Garlic is a favorite additive to food in many cuisines across the world. It has a distinctive pungent flavor that brings out the best from any food.
People consume garlic in many forms, including fresh garlic, garlic powder, roasted garlic, and garlic oil. You can add it to salads, toasted bread, barbecue, and so on.
But how much garlic should you eat a day? That’s a question that’s both easy and difficult to answer, depending on how you look at it.
Eating too much garlic can cause bad breath at the worst. Besides that, do you have any reasons to reduce your garlic consumption?
Health Benefits of Garlic
There are many reasons why you should eat some garlic daily. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH), garlic was recognized by the Egyptians, Native Americans, Greeks, Romans, Japanese, and Chinese as a medicinal plant. When eaten on an empty stomach, garlic has many benefits.
The following are the reasons why you should make garlic part of your daily diet:
1. Good for the Brain
Garlic is good for the brain. Increased garlic intake supplies your body with various vitamins and minerals. Some of the nutrients in garlic include copper, potassium, iron, vitamin C, selenium, vitamin B6, and manganese.
That gives raw garlic its impressive medicinal properties, which include improving brain health. Vitamin B6 and magnesium work together to boost your mood and help you feel positive. Also, garlic’s anti-inflammatory properties help it protect brain cells and prevent the onset of degenerative diseases.
2. Supporting the Immune System
One of the reasons to eat some garlic daily is to improve your immunity and remain in good health. Garlic contains allicin and the enzyme alliinase. Of the two, allicin is effective in boosting the human immune system.
Research suggests that garlic works by stimulating natural killer cells, lymphocytes, macrophages, and other immune cells. It also has antimicrobial properties that help it fight bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. Therefore, it can prevent and cure a common cold and flu.
Despite the evidence supporting the place of garlic in strengthening the immune system, garlic supplements might not necessarily make the common cold and flu less severe. You may have to take large amounts of supplements to get any benefits.
3. Reducing the Risk of Cancer
One of the health benefits of garlic is its ability to reduce the risk of cancer. It contains large amounts of phytochemicals that protect cells against damage, reducing the risk of certain types of cancer.
Allium vegetables like garlic have phytochemicals, a group of compounds that help reduce the chances of developing chronic disease. Research suggests that garlic extracts with phytochemicals have anticarcinogenic effects. Hence, they can potentially reduce the risk of cancer in the stomach.
Research on the effects of garlic on cancer has so far involved animal studies. With little evidence involving humans, it is impossible to make conclusions about garlic’s ability to prevent cancer.
4. Improving Heart Health
Garlic also has antithrombotic properties, which makes it protective against heart disease. In a 2019 study, it was proven that taking two garlic extract capsules a day can lower blood pressure. It also reduces arterial stiffness in people living with high blood pressure.
The heart-protective protective properties of raw garlic can also be seen in how it reduces the levels of lipids in the blood. It lowers blood cholesterol and subsequently the risk for the build-up of plaque in the cardiovascular system.
When it comes to benefitting your heart, there’s nothing like too much garlic. That’s because each individual requires different amounts of raw garlic to reap these health benefits.
However, as a general guideline, you should consume at least four fresh garlic cloves (or four teaspoons of garlic powder) per week. That means slightly more than half a garlic clove is enough for you.
5. Enhancing Workouts
In ancient Greece, athletes ate garlic before events to improve performance. Even though they didn’t have advanced scientific knowledge, they understood that garlic has useful medicinal properties.
Once ingested, garlic releases the compound nitric oxide, which lowers blood pressure and relaxes blood vessels. When running, the body releases nitric oxide to increase the oxygen supply to the muscles.
Animal studies involving mice and rats established the effectiveness of garlic in improving athletic endurance. However, the absence of studies involving non-human subjects means these health benefits are unproven. Even so, you would have to take large amounts of garlic to benefit in that manner.
