Ah, garlic. Whether chopped into sauces, rubbed on bread or tossed with veggies, this petite member of the Allium family is so fragrant and full of flavor, it can transform the most painfully bland plate into the star of the dinner table. In fact, it’s so flavorful, you would probably never consider eating it raw…until now. Here’s everything you need to know about how to eat raw garlic, plus a pretty compelling case for why you should. Bon appétit.
Why Would You Eat Raw Garlic?
Even in its cooked form, garlic is pretty potent: After all, it’s a well-known fact that consuming copious amounts of the stuff comes with the risk of pungent breath—but before you balk at the idea of eating raw garlic on the regular, you might want to consider the potential health benefits this habit provides. It turns out that the same organic sulfur compounds (known as allium compounds) that give garlic its signature smell are actually really good for you in many respects. Read on for a rundown of the health-boosting powers that garlic boasts.
- It may lower cholesterol. It’s no secret that high cholesterol is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but you probably didn’t know that there has been some speculation in the scientific community as to whether or not raw garlic intake can play a role in lowering LDL cholesterol levels. Some early research published in Annals of Internal Medicine yielded favorable conclusions—showing significant reductions in cholesterol levels in patients who consumed just half a clove of raw garlic a day—but subsequent studies have contradicted those findings. Bottom line: The jury is still out on this one, but it definitely won’t hurt to work the stuff into your weekly meal plan. (More on that below.)
- It helps with hypertension. More good tidings: According to a 2019 meta-analysis from Australia, raw garlic is decidedly good for your blood pressure—and that is, of course, a boon to overall cardiovascular health as well. The studies overwhelmingly suggest that daily supplementation with garlic extract significantly lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in hypertensive patients. In other words, if you put raw garlic in your stomach, it will stay near and dear to your heart.
- It can help fight and alleviate the common cold. Raw garlic has long been touted as a natural cold remedy, and one scientific study from 2014 did have a positive outcome in that it “found that people who took garlic every day for three months (instead of a placebo) had fewer colds.” Still, the research to support this claim is quite thin, so don’t expect a miracle. The more important thing to know about garlic is that it does have immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory benefits in general. In laboratory studies published in the Journal of Nutrition, garlic extract consistently proved itself to be a “promising candidate as an immune modifier, which maintains the homeostasis of immune function.” And that, friends, is good news not just for a single case of the sniffles but for your overall health.
- It’s a nutritional powerhouse. When it comes to the health benefits of garlic, much of the research is still ongoing but there’s one thing we do know for sure: Garlic is packed with important nutrients that the body needs to thrive. Despite its small size, garlic provides a big dose of vitamins B and C, as well as manganese, selenium, iron, copper and potassium.
How to Eat Raw Garlic
Don’t worry—you don’t need to swallow a whole clove of garlic to reap its rewards. Many of the benefits of raw garlic come from an enzyme called allicin that boasts anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and antibacterial properties. “When chopped or crushed, the alliinase enzyme is activated,” Dr. Amy Lee, Head of Nutrition for Nucific, tells us. That’s why she recommends smashing garlic before throwing it into the pan or on your plate. Here are some easy ways to incorporate raw garlic into your day.
1. Mix it into pastas and savory dishes
Chances are this kitchen staple is already an ingredient in almost every savory dish you eat—the only problem is that the healthy compounds in raw garlic break down at temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, dietitian Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD. told the Cleveland Clinic. To make sure that your body benefits as much as your taste buds, just add this nutrient-rich superstar to your meal at the end of the cooking process (i.e., when your food is still plenty hot, but away from the heat source) and you’ll be good to go. Hint: A microplane or zester are excellent tools when it comes to adding raw garlic in a way that won’t overpower your meal.
2. Add it to a salad
Mince some raw garlic and add it to a salad dressing—you can leave it as is or give the dressing a spin in the food processor for a uniform texture—or sprinkle some thin shavings on top of your plate of greens.
3. Garnish your morning toast
Give your breakfast a flavor boost by garnishing your avocado toast with thin shavings of raw garlic. The rich and creamy flavor of avocado will significantly mellow the more potent garnish.
4. Spice up your guacamole
You’ve already got raw onion in there, so why not take things up a notch with half a clove of minced garlic, too?
The Wrong Way to Eat Raw Garlic
You can’t go too wrong when it comes to raw garlic, because it’s so darn good for you. That said, please do not sink your teeth into a whole head of the stuff because one half to one full clove of raw garlic a day is really all you need and going overboard will bring you nothing but a stomachache (and bad breath, too). The takeaway? Start eating raw garlic stat—just remember that a little goes a long way, in terms of flavor and health benefits alike.