FIRST PUBLISHED in 'The Announcer' Magazine Winter 2017
THE MIRACLE BULB
Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Registered Nutritionist Sean Stecko looks at the benefits of garlic.
As we are coming into the winter months it is important to keep our bodies fuelled with the right nutrients for optimal health so we can function efficiently in our daily lives.
One whole food I enjoy that assists my optimal health through the winter months is garlic (Allium sativum; from the Liliaceae family). Also included in this family are onions, chives and leeks. When garlic cells are chewed, sliced or crushed the active constituent known as allicin is released.1
Garlic is a great addition to practically any meal and is commonly used around the world for taste and some known health benefits. Some of the possible health benefits of garlic include: antilipidemic, antithrombotic, antihypertensive, anticarcinogenic, antiglycemic, antioxidant and immune system enhancement.1,2,3,4,5 Garlic has the capacity to slightly lower total cholesterol including bad LDL cholesterol that damages our blood vessels.1,2,4,5 Another active constituent in fresh garlic called diallyl disulphide may reduce the risk of gastric, colorectal and prostate cancers.1,2,4
Garlic also contains an enzyme called glutathione synthetase or GPx.6 Enzymes make reactions occur fast in our bodies so we can live. The GPx family of enzymes recycle vitamin C naturally inside cells, in between cells and all the way through your gut.6 Vitamin C not only stops damage to your cells but also recycles vitamin E, which is located in the cell membranes, similar to an eggshell protecting the egg.7 With all these reactions occurring in our body we can be comfortable knowing almost every cell in our body is benefitting from eating garlic in the whole food natural form.
To utilise the health benefits of garlic, studies indicate doses of between 600-900 mg of powdered garlic containing between 0.6% to 1.3% of the active constituent allicin.1 In the whole food comparison, this equates to half to one full fresh clove of garlic per day. As always fresh whole foods are best and fresh garlic contains about 0.8% allicin. Some commercial powders may have little or no allicin.1
When cooking with fresh garlic consider adding half to one full clove per serving. It may also be beneficial to partially add the garlic during cooking. It would be best not to overcook it unless you were only requiring the flavour compounds. Adding some at the start and halfway through the cooking process will ensure you have not cooked all the beneficial active constituents out of the meal.
Winter is the time for soups, stews and many other hot dishes and a little garlic could go a long way and be more beneficial to your health than you think. After all the simpler things are often the best. I know in my family garlic is an essential whole food addition to cooking. This knowledge has been passed down from generations and crosses many cultures.
Side effects of body odour and bad breath could be overcome by consuming garlic at dinner time. Other side effects include flatulence, heartburn and other gut problems, common with powered tablet preparations.1 People taking medications such as aspirin or anticoagulant drugs for blood thinning should avoid consuming large amounts of garlic.1,5 It is always best to check with your doctor if you are unsure.
For purchasing garlic, I would search for the Australian grown produce that is free from bleach. Some imported garlic produce is nice and white but heavily bleached. If you would like to know more about the benefits of incorporating whole foods into your diet contact me at
1. Gropper S S, Smith J L. Advanced nutrition and human metabolism: sixth edition. California: Wadsworth Cengage Learning; 2013. 130-131 p.
2. Mann J, Truswell A T. Essentials of human nutrition: fourth edition. New York: Oxford University Press; 2012. 16 p.
3. Higdon J. An evidenced-based approach to vitamins and minerals: health benefits and intake recommendations. New York: Thieme; 2003. 185 p.
4. Wahlqvist ML. Food & nutrition: food and health systems Australia and New Zealand. Sydney: Allen & Unwin; 2011. 584, 641 p.
5. Byrd-BredBenner C, Moe G, Beshgetoor D, Berning J. Wardlaw’s perspectives in nutrition: eighth edition. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2009. 685 p.
6. Lucock M. Antioxidants. [Unpublished Lecture Notes]. University of Newcastle; notes provided at lecture given 2011 March 9.
7. Lucock M. Nutrition in Adult Years. [Unpublished Lecture Notes]. University of Newcastle; notes provided at lecture given 2011 July 22.