There's no denying garlic is beneficial to your health, but you may be hesitant about eating raw garlic. Side effects include the dubious distinction of causing terrible breath. Fortunately, there are some ways to minimize some of the consequences of enjoying this pungent vegetable.
Health Benefits of Garlic
Garlic is nutrient dense and has compounds that may be beneficial for treating many conditions, including high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer and even the common cold, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
One of the enzymes in garlic is a major contributor to its anti-inflammatory properties, warding off infections. Through a series of chemical reactions, a substance called allicin is released when raw garlic is crushed, chopped or chewed. Therefore, swallowing garlic without chewing may diminish some its nutritional potential.
The pungent little bulb contains only a minimal amount of fat, sugar and sodium and provides a healthy dose of B vitamins, including B6 — with 7 percent of the daily value (DV) in just 3 cloves, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and thiamine, according to the USDA. Vitamin B provides your body with the energy it needs for optimal functioning of the brain, skeletal and nervous system.
Fresh garlic supplies 3 percent of the DV for vitamin C, per 3 cloves. Vitamin C is an antioxidant essential for promoting immunity, collagen synthesis and wound healing. Vitamin K in garlic helps your blood clot to prevent excess bleeding and also contributes to the health of your bones and heart.
Eating 3 cloves of garlic provides 7 percent of the DV for manganese, which helps your nervous system and brain function properly. Other important minerals in garlic are calcium, essential for your bones and teeth, and selenium, which plays a key role in metabolism. In addition, garlic contains smaller amounts of copper, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and iron, according to the USDA.
Why Garlic Causes Bad Breath
When you chew garlic, it triggers the chain reactions that transform an enzyme called alliinase into allicin. Allicin further breaks down to form a variety of organosulfur compounds, such as allyl methyl disulfide, allyl mercaptan and allyl methyl sulfide, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Although these malodorous allyl and sulfide compounds are responsible for the many health benefits in garlic, they are also responsible for its foul smell.
Part of the reason for your bad breath after eating raw garlic comes from your oral cavity as bits of allicin stick to your teeth. After swallowing, the sulphuric chemicals are metabolized by your digestive system. The odorous compounds enter your bloodstream and are carried to the lungs where they volatilize and enter your breath.
The odorants are eventually excreted by exhalation, sweating and urine. Garlic breath can linger for 24 hours, according to Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
Helping to Avoid Garlic Breath
Of course brushing your teeth, flossing and using mouthwash are likely the first course of action you'll take to rid yourself of garlic breath. But there are other things that may help avoid the repercussions of eating raw garlic.
Research has determined that some enzymes in certain foods can act as deodorizers. A study, published in the Journal of Food Science in March 2014, examined the potential of some foods and beverages to reduce the organosulfur chemicals, or volatiles, in raw garlic.
One of the study's co-authors Sheryl Barringer, from Ohio State's Department of Food Science and Technology, speculated that phenolic compounds in foods may be the key to fighting garlic breath, according to CFAES. The study examined breath measurements after raw garlic was chewed and then followed by the consumption of several different foods.
Findings of the study showed that the type of polyphenolic compounds in foods were more of a factor in fighting garlic breath than the quantity of phenols. Foods that were the most effective in combating garlic breath were:
- Mint leaves (rosmarinic acid)
- Raw apples (quercetin)
- Apple juice and mint juice
- Green tea (catechin)
Evidence showed that food heated in the microwave, including apple and lettuce, were not as effective against bad breath as their raw counterparts. The author advised that to get the benefits from these foods, you need to eat or drink them at the same time or quickly after eating garlic.
Some everyday herbs and spices may help decrease the strong odor of garlic breath. Consider consuming some of these flavorings with your garlicky meal.
- Nutmeg: Due to the antimicrobial activity of nutmeg, it is used to treat bad breath, according to an April 2017
study in the _Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicin_e.
- Fennel, anise, sesame seeds and coconut: These are often used as ingredients in a mouth freshener called "mukhwas." The
seeds can be savory, coated in sugar and brightly colored as reported in BioMed Research International in August 2104.
- Caraway: These fruits are often used as a popular mask for alcohol breath, so it may help make garlic breath less noticeable.
- Fresh cardamom: Cardamom is often found in preparations used as breath fresheners, according to NIH PubChem.
- Fresh parsley: Freshen your breath with parsley, a natural deodorizer containing chlorophyll. The U.S. National Library of Medicine suggests it's effective against temporary bad breath.
Read more: Which Is Healthier, Raw or Cooked Garlic?
In addition to causing garlic breath, consuming too many cloves on an empty stomach, such as eating raw garlic at night, can cause stomach upset and gas. Also, by eating raw garlic, side effects can include headaches, fatigue, appetite loss, muscle aches, dizziness and allergic reaction, warns Cleveland Clinic.
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Garlic"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Garlic"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Garlic"
- International Dental Journal: "Halitosis in Medicine: A Review"
- Ohio State University: College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences: "Garlic Breath? Science Says Eat an Apple"
- Journal of Food Science: "Deodorization of Garlic Breath Volatiles by Food and Food Components"
- Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Pharmaceutical Perspectives of Spices and Condiments as Alternative Antimicrobial Remedy"
- BioMed Research International: "Foeniculum vulgare Mill: A Review of Its Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, Contemporary Application, and Toxicology"
- Natural Products and Bioprospecting: "Caraway as Important Medicinal Plants in Management of Diseases"
- NIH PubChem: "Cardamom Seed Preparation Being Effective Against Bad Breath"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Breath Odor"
- Cleveland Clinic: "6 Surprising Ways Garlic Boosts Your Health"