It’s no secret that food is the key to health. For one thing, poor decisions about what you eat often contribute to increased risk of disease. That’s particularly true for conditions like heart disease, which are preventable.
On the other hand, choosing the right food can significantly improve health and lower the risk of many diseases. In many cases, food truly is medicine and it can have radical impacts on health and wellbeing.
This is the exact reason this post looks at the benefits of eating raw garlic.
Garlic itself is a powerful ingredient for flavor and is can even be considered a superfood. But, in most cases, we tend to use garlic as part of cooking. When doing so, we may miss out on some of the benefits that come with eating fresh garlic.
So, let’s take a look at why raw garlic is so important – and how you can get it in your diet.
Benefits of Eating Raw Garlic
To look at raw garlic benefits, we first have to consider what garlic offers overall.
First off, garlic’s active ingredient is the compound allicin, which has significant medicinal implications (1). This compound is a key reason for many of the benefits associated with garlic.
Garlic does also contain some nutrients, although they aren’t present in high amounts. Even so, these nutrients do make garlic a significant component of a healthy diet – especially as it is very low in calories. Additionally, some of the benefits from garlic are not directly associated with allicin (2).
Improves the Immune System
Garlic is commonly associated with immune improvements, particularly in terms of fighting colds. For example, one study found that a garlic supplement significantly reduced the number of colds participants experienced. Likewise, the supplement improved speed of recovery (3).
Another study found a similar impact when looking at aged garlic extract (4).
While those studies were about supplements, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence about using garlic to help fight a cold.
For example, the site The Nourishing Gourmet offers a recipe to boost the immune system that relies on garlic as one of the key ingredients (you can check it out here).
One of the biggest advantages of raw garlic is its potential to fight inflammation. This effect alone contributes to a wide range of health benefits.
Basically, inflammation is a natural process in our bodies that is critical for healing. However, there are many cases where too much inflammation occurs or where the inflammation remains even once the initial problem has gone.
As a result, one of the most important ways to improve health is to heavily rely on food that fights inflammation. Having this type of diet can majorly improve health and garlic is one key ingredient that helps do so.
Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a key risk factor for heart disease and many people rely on medication to try and bring their blood pressure down.
However, garlic can also help.
The doses here are roughly equivalent to four cloves of garlic per day. As a result, you would need to take a supplement or consume a considerable amount of garlic to get those benefits.
Still, they are achievable and garlic is much more appealing than having to rely on medication.
Garlic also impacts another aspect of heart disease risk, which is cholesterol. For example, one study found that garlic supplements significantly decreased total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, while increasing HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol) (10).
Most of the evidence for cholesterol comes from lowering LDL levels and overall cholesterol, while impacts on HDL are less consistent across studies (11,12). But, these outcomes could still decrease heart disease risk.
For that matter, a meta-analysis on the topic found ‘consistent evidence’ that garlic powder improves heart disease risk factors, particularly cholesterol and blood pressure (13).
Source of Antioxidants
Like many healthy additions to the diet, garlic is a key source of antioxidants.
These compounds can help to protect against oxidative damage and reduce levels of oxidative stress. Research has shown this effect for garlic supplements, particularly for people with hypertension (14,15).
Likewise, one study found that garlic increases the activity of some antioxidant compounds in the body (16).
Some other health benefits have also been associated with garlic, although these have not been studied as extensively.
For example, research suggests that garlic supplementation could help to improve athletic performance. However, one study on the topic found this effect for people with heart disease (17), while another study found no such impact (18).
Collectively, these outcomes mean that garlic could be effective – but there isn’t enough evidence to be sure.
However, the research has been conducted in animals, so it isn’t clear whether a similar effect will occur in humans.
Why Raw Garlic?
Garlic is traditionally used as part of cooking and you would still get some health benefits from cooking with garlic. However, as a general rule, cooking tends to decrease the nutrients available in food. As a result, the best way to maximize the compounds in a given ingredient is to eat it raw.
There is also proof of this effect for garlic, with even short-term heating reducing the anti-inflammatory compounds present (24).
At the same time, raw garlic is particularly relevant for boosting the immune system and helping to combat colds.
Thankfully, eating raw garlic isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds.
Taking Advantage of Raw Garlic
It’s clear that there are significant health benefits of raw garlic but how do you take advantage of these? After all, raw garlic doesn’t sound all that appealing on its own and it has a fairly pungent taste.
First off, there are some very bad ways to eat raw garlic. In particular, you should never just eat a raw garlic clove outright. Doing so is an uncomfortable experience, especially as it is actually hot.
Don’t think about swallowing a whole garlic clove either. That might get around the heat component, but you risk getting it stuck in your throat, which happens much more often than you may imagine.
