic. Roasting or cooking garlic can bring out magical, buttery flavors. Unfortunately, the benefits of garlic may be significantly reduced when the garlic is heated. Studies found that as little as 60 seconds of microwaving or 15 minutes in the oven can deactivate alliinase

What Can Garlic Do For You?

1. Garlic Works as an anti-inflammatory: Research has revealed that garlic oil works as an anti-inflammatory. Rubbing garlic oil on a sore shoulder or inflamed joints or muscles, has the potential to help. WARNING -the allicin in garlic can also cause painful blisters on the skin when applied directly.

2. Garlic Keeps Your Food Safe: Allicin (diallylthiosulfinate) found in crushed garlic has broad antimicrobial activities and can help reduce or even kill bacteria, and antibiotic resistant strains, and fungi. The antibacterial properties in fresh garlic can kill the bacteria that lead to food poisoning, including salmonella and E.coli. WARNING - Don’t use garlic as a substitute for proper food sanitation and food handling.

3. Garlic Can Boost Immune Function: Garlic contains compounds that help the immune system fight germs. Garlic has shown promise as a treatment for preventing colds and the flu. Whole garlic contains a compound called alliin. When garlic is crushed or chewed, this compound turns into allicin (with a c), the main active ingredient in garlic. Allicin contains sulfur, which gives garlic its distinctive smell and taste. Allicin is unstable, and it rapidly converts to other sulphur-containing compounds thought to give garlic its medicinal properties. Scientists have shown that garlic appears to kill cancer cells; These tests were performed in test tubes. These active compounds in crushed garlic have been shown to boost the disease-fighting response of some types of white blood cells in the body when they encounter viruses, such as the viruses that cause the common cold or flu. The enzyme alliinase, which converts alliin into the beneficial allicin, only works under certain conditions. It can also be deactivated by heat. One study found that as little as 60 seconds of microwaving or 15 minutes in the oven can deactivate alliinase.

The sulfur in garlic helps your body absorb the trace element zinc, which is an immunity booster. Sources of zinc include beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, walnuts, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, wholemeal bread and quinoa. Here's a fast recipe to keep you healthy: Saute minced garlic in olive oil for 15 to 30 seconds and then drizzle it sparingly on a slice of whole-grain bread.

4. Garlic can Help your Hair and Skin: Garlic contains numerous amino acids and antioxidants along with antibacterial properties. Garlic has the potential to clear up your skin by killing acne-causing bacteria. Some data shows rubbing raw garlic over pimples can clear them away. WARNING -the allicin in garlic can also cause painful blisters on the skin when applied directly.

5. Treat athlete’s foot: Garlic also fights fungus. If you have athlete’s foot, soak your feet in garlic water or rub raw garlic on your feet to attack the itch-causing fungus. WARNING -the allicin in garlic can also cause painful blisters on the skin when applied directly.

6. Garlic Gives Your T-Cells a Boost: What are T-Cells? T cell, also called T lymphocyte, type of leukocyte (white blood cell) is an essential part of the immune system. T cells are one of two primary types of lymphocytes—B cells being the second type—that determine the specificity of immune response to antigens (foreign substances) in the body. Studies have shown that consuming garlic can boost the number of virus-fighting T-cells in your bloodstream -- important because colds and the flu are caused by viruses. Nutrition scientists from the University of Florida reported in the journal Clinical Nutrition in 2012 that taking aged garlic extract reduced the severity of flu and cold symptoms. The symptoms were reduced (or went away) in those who took the garlic extract than among those who didn't. The scientists hypothesized that the "good stuff" in garlic worked by boosting participants' immune cell function.

7. Garlic Can Be a Stress Buster? Stress in our lives is not good. Studies have shown that too much challenge, hardship or change cause an increase in the risk of illness. Experts refer to stress as the “silent killer.” Keeping stress at a comfortable level seems to be the key to physical and mental well-being. It's no coincidence that we get sick with the flu or a nasty cold when we're overworked or stressed out. As our stress increases, the body loses its ability to fight off infections when it's constantly under stress. That's where garlic comes in -- Garlic has the potential to fight stress and fatigue. A study performed in China and published by the Chinese Medical Association revealed stress impairs the antioxidant defense system in the brain, whereas raw garlic can restore it, reestablishing the glutathione system in the brain of stressed animals. In addition, garlic can affect your adrenal glands' response to stress. By consuming raw garlic, your adrenals produce less stress hormones and thus reduce your level of fatigue. By eating raw garlic, you're better able to stay alert and fight off foreign invaders.

Garlic Cautions

Most people can consume garlic and have no unpleasant side effects (other than bad breath). But if you take blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin) or are about to have surgery, you don't want to mess with garlic because it can thin your blood even more and make you bleed. Garlic also can cause stomach upset in some people. If you're consuming lots and lots of garlic to boost your immunity, tell your doctor.

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