Author's Perspective: When I first got out of the hospital, one of the herbs that I used a lot (for detox purposes) was garlic. But, I admit that I may have gone overboard. When I returned to work, some of my managers and other engineers stayed out of my office because of the strong odor. :-)
But, more importantly, the garlic helped me tremendously with liver detox, candida, my high blood pressure, my high cholesterol and my high triglycerides.
The Power of Garlic
There are many herbs that provide multiple health benefits, but, few provide as many health benefits as garlic.
Garlic has a variety of potent sulfur-containing compounds which are the reason for its characteristic pungent odor.
Allicin, one of the vital compounds among them, is known to have great anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-oxidant properties.
This allicin is released in abundance when a garlic clove is either finely chopped, minced or pureed and allowed to sit for some time.
Allicin, along with other compounds like ajoene and alliin have a significant effect on your circulatory, digestive and immunological systems, which in turn helps lower blood pressure, detoxifies the body, helps in overall healing, lowers blood sugar levels and increases the amount of good cholesterol in the body.
In addition, garlic is also a reliable source of selenium. Selenium is essential to the body for synthesizing proteins known as selenoproteins. These proteins help in protecting your DNA from damage caused by free radicals, regulates the working of the thyroid gland and strengthens the immune system.
Garlic and Diabetes
Garlic is known to increase the amount of insulin released and regulates blood sugar levels. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that garlic was highly effective in increasing one’s insulin content in the body and improved glucose tolerance.
Apart from that another study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry showed that garlic had the potential to protect your heart from diabetes-induced cardiomyopathy.
Garlic contains more than 300 chemical compounds including allicin, allyl propyl disulfide, and S-allyl cysteine sulfoxide that raise insulin levels in the blood through the prevention of the liver's inactivation of insulin, so that more insulin is available in the body.
Allicin, along with other compounds like ajoene, alliin, etc. also have a healing effect on your circulatory, digestive and immunological systems and help in lowering blood pressure, detoxification, healing, etc.
How to Eat Garlic for Better Blood Sugar Control
The best way to eat garlic is by crushing one or two cloves and eating it raw. Just crush two medium size cloves of garlic and eat this paste on an empty stomach, ideally first thing in the morning.
If you find it too pungent to eat just as it is, simply add the crushed garlic to your meals, especially soups, beans, salads, stir-frys, etc.
Note: Avoid garlic pills -- they provide no nutritional value.
Garlic and the Cardiovascular System
Allicin in garlic blocks the activity of angiotensin II (a protein that is responsible for increase in blood pressure) and helps in reducing blood pressure.
The polysulphides present in garlic are converted into a gas called hydrogen sulphide by red blood cells that helps dilate your blood vessels and helps control blood pressure. If your blood pressure levels are of concern, there are natural alternatives to blood pressure medication that you could try after speaking to your doctor about the change.
To help control your blood pressure you could add garlic to your daily meals. Apart from that you could also eat one clove of raw garlic on an empty stomach to keep your blood pressure under control.
In addition, garlic helps to protect your heart. With age, your arteries tend to lose their ability to stretch and garlic can help maintain their elasticity.
Garlic also helps protect the heart from the damaging effects of free oxygen radicals (oxidation).
The sulfur-containing compounds of garlic also prevent our blood vessels from becoming blocked and slow the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
The anti-clotting properties of ajoene (a compound present in garlic) helps prevent the formation of clots inside your blood vessels.
Another way that garlic helps the cardiovascular system is by reducing the levels of bad cholesterol. The allicin present in garlic helps moderately to lower our triglycerides and total cholesterol. This compound also helps to reduce arterial plaque formation.
Garlic's vitamin B6 helps prevent heart disease via another mechanism: lowering levels of homocysteine, which can directly damage blood vessel walls.
Garlic is rich not only in selenium, but also in another trace mineral, manganese, which also functions as a cofactor in a number of other important antioxidant defense enzymes, for example, superoxide dismutase. Studies have found that in adults deficient in manganese, the level of HDL (the "good form" of cholesterol) is decreased.