For that matter, you need to at least slightly crush the garlic to get the most benefit.
So, what are the best ways to eat raw garlic?
Homemade Garlic Pills
One simple approach is to basically make your own garlic pills. Doing so would involve chopping up the garlic so it is small enough for you to swallow whole without putting yourself at risk. The site Coconut Mama offers more detail about making your own supplements. She doesn't focus on garlic specifically but her ideas still apply.
With this approach, you should only be working with around half a clove each time – because raw garlic is fairly challenging for the stomach. If you’re just starting out, you may need to work up to that dose.
You can also use a drink to help you swallow the pill and this also helps to reduce the flavor impact. Drinks that are textured and/or are fairly high in fat can also help. Smoothies are one good example, as are drinks like kefir.
My favorite way to use raw garlic is in garlic butter. This is extremely simple to make, as you’re just incorporating crushed raw garlic into butter that has been melted or softened.
My family also adds in chopped parsley for added color and you could make other variations as well. The site Genius Kitchen offers a simple version that you can try.
The butter is a great way to reduce the intensity of the garlic. And, if you’ve ever had garlic bread, you’ll know how amazing the taste can be.
Plus, despite all the myths, there are actually considerable health benefits from butter.
Garlic butter is also fairly versatile. It is great on toast or in warm rolls but you can also use it in other ways. For that matter, you can use it in most situations where you would normally rely on regular butter, including on top of steak or in a baked potato.
Mixing it Up
You can also decrease the intensity of garlic by combining it with other ingredients. For example, you can crush up around two cloves of garlic and combine them with ingredients like raw honey or olive oil, both of which have their own benefits.
After the mixture has been sitting for a while, you can then spread it on bread or crackers – or whatever you like really.
The end result is much the same as with garlic butter. Basically, you’re making the garlic less intense and easier to eat. Plus, you may find a new favorite flavor along the way.
For that matter, simply pairing garlic with other ingredients can be enough to make it more palatable. Some examples of this that I’ve seen are:
What About Garlic Supplements?
Garlic does also exist in a supplement form and many people use it in this way instead. Indeed, taking a garlic supplement may be necessary to get some of the higher doses that some of the research studies looked at (such as 25 or 26). Such an approach may even be necessary if you are trying to improve outcomes like LDL cholesterol level or blood pressure (27,28,29).
However, a good general rule is to try and get the health benefits from your diet first. After all, there is no shortage of different functional foods out there, including various other herbs and spices, along with fruits, vegetables and hot drinks (like green tea).
Many of these foods and ingredients can be found in supplement form. But, if you were going to take all of them like that, the process would get ridiculous quickly.
Additionally, the supplement industry is unregulated. Even with independent testing, there is always some risk that you won’t get what the label claims. Likewise, most supplements contain some added ingredients, such as binders or the components needed to make the capsule.
As a result, it’s best to only rely on the supplements you actually need and get the rest through your diet.
So, if you cannot tolerate garlic or hate the flavor, a supplement may be an option. The same is true if you need a higher dose than your diet can offer.
Still, there are many ways to eat raw garlic, so you may not need a supplement.
With this in mind, the main two supplements that we recommend are vitamin D and fish oil. These are the areas that many people are deficient in and the supplements do offer considerable benefits.
Nevertheless, if you do need to use garlic supplements, we recommend the brand below. This offers an attractive amount of allicin and has also passed independent testing. As a result, it is more reliable than many of the other brands on the market.
These outcomes are particularly relevant for garlic, as some companies have misleading labeling or don’t actually met the levels of allicin that they claim to. As a result, they would be less effective for providing the benefits of allicin and raw garlic.
Garlic is already a common component of the diet for many people. However, most of us rely on it in cooking, rather than using it raw.
Making garlic butter or taking homemade garlic pills are both key ways that let you take advantage of the health benefits that raw garlic offers. Likewise, simply combining garlic with other ingredients is often enough.
For some people, supplements may also be a viable option, especially if you don’t see the desired impact from raw garlic alone.
Taking any of these approaches can be a great way to improve your health overall, especially if you struggle with your immune system or with inflammation.
On a side note, you can also get black garlic, which is fermented garlic. This variation has some unique advantages as the result of how it is made. Nevertheless, it may also offer fewer benefits in some areas. As a result, black garlic is best as an addition to your diet, rather than being an alternative to raw garlic.
Want to Improve Your Health?
Better health starts in the kitchen, with the food that you eat and the meals you prepare. Getting the best outcomes involves making good choices about the food and the ingredients that you use.
Check out my recommended products to see where you can get started.