Garlic is a popular ingredient enjoyed for both its unique flavor and powerful health benefits.
However, garlic is usually sautéed, roasted, or baked before being added to recipes.
For this reason, many people are unsure whether raw garlic is safe to consume.
This article takes a closer look at whether you can eat raw garlic, along with the potential benefits and downsides of doing so.
Can you eat raw garlic?
In most recipes, garlic is typically cooked or used in powdered form.
Cooking garlic alters its taste and texture, making it softer, milder, and creamier and giving it a more subtle flavor and aroma.
However, it can also be enjoyed raw rather than cooked.
Although raw garlic tends to have a stronger, more pungent flavor, it can be consumed safely and makes a great addition to many dishes.
Raw garlic is often added to dips, dressings, and sauces like aioli or pesto.
What’s more, raw garlic may even retain more beneficial compounds than cooked garlic and improve several aspects of your health.
Summary: Although raw garlic has a stronger, more pungent flavor than cooked garlic, it’s safe to consume and can be added to various recipes.
Health benefits of raw garlic
Garlic is an excellent source of allicin, a sulfur-containing compound associated with many health benefits.
Allicin, which is responsible for the distinct taste and smell of garlic, is produced when fresh garlic is crushed or chopped.
Interestingly, some research suggests that allicin could help enhance the function of your immune system and may offer some protection against conditions like heart disease and cancer.
However, studies show that roasting, boiling, heating, or pickling garlic can significantly reduce its allicin content.
Therefore, while consuming cooked garlic can be beneficial, opting for raw garlic instead may help maximize its nutritional value.
Here are a few of the potential health benefits of raw garlic:
- Improves immunity. Several studies show that garlic may help decrease inflammation and boost immune function, which may be due to its content of antioxidants and sulfur-containing compounds like allicin.
- Supports heart health. Some research suggests that garlic may help lower blood pressure and decrease cholesterol levels to support heart health.
- Stabilizes blood sugar levels. Garlic may help reduce fasting blood sugar levels and improve blood sugar management, which may be beneficial for managing type 2 diabetes.
- Protects brain health. Although research in humans is limited, animal studies show that consuming high amounts of fresh garlic or aged garlic extract could improve memory and support brain health.
Summary: Raw garlic retains higher amounts of allicin, a beneficial sulfur-containing compound. Garlic has been shown to improve immunity, stabilize blood sugar levels, and support heart and brain health.
Potential downsides of eating raw garlic
Although raw garlic may be associated with several health benefits, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider.
First, raw garlic has a much stronger taste and smell than cooked garlic, which some people may find unappetizing.
Additionally, those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are often advised to limit their consumption of garlic to prevent heartburn.
Certain compounds found in raw garlic may irritate the digestive tract, which could cause a burning sensation in the chest or stomach.
Garlic may also increase the risk of bleeding by preventing the formation of blood clots.
While enjoying raw garlic in moderation is unlikely to cause any issues for most healthy adults, people taking blood thinners should check with their doctor before consuming large amounts of garlic or using garlic supplements.
Summary: Garlic could trigger heartburn and irritate the digestive tract. It may also increase the risk of bleeding, especially if consumed in large amounts or used in supplement form.
How much raw garlic should you eat?
There’s no official recommended dosage for garlic. However, most studies have found that around 1–2 cloves per day could be beneficial.
In supplement form, doses of up to 3,600 mg of aged garlic extract have also been shown to be effective.
Be sure to talk to your doctor before using garlic supplements, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications.
Consider reducing your intake or discontinuing consumption if you notice any negative side effects after eating raw garlic.
Suggested read: 12 proven health benefits of avocado
Switching to cooked garlic instead of eating it raw may also help ease digestive side effects like heartburn or acid reflux.
Summary: Eating 1–2 cloves of raw garlic per day may be beneficial. In supplement form, doses of up to 3,600 mg of aged garlic extract per day are effective.
Although raw garlic has a stronger flavor and more pungent smell than cooked garlic, it’s safe to consume.
Raw garlic also retains more allicin, which is the sulfur-containing compound responsible for many of garlic’s beneficial health effects.
For best results, aim for around 1–2 cloves per day and reduce your intake if you experience any side effects, such as heartburn, acid reflux, or increased bleeding.