Garlic is popular for its unique pungent flavor that gives food a great taste. It also has an impressive profile of health benefits.
But most people cook garlic to include it in different recipes. So, since they are used to cooked garlic, most people have no idea whether or not eating raw garlic is good.
Is eating raw garlic healthy? This article explains everything you should know to decide whether eating raw garlic is worth it.
Can You Eat Raw Garlic?
Yes, you can eat raw garlic. You might be used to roasting, sauteing, or baking garlic before adding it to your recipes.
While cooking garlic makes it softer, creamier, and with a milder taste, it alters its nutritional profile, making it less beneficial to the body. For example, it diminishes the amounts of water-soluble vitamins in garlic.
Raw garlic has a stronger, more pungent taste but is still safe to add to salads, pasta, morning toast, guacamole, and other savory dishes.
Besides, raw garlic retails most of the beneficial compounds compared to cooked garlic, giving you loads of health benefits.
Raw Garlic Nutrition Information
Raw garlic has a high nutritional value with extremely low carbohydrates, fat, protein, and calories. However, it contains substantially high amounts of vitamins and minerals. The following is the nutritional information in one serving of garlic (100g raw garlic):
- Calorie 149
- Carbohydrates 33.1g
- Fiber 2.1g
- Fats 0.5g
- Protein 6.4g
- Vitamin B6 1.2mg
- Thiamin 0.2mg
- Riboflavin 0.1mg
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Pantothenic acid
- Manganese 1.7mg
- Selenium 14.2mcg
- Calcium 181mg
- Copper 0.3mg
- Phosphorus 153mg
- Potassium 401mg
- Iron 1.7mg
Potential Health Benefits of Raw Garlic
Existing medical research highlights the potential health benefits of garlic. But some studies indicate that raw garlic is more effective than cooked garlic.
For some wellness professionals, garlic supplements are the most effective. So, they advocate for garlic oil supplementation rather than eating it in food.
The following are the health benefits of raw garlic:
1. Heart Health
A large part of the population is at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attack. These conditions most certainly cause death. Preliminary research shows that garlic is good for heart health in the following ways:
Treatment After Heart Attack
A study at the Emory University School of Medicine established that diallyl trisulfide – a garlic oil component – can protect the heart during surgery and after a heart attack.
The researchers gave diallyl trisulfide to mice soon after a heart attack, reducing damage to cardiac tissue by 61% compared to untreated mice.
According to the research, diallyl trisulfide also improves cardiac health by reducing heart enlargement after heart failure. With further research, it will be possible to understand the effects of diallyl trisulfide on humans.
Reduced Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the risk factors for heart disease. But aged garlic extract can reduce blood pressure in hypertensive people.
Garlic supplements work by preventing the narrowing of blood vessels or vasoconstriction. The effects of aged garlic extract are comparable to that of standard blood-pressure medication. However, it works well when paired with adequate amounts of vitamin B.
In one study, human subjects received 600mg to 1,500mg of aged garlic extract. That amount of garlic supplements was as effective as Atenolol at controlling blood pressure in 24 weeks.
Protection Against Cardiomyopathy
Diabetes patients are likely to develop cardiomyopathy, a leading cause of death. According to research evidence, garlic oil can protect diabetics against cardiomyopathy and prolong their lives.
Another heart ailment that could result from diabetes is cardiac contractile dysfunction. People with the condition could also benefit from eating raw garlic.
Researchers fed garlic oil to diabetic mice, leading to the development of bodily changes that protect diabetic mice against cardiomyopathy. It works as well as what happens in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.
With further research, it would be possible to understand the effects of garlic oil on humans.
Lowering Cholesterol Levels
Raw garlic can also reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol. Research on the subject indicates that aged garlic extract can reduce cholesterol levels and improve heart health.
Even as it lowers LDL cholesterol, raw garlic doesn’t drastically affect HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. So, eating raw garlic reduces bad cholesterol and maintains good cholesterol at optimal levels.
2. Boosting the Immune System
Garlic belongs to a group of vegetables like chives, onions, scallions, and leeks. While these vegetables are medicinally beneficial, garlic stands out because of its high-sulfur content.
When cut, crushed, or minced, garlic releases hydrogen sulfide gas, which gives it a distinctively pungent smell.
It turns out that sulfur works together with selenium, flavonoids, oligosaccharides, and arginine to boost immune function.
Eating raw garlic can increase the number of T-cells in the blood, boosting the body’s ability to fight viral infections such as flu and common colds.
Studies on this subject involved the use of garlic supplements rather than plain raw garlic. Using garlic extracts made the symptoms of cold and flu less severe. Besides, the patients got healed faster.
Instead of directly reducing the blood viral load, garlic increased the number of T-cells, helping the body fight off infection.
