Vampires may not be too keen on it but chefs and health gurus swear by it. Garlic not only adds a ton of flavor to a dish but has many health benefits. Though some of the claims made for this super food may be a little more tenuous than others.
What is garlic?
An Allium vegetable — onions and leeks are part of the same genus — garlic is a plant which was probably first cultivated in Asia. It is now produced around the world and most American garlic is cultivated in California.
The pungent history of garlic
While it can make just about any dish burst with flavor, that isn’t the half of it. Garlic has been used in alternative medicine for thousands of years, and there is some evidence to suggest it was even used as an offering to the gods by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Incredibly, a clove or two was found amongst the golden artifacts and sarcophagi in the tomb of the boy Pharaoh Tutankhamen.
Throughout history, garlic has always been understood to have great medicinal properties and has been used as a cure-all for everything from impotency to leprosy down the centuries.
I guess even our ancestors knew when they had a good thing.
The benefits of garlic
So what are the real world benefits of eating garlic?
1. Your heart loves it
Although there have been conflicting studies the majority of scientific research suggests garlic really can reduce the chances of heart disease.
Because it thins the blood, regular consumption of garlic could reduce blood pressure by up to 10%. It also seems to reduce total and bad LDL cholesterol while not affecting HDL or good cholesterol.
These factors can contribute to a significant decrease in the likelihood of suffering heart disease. Some researchers suggest the risk could be reduced by around 40% which is pretty staggering!
2. It’s packed with nutrients — and flavor
However, garlic has very few calories, contains protein and 1 oz is packed with vitamin C (15% RDA), Vitamin B6 (17% RDA) and Manganese (23% RDA).
So it makes a healthy and intensely flavorsome addition to meals and sauces.
Don’t I wish! But from the ancient Egyptians who fed it to their slaves right up to the early Americans, garlic has been used as a stimulant or performance enhancer. Athletes in the ancient Olympiads are believed to have used garlic to boost their abilities.
Modern studies are inconclusive, though some have shown a reduction in fatigue. What is known however is that garlic contains many amino acids. These acids help make up protein which is beneficial to athletes, especially bodybuilders.
4. It may keep you sane
Garlic’s antioxidant properties may help prevent oxidative damage that occurs during the aging process.
High doses have been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes. That, along with helping to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
5. It will keep you standing up straight
A surprising benefit of garlic is it appears to reduce bone loss. Studies suggest garlic extract can mitigate against estrogen deficiency in women. Something which is backed up by research on rodents though human research is in its early stages.
Garlic could also potentially improve the bone health of former smokers. Though research is ongoing, it does appear garlic can repair some of the damage smoking may have caused to the smokers bones and could even reverse the effects of osteoporosis.
6. It may scare cancer away like a vampire
Or can it? You will certainly not hear any doctor say garlic can cure cancer, at least not yet. No leading health organization or lobby group recommend any dietary supplement as a treatment or cure for cancer.
However, there are many alternative health practitioners who claim garlic can help in the prevention and cure of cancers. Many studies have had mixed results, but they tended to focus on garlic supplements and not garlic in its food form.
What you choose to believe is a personal choice of course, but it is acknowledged that garlic is among a select group of vegetables which may have anti-cancer properties.
7. It could cure the common cold
Scientifically, garlic is known to boost the immune system:
One study found daily garlic supplementation reduced the number of colds by 63%!
In the same study, the length of cold symptoms was also reduced by 70% compared to those taking a placebo.
Another study revealed that 2.56 grams of daily garlic can reduce the number of days sick with a cold or flu by 61%!
Take that over-the-counter medicine!
So should you be eating more garlic?
The benefits of garlic suggest we should use this super food whenever we can.
Besides, it’s freaking delicious!
Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments.