Sweet and aromatic roasted garlic not only tastes great, it also has many nutritional benefits. "People have known garlic was important and has health benefits for centuries," says associate professor of environmental science and biology David W. Kraus from the University of Alabama. "Even the Greeks would feed garlic to their athletes before they competed in the Olympic games."
Roasted garlic contains antioxidants, which help protect the body's cells from damage. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), antioxidants neutralize particles called free radicals that occur naturally in the body and increase due to environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke, air pollution and ultraviolet light. Over time, these particles can negatively interact with genetic material and damage cell membranes. Free radicals may also contribute to the aging process and play a part in the development of conditions such as heart disease and cancer. The powerful antioxidants found in garlic may help reduce or prevent the progressive damage caused by free radicals.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the nutrients in both raw and cooked garlic may have anticancer benefits. Various population studies cited by the NCI have shown that increased intake of garlic leads to a reduced risk of certain types of cancer, such as cancers of the colon, pancreas, stomach, esophagus and breast.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nutrients in garlic may help lower blood pressure and reduce the effects of atherosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries," which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. The UMMC further notes that the immune system-boosting properties in garlic may also aid people in fighting off common colds.
The NCI notes that chopping, crushing or damaging garlic bulbs produces allicin, an active ingredient that forms bioactive compounds. Keep this in mind when roasting garlic, and lightly crush garlic bulbs with the flat side of a knife or other utensil before roasting. Kraus also notes that you should crush garlic bulbs at room temperature and let them sit for around 15 minutes before cooking. The enzyme reaction triggered by letting crushed garlic sit boosts garlic's healthy compounds, says Kraus.
According to the NIH, garlic consumption may increase or prolong bleeding. Those with bleeding disorders should consult a doctor to ensure that garlic will not worsen their condition, and people should avoid garlic for at least two weeks before any surgeries. People with stomach or digestion problems should also exercise caution, as garlic may irritate the gastrointestinal tract. Finally, garlic may decrease the effectiveness of certain drugs, such as HIV and AIDS medications, saquinavir, isoniazid, warfarin and some birth control pills. If you take prescription medication, consult your doctor to learn about possible drug interactions.