Garlic is one of the most common cooking ingredients in the world, but you may not know that the flavorful cloves do a lot more for your body than give you bad breath. In fact, it is only recently that the health effects of garlic fell out of popularity. People chewed on the root for centuries to prevent a whole host of nasty conditions. If you cannot stand the taste or smell of garlic, you should still look into supplements, because it may be one of the most beneficial foods out there.
According to an article written by Richard Rivlin, professor of medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College, and published in the Journal of Nutrition, the health benefits of garlic have been known as far back as the times of the ancient Egyptians. Hippocrates, the Greek medicine man, wrote a treatise on garlic and gave it to patients as a way to relieve symptoms of respiratory illnesses, irregular digestion and fatigue.
Garlic made its way to North America on European trade ships, and it was eventually issued to soldiers on a widespread scale during both World Wars as a way to prevent gangrene in troops. While you hopefully do not need to worry about the same conditions that people of decades and centuries past did, you should still be aware of the ways that garlic can improve your health today. Check out these five ways that it benefits the body.
Germs are everywhere and there is no way to avoid them. What you can do, though, is help your body fight off all the bacteria and viruses you come into contact with every day. Garlic helps remove irritants and toxins from the mucus lining of the respiratory tract. Germs and other harmful substances regularly become trapped in this lining, and garlic helps inactivate and remove them from the body before they do any damage.
In certain cases where the immune system is overwhelmed by bacteria, garlic can actually serve as a secret weapon in the fight against colds and other common illnesses. Allicin, the active ingredient in garlic and the source of the distinctive odor, has very strong antimicrobial properties. Garlic may help combat food-borne infections such as Escheria coli.
You may know how serious cardiovascular and heart disease can be, but you may not know just how the body changes when these conditions are present. Atherosclerosis, or a hardening of the walls of the veins and arteries around the heart, is one of the leading causes of heart attacks in the U.S. Byproducts that are produced during the body's metabolization of garlic may make these structures more flexible, and it may also remove harmful plaque buildups that can eventually block blood flow to and from the heart. With enough garlic, you may experience lower blood pressure, cholesterol and reduced risks of heart attacks.
You may have realized that garlic's odor has a slightly pungent scent, which is caused by a variety of sulfur-based compounds of the food. Four of these reduce the body's production of nitric oxide and prostaglandin - two molecules that have been linked to inflammation throughout the body. While garlic will not cure arthritis or other auto-immune conditions, it may prove useful in helping patients with psoriasis, a skin condition characterized by redness caused by inflammation.
Even though you think milk and calcium are the sources of strong bones, garlic contains high quantities of manganese, which the body uses to induce bone cell growth. Even in older people, this compound may help rebuild healthy bones.