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By Joe Leech
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food."
Those are famous words from the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, often called the father of western medicine. He actually used to prescribe garlic to treat a variety of medical conditions. Well, modern science has recently confirmed many of these beneficial health effects.
Here are 11 health benefits of garlic that are supported by human research studies.
1. Garlic Contains a Compound Called Allicin, Which Has Potent Medicinal Properties
Garlic is a plant in the Allium (onion) family. It is closely related to onions, shallots and leeks.
It grows in many parts of the world and is a popular ingredient in cooking due to its strong smell and delicious taste. However, throughout ancient history, the main use of garlic was for its health and medicinal properties. Its use was well documented by all the major civilizations, including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and the Chinese.
The entire “head" is called a garlic bulb, while each segment is called a clove. There are about 10-20 cloves in a single bulb, give or take. We now know that most of the health effects are caused by one of the sulfur compounds formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed or chewed.
This compound is known as allicin, and is also responsible for the distinct garlic smell. Allicin enters the body from the digestive tract and travels all over the body, where it exerts its potent biological effects (which we'll get to in a bit).
Bottom Line: Garlic is a plant in the onion family, grown for its cooking properties and health effects. It is high in a sulfur compound called allicin, which is believed to bring most of the health benefits.
2. Garlic Is Highly Nutritious, But Has Very Few Calories
Calorie for calorie, garlic is incredibly nutritious.
A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of garlic contains:
- Manganese: 23 percent of the RDA.
- Vitamin B6: 17 percent of the RDA.
- Vitamin C: 15 percent of the RDA.
- Selenium: 6 percent of the RDA.
- Fiber: 1 gram.
- Decent amounts of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron and Vitamin B1.
Garlic also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients. In fact, it contains a little bit of almost everything we need.
This is coming with 42 calories, with 1.8 grams of protein and 9 grams of carbs.
Bottom Line: Garlic is low in calories and very rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and manganese. It also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients.
3. Garlic Can Combat Sickness, Including the Common Cold
Garlic supplementation is known to boost the function of the immune system.
One large 12-week study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63 percent compared with placebo. The average length of cold symptoms was also reduced by 70 percent, from five days in placebo to just 1.5 days in the garlic group.
Another study found that a high dose of garlic extract (2.56 grams per day) can reduce the number of days sick with cold or flu by 61 percent.
If you often get colds, then adding garlic to your diet could be incredibly helpful.
Bottom Line: Garlic supplementation helps to prevent and reduce the severity of common illnesses like the flu and common cold.
4. The Active Compounds in Garlic Can Reduce Blood Pressure
Cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes are the world's biggest killers. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most important drivers of these diseases.
Supplement doses must be fairly high to have these desired effects. The amount of allicin needed is equivalent to about four cloves of garlic per day.
Bottom Line: High doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure of those with known high blood pressure (hypertension). In some instances, supplementation can be as effective as regular medications.
5. Garlic Improves Cholesterol Levels, Which May Lower The Risk of Heart Disease
Bottom Line: Garlic supplementation seems to reduce total and LDL cholesterol, particularly in those who have high cholesterol. HDL cholesterol and triglycerides do not seem to be affected.
6. Garlic Contains Antioxidants That May Help Prevent Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia
Oxidative damage from free radicals contributes to the aging process. Garlic contains antioxidants that support the body's protective mechanisms against oxidative damage.
High doses of garlic supplementation have been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes in humans, as well as significantly reduce oxidative stress in those with high blood pressure. The combined effects on reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as the antioxidant properties, may help prevent common brain diseases like Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Bottom Line: Garlic contains antioxidants that protect against cell damage and aging. It may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
7. Garlic May Help You Live Longer
Effects on longevity are basically impossible to prove in humans. But given the beneficial effects on important risk factors like blood pressure, it makes sense that garlic could help you live longer.
The fact that it can fight infectious disease is also an important factor, because these are common causes of death, especially in the elderly or people with dysfunctional immune systems.
Bottom Line: Garlic has known beneficial effects on common causes of chronic disease, so it makes perfect sense that it could help you live longer.
8. Athletic Performance Can be Improved With Garlic Supplementation
Garlic was one of the earliest “performance enhancing" substances. It was traditionally used in ancient cultures to reduce fatigue and enhance the work capacity of labourers. Most notably, it was administered to Olympic athletes in ancient Greece.
Rodent studies have shown that garlic helps with exercise performance, but very few human studies have been done.
Subjects with heart disease who took garlic oil for six weeks had a reduction in peak heart rate of 12 percent and improved their exercise capacity. However, a study on nine competitive cyclists found no performance benefits.
Other studies suggest that exercise-induced fatigue may be reduced with garlic.
Bottom Line: Garlic can improve physical performance in lab animals and people with heart disease. Benefits in healthy people are not yet conclusive.
9. Eating Garlic Can Help Detoxify Heavy Metals in the Body
At high doses, the sulfur compounds in garlic have been shown to protect against organ damage from heavy metal toxicity.
A four week study in employees of a car battery plant (excessive exposure to lead) found that garlic reduced lead levels in the blood by 19 percent. It also reduced many clinical signs of toxicity, including headaches and blood pressure.
Three doses of garlic each day even outperformed the drug D-penicillamine in symptom reduction.
Bottom Line: Garlic was shown to significantly reduce lead toxicity and related symptoms in one study.
10. Garlic May Improve Bone Health
One study in menopausal women found that a daily dose of dry garlic extract (equal to 2 grams of raw garlic) significantly decreased a marker of estrogen deficiency. This suggests that this garlic may have beneficial effects on bone health in women.
Foods like garlic and onions have also been shown to have beneficial effects on osteoarthritis.
Bottom Line: Garlic appears to have some benefits for bone health by increasing estrogen levels in females, but more human studies are needed.
11. Garlic Is Easy to Include In Your Diet and Tastes Absolutely Delicious
The last one is not a health benefit, but still important.
It is the fact that it is very easy (and delicious) to include garlic in your current diet. It complements most savory dishes, particularly soups and sauces. The strong taste of garlic can also add a punch to otherwise bland recipes.
Garlic comes in several forms, from whole cloves and smooth pastes to powders and supplements like garlic extract and garlic oil.
The minimum effective dose for therapeutic effects is one clove eaten with meals, two or three times a day. However, keep in mind that there are some downsides to garlic, such as bad breath. There are also some people who are allergic to it.
If you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinning medications, then talk to your doctor before increasing your garlic consumption.
The active compound allicin only forms when garlic is crushed or cleaved when it is raw. If you cook it before crushing it, then it won't have the same health effects. Therefore, the best way to consume garlic is raw, or to crush and cut it and leave it out for a while before you add it to your recipes.
For thousands of years, garlic was believed to have medicinal properties. We now have the science to confirm it.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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Tensions are continuing to rise in Canada over a controversial pipeline project as protesters enter their 12th day blockading railways, demonstrating on streets and highways, and paralyzing the nation's rail system
Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?