Garlic has shown promise in treating a wide range of diseases and medical conditions — from lowering cholesterol and blood pressure to preventing many gastrointestinal cancers — but not all garlic is created equal.
Eating raw garlic is by far the best way to maximize its health benefits, far superior to pills and supplements.
Garlic produces allicin, an organosulfur compound that is created when garlic is crushed, chopped, or minced.
Allicin is extremely unstable and quickly breaks down into other sulfur-containing compounds such as diallyl disulfide.
These compounds react with the human body in various complex ways, appearing to lower blood pressure and reduce arterial fatty plaque build-up.
The Good and Bad of Eating Raw Garlic
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the chain reaction is quick and that garlic should be consumed within an hour or two of activating the allicin (by crushing or mincing the garlic) to get the full potential health benefits.
Stomach acids can also lower the effect of allicin, so try not to eat raw garlic on an empty stomach; even a glass of water first will help by lowering stomach pH slightly.
Heat can also destroy allicin and its resulting sulfur-containing compounds, so recipes that call for cooking garlic at high heat for long periods of time cancel out most of its healthy boosts.
Baking or roasting whole cloves or heads of garlic also won’t produce allicin as the cloves must be crushed, chopped, or minced to mix the parts together that produce allicin.
Best Garlic to Eat Raw for Health Benefits
If you’re turning to garlic solely for its health benefits, your best bet is to eat a garlic high in allicin — which is true of Porcelain garlic varieties such as Romanian Red — and to eat at least one raw clove of garlic per day.
Chop the garlic and let it sit for 15 minutes. Raw garlic can be hot and spicy so proceed with caution when first starting. And keep in mind that eating raw garlic doesn’t just mean straight down the hatch; raw garlic only means that it hasn’t been extensively cooked.
Below you’ll find five easy ways for eating raw garlic each and every day, giving you a few options in your quest to unlock the healing powers of garlic.
Five Easy Ways of Eating Raw Garlic
1. Down the Hatch: This one is pretty obvious but lots of people just chop it up, put it on a spoon, and eat up that daily dose of raw garlic power. Not everyone can handle the raw taste but if you can this is great way to eat raw garlic and you can avoid garlic breath during the day by eating your daily garlic at night before bed.
2. Salsa: Adding minced garlic to salsa is a snap and the flavor complements many different salsa, especially those on the spicier side. Mincing or chopping a clove as needed is the way to go, as you’ll get less oomph if you prepare a big batch in advance and let it sit for days.
3. Pesto: Garlic and pesto go hand in hand so this is a natural choice. If you’re not into making your own pesto you can simply use store-bought pesto and chop up a clove and blend it in. They key is not heating/cooking the garlic and using it quickly after chopping or mincing it, with pesto fitting the bill perfectly.
4. Salad: Thin slices of garlic can be added straight into salads or you can mince it finely and blend into salad dressing before putting it on your salad. Garlic goes well with Ranch dressing as well as with vinaigrettes but you can definitely use your imagination here.
5. Toast: You’ll want to mince or crush your garlic and then spread it onto toast after it has been toasted — toasting garlic bread itself isn’t as helpful from a health perspective as the heat of toasting can reduce the impact of allicin. One popular technique is to mince your garlic and mix it with butter, slathering that healthy, tasty goodness onto toast and eating raw garlic in its healthiest form.