Garlic's Other Health Benefits
Garlic provides health benefits to other systems and areas of the human body.
Antibacterial and Antiviral Benefits
From a medical history standpoint, the antibacterial and antiviral properties of garlic are perhaps its most legendary feature.
This allium vegetable and its constituents have been studied not only for their benefits in controlling infection by bacteria and viruses, but also infection from other microbes including yeasts/fungi and worms.
(One particular disulfide in garlic, called ajoene, has been successfully used to help prevent infections with the yeast Candida albicans.)
Very recent research has shown the ability of crushed fresh garlic to help prevent infection by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa in burn patients.
Also of special interest has been the ability of garlic to help in the treatment of bacterial infections that are difficult to treat due to the presence of bacteria that have become resistant to prescription antibiotics.
However, most of the research on garlic as an antibiotic has involved fresh garlic extracts or powdered garlic products rather than fresh garlic in whole food form.
Overgrowth of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori in the stomach—a key risk factor for stomach ulcer—has been another key area of interest for researchers wanting to explore garlic's antibacterial benefits.
Results in this area, however, have been mixed and inconclusive. While garlic may not be able to alter the course of infection itself, there may still be health benefits from garlic in helping to regulate the body's response to that infection.
Garlic Fights Inflammation
Research shows that anti-inflammatory compounds in garlic can also benefit our musculoskeletal system and respiratory system.
Two sulfur containing constituents in garlic, diallyl sulfide (DAS) and thiacremonone, have anti-arthritic properties. Garlic has also been shown to improve inflammatory conditions when referring to allergic airway inflammation.
These sulfur-containing compounds in garlic may help with the inflammatory aspects of obesity. Fat cells cannot grow 100% unless they are able to move from a preliminary stage called “preadipocytes” to a stage called “adipocytes.” But, garlic halts this progress.
The name of the sulfur compound is 1,2,-vinyldithiin, or 1,2-DT, and the impact of 1,2-DT appears to be inflammation-related. This is exciting because inflammation is now being recognized as a major element of obesity, as well as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
While not as strong as the research evidence for cruciferous vegetables, research on the allium vegetables—including garlic—shows that these vegetables have important anti-cancer prevention properties.
Many cancers are thought to be caused by damage to DNA from our exposure to environmental toxins. However, one study conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that eating a teaspoon of fresh raw garlic and a half cup of onions per day could remove these environmental toxins in the blood cells due to an increased production of sulfides and toxin-removing enzymes.
Interestingly, high intake of garlic (roughly translated as daily intake of this food) has been found to lower risk of virtually all cancer types except cancer of the prostate and breast cancer.
Scientists believe that the exceptional anti-cancer properties may have to do with the way that garlic boosts the production of hydrogen sulfide. It is the hydrogen sulfide production that researchers believe to be why garlic is so effective at preventing a wide variety of cancer including, prostate, breast, and colon cancer.
The allyl sulfide compounds found in garlic may play a key role in its cancer-prevention benefits. These garlic compounds are able to activate a molecule called nuclear erythroid factor (Nrf2) in the main compartment of cells. The Nrf2 molecule then moves from the main compartment of the cell into the cell nucleus, where it triggers a wide variety of metabolic activities.
Under some circumstances, this set of events can prepare a cell for engagement in a strong survival response, and in particular, the kind of response that is needed under conditions of oxidative stress. Under other circumstances, this same set of events can prepare the cell to engage in programmed cell death (apoptosis).
When a cell recognizes that it has become too compromised to continue functioning in a healthy manner with other cells, it stops proceeding through its own life cycle and essentially starts to dismantle itself and recycle its parts. It's critical for a cell to determine whether it should continue on or shut itself down, because cells that continue on without the ability to properly function or communicate effectively with other cells are at risk of becoming cancerous.
