Garlic Facts and Benefits

"A nickel will get you on the subway, but GARLIC will get you a seat."
Old New York Proverb

Garlic bulbs

Garlic Facts

The "Stinking Rose"

Garlic has been called the "stinking rose," a rather ironic description of its shape and pungent odor which is offset by its many positive, health-promoting qualities. Since the beginning of recorded history this member of the lily family has been a popular culinary ingredient, a medicinal herb and in some cultures, believed to be a protection against evil as well as a source of strength.

It's important to know the difference

Garlic, known by herbalists as Allium Sativum, grows in the form of a head or bulb, which is made up of a number of sections called “cloves.” This is important for you to know, since most recipes call for several cloves of garlic, but would rarely, if ever, use an entire bulb.

Garlic is an anti-inflammatory food. There is good evidence that inflammation in the body is the main cause of most sickness and disease, so including garlic in the diet may inhibit the inflammation and help provide some protection against so many of the illnesses that plague us.

Garlic is a good source of Vitamin C and B6, along with the minerals selenium and manganese, and some copper and phosphorus. All of these nutrients play a role in keeping you healthy and preventing degenerative diseases.

Garlic may block the growth of cancer cells. Lab studies along with population studies seem to indicate that garlic can have an effect on preventing cancer, particularly of the stomach, esophagus and colon. Cultures who consume large amounts of garlic appear to have a lower incidence of these types of cancer.

Fun Fact for Garlic Facts and Benefits: I heard a great story about an herbalist who recommended that a patient take two cloves of garlic every day to help alleviate his sore throat. The man didn't know the difference between a bulb and a clove and proceeded to eat two entire bulbs of garlic every day for two weeks! When he saw the herbalist again, he remarked that his sore throat was gone, but so were his wife and all his friends!

More to learn about Garlic Facts and Benefits

Some health experts also believe that garlic will help lower blood sugar, strengthen the immune system and prevent rheumatoid arthritis. More studies may be needed to firmly establish these claims, but there is probably more we don't know than we know about the health benefits of whole foods, such as garlic.

Buying garlic

-When you buy fresh garlic, be sure to pick bulbs that are firm and not sprouting. The papery outer skin may be white or purple, but should be unbroken and free of discoloration.

-Garlic keeps best in a cool, dark place and when stored in an uncovered or loosely covered container. If stored correctly, fresh garlic can last for several months or more. Once you break open the bulb, however, the shelf life will shorten.

Cooking with garlic for good health

-When a recipe calls for garlic cloves, start by separating the number of cloves you will need from the bulb. Then peel the skin off with a knife or by hand. It should be loose and easy to remove once it is broken.

Interesting Garlic Facts: Some health experts suggest that you remove any sprouting or green parts that you find in a clove of garlic, as these may be difficult to digest.

-Chop or crush the garlic on a cutting board and allow it to sit for 10 minutes, before adding it to your recipe, in order to get the most benefit from the phytonutrient, allicin, one of the health-giving components of garlic.

-It is also a good idea to add the garlic as late in the cooking process as possible, since overcooking the garlic will reduce its health benefits.

-While you can use garlic in the form of powders and flakes, you may lose some of the flavor and beneficial properties that would be derived from using fresh garlic instead.

Interesting Garlic Facts: One of the strains of bacteria that is destroyed by garlic is E. coli, a microscopic killer that we often hear about in the news. One recent study suggested that adding garlic to hamburger may help prevent sickness if the meat has been contaminated with E coli. However, this is not a guarantee, so if you suspect the meat is contaminated, throw it out!

Here are some recipes that have garlic as an ingredient. Keep in mind, that although the recipe calls for you to sauté the garlic at the beginning of preparation, you can add the garlic towards the end of the process to obtain the optimum health benefits.

Meatless Meatballs

Tofu Sloppy Joes


Lentil Soup

Vegetarian Calzones

Garlic Facts - Supplements

As scientists discover more information about the health benefits of garlic, supplement companies have responded by offering numerous pills and capsules, as a convenient way to get the advantages without eating the food. While these supplements may have some usefulness, the active ingredients seem to be more enduring in the whole food than in an extract from it.

Oddly enough, in the case of garlic, the more they deodorize it, the less effective it will be in terms of promoting good health. It is a “stinking” rose after all!

MY TWO CENTS about Garlic Facts

I use a lot of garlic in cooking and am fortunate to have little or no reaction to it. I have also taken it as a medicinal herb, when needed, by chopping it into little pieces, letting it sit for 10 minutes and then swallowing it with water like a pill. This technique works very well if you are taking garlic for a sore throat or other problem.

I once tried the garlic capsules, but oddly enough, they gave me indigestion and I found myself burping up garlic for hours afterward. It seems strange that I can eat a whole clove of fresh garlic with no ill effects, but a small capsule of a purified extract will make me queasy!

Helpful hint:  When you handle garlic, the smell can stay on your hands for a while even after washing them.  However if you wash them in a little lemon juice it will magically remove the smell!

The down side of garlic

I know that garlic is not for everyone, since for some, it may cause unpleasant side effects such as heartburn, indigestion, gas and garlic breath. You can help alleviate the first three by limiting the amount of garlic you eat, by eating slowly and by thoroughly chewing your food.

As for garlic breath, you might try chewing on a sprig of parsley after you eat or, better yet, make sure the people you hang around with eat garlic too!

At the very least, according to the proverb, your garlic breath will secure you a seat on the subway, even if, these days, it costs more than a nickel to get on!

Eat and be healthy with my warmest regards,

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