Garlic has been known since ancient times for its medical virtues. But what is the secret behind its antioxidant activity?
Everyone is talking about antioxidants and their role in preventing aging. But, do you know that these substances are abundantly present in the ingredients of your everyday dishes, like garlic? Yes, garlic is rich in antioxidants that protect against the elements responsible for the destruction of the DNA and membranes of your cells. These elements, called free radicals, are also involved in the aging process and are behind many diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
What is oxidative stress?
The cells in our body consume oxygen to produce energy. Cells release free radicals rich in oxygen as a by-product of this activity. The problem is that these radicals also called “reactive oxygen species” or ROS, are unstable and attack neighboring molecules to steal their electrons. This phenomenon spreads from one molecule to another across the organism and induces irreversible damage to biological structures.
Fortunately, antioxidants naturally present in the cells quickly neutralize free radicals. However, when the biological activity becomes significant, the endogenous antioxidants become saturated and unable to stop the damage caused by this excess of free radicals. Eating junk food or being a heavy smoker makes you vulnerable to this oxidative stress. Drugs, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays, and persistent chronic inflammation also contribute to this disruption of your body’s normal activity.
In this case, you must find and eliminate the cause behind this oxidative stress. In addition, your body needs to renew its reserves of antioxidants. This helps him fight free radicals better. You should therefore eat a lot of food rich in antioxidants.
What is an antioxidant?
Antioxidants are molecules that decrease or prevent the oxidation reactions of other substances. They are protective agents responsible for keeping your body balanced. Their role is to neutralize free radicals and reduce or prevent the damage they generate in the long term.
Antioxidants may be enzymatic, such as:
- superoxide dismutase
- glutathione peroxidase
- tocopherol (vitamin E)
- ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
- vitamin A
These are provided to our body by the food we eat: fruits and vegetables, tea, oil … and garlic. This universal condiment is not only used to prepare delicious meals, but it also helps promote your health through its generous contribution of antioxidants.
Garlic as you’ve never known it!
Since the dawn of time, dietary factors were believed to be behind the development or treatment of several diseases. People of different civilizations believed in the power of food and its ability to promote health. Garlic (Allium sativum) is no exception. This plant is renowned in various traditions as an excellent medicinal plant, not only for its prophylactic but also for therapeutic benefits.
Garlic is a bulbous plant. It belongs to the family of liliaceae, the same botanical family as onion, shallot, chives, tulip, and lily. It is easy to grow even in harsh climates and there are several varieties such as white, pink, or purple garlic.
The virtues of this medicinal plant are mainly due to the bioactive substances present in the bulbs. Allicin is the most important among these substances. However, it is naturally present in an inactive or precursor form: alliin. Grinding garlic cloves puts this precursor in contact with an enzyme, alliinase. Allie then transforms into allicin. We can find this bioactive component essentially in aqueous extracts or homogenates of fresh bulbs.
Aged garlic extract is another garlic-based preparation. It is well known for its medicinal properties. An easy way to make this extract is to keep slices of dried bulbs in 15-20% ethanol for a year and a half. This process leads to an alteration of garlic composition and causes the loss of a considerable amount of allicin. In return, selenium and new water-soluble bioactive components with better stability and powerful antioxidant activity appear.
Organosulfides, powerful antioxidants
The antioxidant activity of garlic is mainly due to its organosulfur compounds. These compounds are unstable. In order to benefit from their potent antioxidant activity, we should preserve them properly. Garlic antioxidants have an affinity for a specific group of free radicals. Allyl disulfide, for example, protects against microsomal lipid peroxidation, while allyl and cysteine allyl are hydroxyl radical scavengers. Allicin, on the other hand, is a scavenger of radicals super-oxides.
Garlic is also a seleniferous plant, which accumulates the selenium of the soil against the gradient of concentration. Selenium has several antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.
The protective effects of garlic come from the ability of its components to prevent or reduce oxidative stress. Several mechanisms are involved in these activities, such as the induction of antioxidant enzymes, the activation of key factors in the antioxidative response (Nrf2 factor), and the inhibition of prooxidative enzymes. In other words, you should understand that garlic acts both by decreasing oxidative activity and increasing the antioxidant activity of the body.
To improve your lipid plasma metabolism and boost your antioxidant plasma activity, you can consume any type of garlic preparation. Experts usually recommend that you eat one garlic clove daily. However, standardized garlic extract capsules are better because they provide a long-lasting and stable effect. This significantly reduces your body’s oxidative stress.
Garlic keeps the same bioactivity even when boiled for 20 minutes. In addition, cooking does not alter copper and selenium. You can then savor your favorite dishes while enjoying the virtues of this miraculous plant. However, you must be careful. At low doses, garlic helps you strengthen your endogenous antioxidant status. But high consumption may cause reverse effects and even damage your liver and kidneys.
What to remember
Garlic is naturally rich in antioxidants. Its components are able to protect your body from the damage caused by free radicals. However, you should consume it in moderation. It is still essential to have a healthy lifestyle if you want to preserve your internal body balance.
Garlic-induced alteration in rat liver and kidney morphology and associated changes in endogenous antioxidant status.
Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects.
Antioxidant Action and Therapeutic Efficacy of Allium sativum L.
The Antioxidant Properties of Garlic Compounds: Allyl Cysteine, Alliin, Allicin, and Allyl Disulfide.
Raw and boiled garlic enhances plasma antioxidant activity and improves plasma lipid metabolism in cholesterol-fed rats.
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