3. Preventing Blood Clots
Multiple studies on raw garlic have shown its effectiveness in reducing the likelihood of blood clotting. That makes it possible for blood vessels to work optimally, pumping blood to where it’s needed.
4. Reduced Risk of Cancer
Several studies associate garlic and other allium vegetables with a reduced risk of developing certain cancer types. Therefore, raw garlic has effective anticancer properties. The following are the various types of cancers whose prevention is closely related to the consumption of raw garlic:
An Iowa Women’s health study included over 40,000 women between 55 and 69. In conclusion, the study established that eating raw garlic may reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Minced or chopped garlic produces allicin, a compound that affects signaling cells to prevent the growth of cancer.
On the other hand, a study of 125,000 people over 30 years found that increased garlic intake can reduce the risk of gastric cancer.
Those who consumed raw garlic at least five times a week experienced the greatest reduction in gastric cancer than those with less consumption.
A study carried out on hundreds of people representing the Chinese population established that raw garlic is associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer.
According to the researchers, raw garlic is a chemo-preventive agent for lung cancer. It releases flavonoids with antimicrobial properties that prevent cell damage and reduce the risk of lung cancer.
One of the benefits of raw garlic is the ability to fight brain cancer. Raw garlic contains organo-sulfur compounds that target and destroy cancerous cells in the brain.
However, research on brain cancer has involved preliminary studies. There’s a need for more animal and human studies on the effects of adding garlic to the diet in people with brain cancer.
Garlic has also been established to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Raw garlic has anti-inflammatory effects that prevent prostatic inflammation (prostatitis), thus reducing the risk for prostate cancer.
5. Antimicrobial Properties
Fresh garlic is known to have antimicrobial effects that can provide protection against infection from bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Several studies have shown garlic to be effective in fighting multi-drug resistant (MDR) strains of bacteria.
Raw garlic contains several organo-sulfur compounds that bond with certain groups of enzymes to breach bacterial membrane integrity. Therefore, they easily destroy bacteria, which could not have otherwise been destroyed.
Garlic also has antiviral properties, making it effective in quickly reducing flu symptoms and common colds. Allin, allicin, and ajoene, which are contained in raw garlic also have antifungal properties.
6. Improving Brain Health
Raw garlic contains lots of minerals and vitamins. It has an extensive nutritional profile, which includes vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium, potassium, iron, and copper.
Therefore, it has almost everything you need to boost brain health. Besides, it can improve mood and help overcome stress.
Compared to cooked garlic, raw garlic has its antioxidants intact. Therefore, it protects brain cells against oxidative cell damage and reduces the likelihood of developing degenerative ailments like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Promoting Bone Health
Older women are at risk of osteoporosis, a condition that worsens after menopause. Consuming raw garlic is known to protect against the onset of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
Eating garlic can increase the levels of estrogen in the female body, thus reducing the chances of developing osteoporosis.
Potential Risks of Eating Raw Garlic
Despite its many benefits, raw garlic may also have several risks. The following are some of the reasons why you shouldn’t eat raw garlic in excess:
1. Garlic Breath
When released, garlic contains several compounds that result in its pungent smell. These compounds cause bad breath, especially after eating raw garlic in large amounts. On the other hand, cooked garlic has fewer of these compounds and may not have a foul smell.
2. Increased Risk of Bleeding
Raw garlic has blood-thinning properties that help it fight against the possibility of blood clots. However, that can be bad for those expected to undergo surgery or take blood thinners.
To prevent the formation of blood clots, raw garlic may result in excessive bleeding, which could be fatal. So, if you’re scheduled for surgery, it is advisable not to take excessive amounts of raw garlic.
If you intend to use garlic-based supplements, you should talk to a healthcare professional for medical advice. That also applies to instances if you’re scheduled for surgery.
3. Digestive Issues
When eaten in raw form, garlic has a high fructan content. Some people with fructan sensitivity may cause stomach pain, gas, and bloating.
So, if you’re on a low-FODMAP diet, you should avoid high-fructan foods like garlic. If not, the fructan will ferment within the gut and lead to all sorts of digestive issues.
Do you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)? If so, you should reduce your garlic intake. Otherwise, you will likely experience stomach acid reflux and heartburn.
Garlic increases reflux by toning down the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), reducing its ability to close and lock acid within the stomach. Thus, it causes acid reflux, which in turn leads to heartburn.
The Bottom Line
Raw garlic consumption is proven to have several benefits to human health. It can promote heart health, prevent cancer, and boost immune function. Raw garlic works better than cooked garlic, ensuring these benefits become a reality.
That’s why you should consider eating fresh rather than cooking it first. Eating garlic in its raw form ensures it retains its impressive nutritional profile and provides all expected health benefits.