6. Protection Against Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis refers to the gradual and progressive reduction in bone density in women due to ageing. It sets in soon after menopause when women experience a dip in estrogen levels. Eating garlic can increase estrogen levels in women, thus protecting against the devastating effects of osteoporosis.
In some studies, garlic was established to be effective in slowing the effects of osteoarthritis, another bone/joint condition related to menopause. Despite the promise provided by preliminary studies, there’s a need for research on humans.
Side-Effects of Eating Garlic
Despite its many health benefits, garlic has several side effects, especially when consumed in large amounts. The following are some of the detrimental effects of eating too much garlic:
1. Increasing the Risk of Bleeding
Eating too much garlic may increase the risk of bleeding in individuals undergoing surgery or taking blood thinners. Due to its antithrombotic properties, garlic makes blood clotting impossible.
Although garlic is uncommon to induce bleeding, one study described how one individual had increased bleeding after regularly eating 12 grams of garlic or four cloves daily before surgery.
In another study, an individual who’d been taking a dietary supplement of 10mg garlic and fish oil had bruising and excessive discoloration after surgery. So, when preparing for surgery, talk to a healthcare professional about whether you should add garlic to your diet.
2. Garlic Breath
Garlic and other allium vegetables contain varying amounts of sulfur compounds that provide many health benefits.
However, eating raw garlic may cause bad breath due to the effects of these chemicals. While cooking garlic makes the taste milder, it doesn’t completely reduce the risk of bad breath. So, you can avoid taking too much garlic if you’re afraid of its effects on your breath.
3. Digestive Issues
Allium vegetables like garlic, onions, asparagus, and leeks have a high fructan content. Fructans are a type of carbohydrate that doesn’t get digested but causes stomach pain, gas, and bloating.
If you’re fructan-intolerant, eating high-fructan food can cause problems. Fructans don’t get fully absorbed, moving from the small intestines to the colon where it ferments. As a result, you’ll experience gas, stomach pain, and other digestive issues.
So, are you on a low-FODMAP diet? Be sure not to take too much garlic.
Do you have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)? Consider reducing the garlic you consume. GERD is a digestive issue characterized by stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus. Hence, individuals with GERD constantly experience heartburn.
But how does garlic cause heartburn? It tones down the LES (lower esophageal sphincter), making it difficult to close and stop acid from flowing into the esophagus. Due to the resultant acid reflux, you cannot avoid but have heartburn.
But that doesn’t mean that garlic will cause heartburn. That’s because individuals with GERD react to different foods differently. So, if eating too much garlic has no effect on you, why should you stop?
How Many Cloves of Garlic Should You Eat?
Given the health benefits and side effects discussed in this article, how many garlic cloves should you eat? Even though there is no official information on the number of garlic you should eat, research indicates that more than one garlic clove per day can be beneficial.
In case of side effects, don’t hesitate to reduce the garlic in your food. If it’s safe, you may consider increasing your garlic intake.
Tufts University has a more generalized view, stating how difficult it is to specify the garlic intake that’s ‘too much.’
But that in no way means you can eat garlic as you wish. Avoid eating too much garlic if you’re scheduled for surgery or dental work. That, too, applies to those with bleeding disorders.
If you have an underlying health condition or are on medication, talk to your doctor before drastically changing your diet or using herbal supplements like garlic.
In one study, consuming at least one garlic powder teaspoon a day is enough to result in bleeding abnormalities. According to the researchers, those who consume lots of garlic should reduce it two weeks before surgery.
For those who do not suffer from bleeding abnormalities, garlic’s worst side-effect is bad breath and flatulence. So, there’s no restriction on the garlic cloves they can eat.
The Bottom Line
Garlic is a healthy vegetable in the allium family. It flavors food and helps you have a balanced diet. However, too much garlic causes acid reflux, bad breath, increased risk of bleeding, and digestive issues.
So, you should eat garlic in moderation, especially if you’re on blood thinners or have underlying medical issues. Make sure you only eat as much garlic as your body can handle.