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Garlic is a popular ingredient in many foods, from garlic bread to pasta sauces. It’s rumored to ward off vampires, but its potent smell can definitely ward off people too. Mythology and bad breath aside, garlic may protect people from different ailments. Raw garlic in particular retains more beneficial compounds than cooked garlic that can positively impact one’s health.
The Health Benefits of Raw Garlic
Raw garlic contains allicin, a compound containing sulfur, that has been linked to various health benefits. Allicin is behind the strong flavor of garlic; you get strong whiffs of it when crushing or chopping raw cloves. Research indicates that the amount of allicin is greatly reduced in boiled, roasted, heated, or pickled garlic. Meanwhile, studies show that raw garlic may provide benefits such as:
Maintaining heart health
In a recent review and meta-analysis, participants with hypertension took Kyolic aged garlic supplements for three months and showed lowered blood pressure numbers, a similar effect to some kinds of blood pressure medications.  “Garlic stimulates the synthesis of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels, and inhibits ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) activity,” explained Sudha Raj, Ph.D., RDN, a teaching professor at Syracuse University’s Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics in Syracuse, New York. (ACE inhibitors help relax blood vessels.) 
But that’s not the only way garlic can help the heart. “Compounds in garlic (and onions) have been shown to decrease the ‘stickiness’ of our platelets and have anti-clotting properties,” said Wendy Bazilian, RDN, a doctor of public health and nutritionist and author in San Diego. This anti-clotting ability can protect against atherosclerosis, which involves plaque building up in the arteries and increases the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Garlic may also improve cholesterol levels, another contribution for better heart health. Studies found that garlic supplements can reduce LDL cholesterol by about 10–15%. Garlic may be a helpful addition to a heart-healthy lifestyle, alongside a nutritious diet, exercise, weight management, and avoiding smoking. 
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Garlic has been used throughout history for its medicinal properties. It is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, and trace amounts of other nutrients. It is also rich in antioxidants, which indicate it may help reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. Antioxidants help fight against oxidative stress, which has been linked to cardiovascular diseases and neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Studies are examining the effects of garlic on immunity, particularly for fighting the common cold. One study found that eating garlic regularly may decrease the frequency of colds, although it won’t affect the duration of one. Although more research is needed, it won’t hurt to add more garlic to your diet around the cold and flu season.
Additionally, one report found that women with diets rich in allium vegetables had lower levels of osteoarthritis. (Allium vegetables include garlic, onion, leeks, and shallots.) Other studies indicated garlic’s potential for decreasing the risk of prostate cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer, as well as protecting the body from alcohol-induced liver injuries. 
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The Potential Drawbacks of Raw Garlic
Although raw garlic contains many healthful properties, there are some potential drawbacks. First of all, raw garlic has a strong smell and taste that may deter some people. Plus, people with gastroesophageal reflux disease are often recommended to limit their garlic consumption because it could cause heartburn. Moreover, compounds in raw garlic can irritate the digestive tract, which may cause heartburn or a burning sensation in the stomach. Garlic may help prevent the formation of blood clots, which could increase the risk of bleeding. Therefore, people taking blood thinners should speak with their doctors before eating large quantities of garlic or taking garlic supplements. 
In general, raw garlic in moderation should cause no issues for healthy adults. For those who experience heartburn or acid reflux from raw garlic, cooked garlic, while not as potent, can often avoid any digestive issues. Slicing or crushing the cloves before cooking helps retain the bioactive properties. Additionally, some people are allergic to raw garlic, and it’s unclear if cooking would reduce the allergic reaction.
A Garlic a Day…
Although there is no official recommendation, most studies found that about 1 to 2 cloves a day could provide health benefits. When it comes to supplements, doses of up to 3,600 mg of aged garlic extract are also found to be beneficial. Speak to your doctor before taking any garlic supplements, especially if you are taking medications or have underlying health conditions. Overall, you should reduce your intake of raw garlic if you have side effects like heartburn, acid reflux, or increased bleeding.
Additionally, garlic can be toxic in high doses, so a 150lb person should never consume more than 17 grams, and a 250lb person should never exceed 28.4 grams.  Although cooked garlic is softer, creamer, and milder, raw garlic’s strong flavor can actually enhance various dishes. For instance, dips, dressings, and sauces like pesto or aioli often utilize raw garlic’s pungent flavor.
So if eating raw garlic cloves doesn’t appeal to you, you can sneak the ingredient into delicious dishes to reap the benefits.
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- “Garlic lowers blood pressure in hypertensive subjects, improves arterial stiffness and gut microbiota: A review and meta-analysis.” Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. Karin Ried. December 27, 2019
- “7 Potential Benefits of Adding Garlic to Your Recipes and Meals.” Everyday Health. Jessica Migala. April 1, 2021
- “11 Proven Health Benefits of Garlic.” Healthline. Joe Leech, MS. May 5, 2022
- “What are the benefits of garlic?” Medical News Today. Natalie Butler, R.D.,L.D. August 18, 2017
- “What Are the Pros and Cons of Eating Raw Garlic?” Healthline. Rachael Link, MS, RD May 27, 2021
- “Garlic.” Examine. Kamal Patel, MPH, MBA. November 15, 2022