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The health benefits of garlic, according to a dietitian

It packs in more than just powerful flavor.

Are there any health benefits to eating raw garlic?

Are there any health benefits to eating raw garlic?

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Garlic is one of those herbs that is hard not to love, as it provides desirable flavors to all types of cuisines and dishes. Whether it’s whole cloves, diced, or minced, garlic is a versatile herb to cook with. But while garlic runs the gamut of potential uses in the kitchen, you may be wondering if it’s worthwhile to consume it raw and on its own in the name of purported health benefits.

In this article, a dietitian breaks it all down.

Health benefits of garlic

According to Annelie Vogt von Heselholt, a registered dietitian and doctor of clinical nutrition specializing in cancer nutrition, garlic has a host of great health benefits. For one thing, garlic is a great source of anti-inflammatory allicin, saponins, and phenolic compounds

“Allicin is what gives garlic its taste and smell, and it can also help boost the immune system,” she explains. “The most amount of allicin is maintained when it’s eaten raw, as cooking reduces the content.” 

Garlic can also help lower blood pressure and prevent chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, Vogt von Helselholt adds. It’s also possible that it can have a positive effect on brain health and memory.

Benefits of eating garlic at night

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Consuming raw garlic may not be the most palatable experience, thanks to its strong flavor. 

Side effects of eating raw garlic

But while raw garlic has a stronger taste and smell and can give you bad breath, it’s safe to consume in moderation for most adults, Vogt von Heselholt says. However, it’s key to note that in some people, it can trigger acid reflux and irritate the digestive tract. 

“Garlic is also a natural blood thinner that can help prevent blood clots and stroke,” she adds. “But if you are taking blood thinners, it's best to check with your healthcare provider before eating large amounts of garlic.”

Health benefits of garlic and ginger

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You may have noticed that garlic and ginger are often two key ingredients in various dishes, particularly in Asian cuisine. Not only do they provide distinct flavors, but both garlic and ginger have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that complement each other, Vogt von Heselholt says. Additionally, consuming ginger can also help reduce the risk of chronic diseases and help reduce nausea.

How much garlic in a day can you eat?

While there aren’t hard and fast rules when it comes to how much garlic you should eat in a day, eating as little as 1-2 cloves per day can have significant health benefits, Vogt von Heselholt says. But be warned that you may experience some side effects and discomfort if you overdo it.

“You are more likely to have some side effects, like acid reflux, bad breath, and digestive problems if you eat more,” she says. “Additionally, since raw garlic can be more difficult to tolerate for some people, cooking before eating it can be helpful.”

Can garlic cause liver damage?

You may have heard that frequently consuming garlic can lead to liver damage; however, It’s unlikely that garlic eaten in moderate amounts causes liver stress, Vogt von Heselholt says. In fact, research actually suggests that moderate intake of garlic is protective of the liver, and eating 1-2 cloves per day may offer health benefits.

The bottom line: If you love cooking and eating dishes made with garlic, keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re interested in consuming raw garlic to reap some of these aforementioned benefits, be mindful of the quantities to avoid side effects and stomach discomfort.