Raw Garlic: Health Benefits and Potential Side Effects

There are several nutritional ingredients in our diet that, while they may seem odd, can work wonders for our body, both inside and out. One particular (and pungent) ingredient that everyone should add to their list is raw garlic.

Key takeaways:

Typically, we eat garlic after it’s been baked, sautéed, or roasted, but raw garlic has a slew of health benefits on its own and should be used more.

Cooked vs raw garlic – which's better?

While cooked and raw garlic both have proven science-backed benefits, when crushing, chopping, and chewing raw garlic, the alliinase enzyme is activated and releases allicin.

Allicin is the primary bioactive compound in raw garlic that holds antibacterial properties and has been known to improve heart health. All the vital enzymes are destroyed when cooking garlic with heat, including the allicin.

Although garlic loses many benefits when cooked, it still has anti-inflammatory effects. Thus, proving that garlic offers the most benefits when served raw.

Health benefits of raw garlic:

Consuming raw garlic on a daily basis has several positive health benefits throughout the body.

Immune system support

Eating raw garlic can keep you healthy and strong by boosting your immunity (especially the ability to fight off colds and flu) while decreasing inflammation in your body. For example, 146 participants in a 12-week study found that taking a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63%, compared to a placebo. This powerful plant food is packed with nutrients, including vitamins C, B1, and B6, essential for boosting immunity and manganese, potassium, and selenium. In addition, it has sulfur-containing compounds like allicin which help to fight infections.

Lower fasting glucose levels

If you want to lower your glucose levels, try sprinkling garlic into your food. Thanks to its rich content of antioxidants and the compound allicin, raw garlic can help lower homocysteine levels, which can reduce the risk of both diabetes and heart disease.

Nine different controlled studies with 768 Type 2 diabetes patients took daily doses of a garlic (allicin) supplement that ranged from 0.05 g to 1.5 g. This specific dosage of garlic showed a significant reduction in fasting blood glucose levels within as little as one to two weeks.

Heart health support

Allicin, the main active compound in garlic, is thought to be primarily responsible for garlic’s blood pressure-lowering properties. In addition, it has been shown to enhance nitric oxide production, which helps unblock arteries and lower blood pressure.

Analyzing 12 trials and 553 hypertensive participants, researchers found that garlic can lower systolic blood pressure (SBP) by an average of 8.3±1.9 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (DBP, n=8 trials, n=374 subjects) by 5.5±1.9 mmHg (similar to the standard antihypertensive medications on the market today). Furthermore, this decrease in blood pressure was associated with a 16 to 40% decrease in individuals potentially suffering from cardiovascular events.

Brain health protection

S-allyl-cysteines (SAC), a bioactive and bioavailable component in garlic, has been shown in a number of in vitro studies to protect neuronal cells against beta-amyloid (A) toxicity and apoptosis. This helps protect against certain diseases, such as reducing the risk of dementia (including vascular dementia) and Alzheimer’s Disease.

How much raw garlic should you eat?

Garlic can be added to a number of raw foods such as guacamole, salads, toast, and even on top of cooked dishes such as pasta. There is no specific garlic dosage you can or cannot eat daily. That said, it's generally recommended to eat approximately 4 g (one to two cloves) of raw garlic per day for adults, but any consumption of garlic will provide health benefits. However, consuming more than one to two cloves per day may begin to cause body odor and bad breath in some individuals.

Side effects of garlic consumption

Overall, regularly consuming raw garlic (or any garlic) is perfectly safe, but those who consume excessive amounts may experience some adverse side effects. Some less severe side effects are heartburn, diarrhea, bad breath, and body odor (these side effects can be worse for those who consume raw garlic).

Some of the more severe side effects of consumption include:

  • Increased risk of bleeding. One of the more serious side effects of overeating raw garlic is that it can increase the risk of bleeding. Individuals taking anticoagulants or other blood thinners must be aware of this side effect for safety reasons.
  • Digestive issues. Garlic is high in fructans, a carb that can cause gas, bloating, and stomach pain in some individuals. It can also irritate the digestive tract. This can also increase the risk of bleeding by preventing the formation of blood clots in the body. If this happens, try switching to cooked garlic instead of eating it raw. This may help ease some adverse digestive side effects, including heartburn or acid reflux.

Whether you eat raw garlic, sautéed, roasted, or powdered, you will reap amazing benefits from the plant. Garlic is considered one of the best disease-preventive foods based on its potent and varied effects. A little bit can go a long way in increasing your overall longevity.

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