Garlic loses some health benefits on cooking: What is the healthy way of eating Garlic. Fresh and Aged Raw Garlic compared.

Garlic has many health benefits, but its health benefits decrease while cooking due to the heat. Eating fresh raw garlic is the best option to get maximum benefits from garlic. Raw garlic is difficult to eat due to its strong odor and taste. Aged raw garlic is an alternative as it has a slightly better flavor. Those who can not try the above options due to the taste of raw garlic can use various supplements for health benefits. This article explores all the above options.

Since ancient times garlic is used as an aromatic spice, as well as for its nutritional qualities. Garlic is also used as a medicine in various alternative medicine systems to boost immunity. Various research publications have proven the anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, antioxidant, anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-obesity effects of garlic. It is also known to preserve the functions of the liver and the cardiovascular system.

Many scientific studies prove the safety of garlic for human consumption.

  1. Garlic reduces the blood pressure and cholesterol levels in the body. [1, 2] High blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels are important risk factors for heart diseases. Hence garlic reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. [3]
  2. Studies have also shown the immunity-boosting abilities of garlic. Garlic has proven to be beneficial in preventing the common cold. [4]
  3. Garlic strengthens the immune system by stimulating the lymphocytes, eosinophils, macrophages, natural killer (NK) cells, and dendritic cells. These cells provide immunity against a host of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.[5]
  4. Raw garlic consumption is associated with decreased risk of liver cancer. [6]
  5. The role of anticancer properties of raw garlic and its extracts in other types of cancers is being extensively evaluated all over the world.

Effect of Cooking or heat on raw garlic

Studies conducted above are mostly on the use of raw garlic and its extracts and not on cooked garlic. Raw garlic contains organosulfur compounds, phenolic compounds, minerals, and a few vitamins. Cooking causes many chemical and physical changes in garlic, leading to a decrease in its beneficial effects. [7] Cooking the garlic lowers its antioxidant activity as compared to raw garlic. The phenolic content of garlic decreased due to heat treatment.

Although garlic is stored at room temperature in most places due to its long shelf life, freezing treatment increased the antioxidant activity levels of garlic. [8] So storing garlic paste in the refrigerator will have a beneficial effect on its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as compared to keeping it at room temperature.

Steaming the vegetable results in the preservation of maximum nutrients as compared to boiling or frying. Hence steaming garlic before adding it to soups, etc. as a flavoring agent is a better option than frying it.

Surprisingly in one study, it was found that blanching and frying and then microwaving of garlic did not significantly decrease the amounts of antioxidants. [9]

Citizens in countries like India and China consume garlic in much greater quantities than in other countries.

But people in India and China eat most of the garlic in cooked form. Hence people in these countries do not get the full benefits of garlic despite the heavy consumption of garlic in these countries. So, it is wise to consume raw garlic along with cooked garlic to derive maximum benefits from this wonder herb. While consuming raw garlic can be mixed with other milder spices to dilute the strong odor and taste. A paste made by a combination of raw garlic, ginger and onion can be used in various recipies.

Raw Garlic Extract (RGE)

The raw-garlic extract is available in the form of capsules and tablets as well as a dried powder. It is an alternative for those who find it difficult to consume raw garlic or aged black garlic. A raw-garlic extract is also a good option for those who are concerned about the garlicky smell in the breath after eating raw or cooked garlic.  Few health drinks also add raw garlic to increase nutritional quality.

Raw garlic is also added to apple cider vinegar by a few manufacturers.

These are some of the alternatives to capsules for those who do not want to eat pills.

Aged Black Garlic: as an alternative to fresh raw garlic

If you find eating raw garlic difficult due to its strong odor and spicy taste, aged black garlic can be one of the alternatives for you. It is available in many Asian shops and most online stores. The chemical properties of garlic change slightly during aging. The aging process increases the concentration of flavonoids, pyruvate, total phenol, S-allylcysteine, free sugars, and minerals. Aged black garlic has a jelly-like texture and is dark brown. It is sweet and sour as compared to the burning effect of fresh raw garlic. Aged black garlic has higher concentrations of phytochemical components and free sugars and minerals as compared to fresh raw garlic. Aged black garlic has potent antioxidant effects as compared to fresh raw garlic. The anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, and immunomodulatory activities of aged black garlic are, however, less as compared to fresh raw garlic. Still, aged black garlic is a more healthy choice as compared to cooked garlic.

Aged-garlic extract (AGE)

The aged-garlic extract is also available in a few preparations. It contains a higher quantity of phenolic content than in raw garlic extract. Although a little hard to find, it is a better choice than raw garlic extracts commonly available.

What you should not do while using garlic

Now you are convinced that daily eating fresh raw garlic is a good idea. But you must keep a few precautions in mind. Improper use of garlic has also led to some rare complications. However, none of these complications were severe. You should understand the following precautions before using garlic: –

  1. Consume a small quantity of garlic at one time. Stuffing your mouth with too much garlic at once can cause a severe burning sensation in the mouth.
  2. Swallow the garlic immediately. Do not keep garlic in your mouth. Having garlic in the mouth for a long time can cause ulceration of the oral mucosa.[10]
  3. Do not add garlic to face masks or face packs. There have been cases of burns on face due to the addition of garlic to face packs or face masks.
  4. Although garlic has antifungal properties, it should not be applied directly to the skin. If garlic is applied directly to the skin continuously in the form of a patch, it can result in skin burns. [11]
  5. Do not try to swallow the whole clove as it can cause choking. If you intend to swallow garlic cloves, then cut them around one fourth the size of a tablet you usually swallow. Remember, there is a coating on the pills with an inert material that cuts down the bitter taste of the medicine inside them.
  6. There is no consensus on the ideal dose of garlic for maximum health benefits. Two cloves per day is a good recommendation.
  7. You can consume garlic at any time of the day—however, garlicky odor after eating garlic can be a matter of concern for some. So, avoid consuming garlic when going out on a social occasion to avoid annoying people around you.
  8. Absorption of nutrients from garlic is not affected by the presence of food in the stomach. Garlic can be consumed either on an empty stomach or a full stomach.

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