The ability of garlic's allyl sulfides to activate Nrf2 suggests that garlic may be able to help modify these all-critical cell responses and prevent potentially cancerous cells from forming.
Garlic for Detoxification
Another one of the many health benefits of garlic is its ability to detoxify – an extremely important process to cleanse the body of toxins and help fat cells release their own toxins. This is key for people who are struggling with trying to lose weight and metabolize fat, especially in the belly area.
One reason for its detox ability has to do with the fact that garlic contains numerous sulfur-containing compounds that are known to activate the liver enzymes responsible for expelling toxins from the body.
Another lies in the presence of both allicin and selenium, two important nutrients that play an integral role in the protection of the liver from damage.
Garlic's Other Health Benefits
Garlic has even been shown to cure drug resistant tuberculosis. Other health benefits or conditions that garlic can be used to treat include:
- Athlete's foot
- Cancer prevention
- Cold prevention
- Cold sores
- Cough relief
- Heart health promotion
- Inflammation fighter
- Soothe psoriasis
- Toothache reliever
- Fights infections like: Herpes, MRSA, Cholera, Thrush, Streptococcus, and Influenza
Note: There are a few people who are allergic to garlic. Symptoms of garlic allergy include skin rash, temperature and headaches. Also, garlic could potentially disrupt anti-coagulants, so it's best avoided before surgery. As with any medicine, always check with your doctor first and tell your doctor if you are using it.
Cooking with Garlic
The first step to using garlic is to separate the individual cloves. An easy way to do this is to place the bulb on a cutting board or hard surface and gently, but firmly, apply pressure with the palm of your hand at an angle. This will cause the layers of skin that hold the bulb together to separate.
Peel garlic with a knife or alternatively, separate the skin from the individual cloves by placing a clove with the smooth side down on a cutting board and gently tapping it with the flat side of a wide knife.
You can then remove the skin either with your fingers or with a small knife. If there is a green sprout in the clove's center, gently remove it since it is difficult to digest.
Enhancing the Health-Promoting Properties of Garlic
Chopping or crushing stimulates the enzymatic process that converts the phytonutrient alliin into allicin, a compound to which many of garlic's health benefits are attributed.
In order to allow for maximal allicin production, wait at least 10 minutes before eating or cooking the garlic. Also, observe this 10-minute "time out" period before adding any high acidic ingredient to the garlic (for example, lemon juice). Ingredients with a pH below 3.5 can also deactivate the enzymatic process.
Since crushing and chopping are the food preparation steps that activate garlic's enzymes, these steps can help you obtain many of garlic's special benefits.
For example, research has shown that microwaving or boiling garlic in uncrushed, whole clove form will deactivate its enzymes, preventing these enzymes from working. For this reason, we recommend that you chop or crush the garlic cloves prior to heating.
According to research on garlic preparation methods, it only takes 60 seconds of microwaving whole cloves to lessen some of garlic's health benefits. By contrast, many of garlic's health benefits (including its anti-cancer properties) are preserved if the whole cloves are crushed and allowed to sit for 10 minutes prior to cooking.
The Healthiest Way of Cooking Garlic
We recommend using raw garlic in many of our diabetes cookbook recipes. If it is a cooked dish you are preparing and you cannot tolerate raw garlic, add chopped garlic towards the end of the cooking time to retain maximum flavor and nutrition.
Too much heat for too long will reduce the activity of the health-promoting sulfur compounds that have formed by letting it sit for 5-10 minutes; it will also make garlic bitter. Therefore expose garlic to heat for as little time as possible (5-15 minutes).
Cooking Tip #1: Consider using a garlic hand-press to crush the garlic more finely, because this will produce more allicin. Pressing garlic or mincing it into a smooth paste will give you the strongest flavor and may also result in an increased amount of allicin.
Cooking Tip #2: Let the garlic sit for 10-15 minutes after cutting it up to allow the enzymes to activate.
Note: For more information about garlic and its health benefits, refer to the post in the Death to Diabetes Blog.
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