Garlic May Ward Off More Than Vampires

Photo by lowjumpingfrog via Flickr

Photo by lowjumpingfrog via Flickr

There are many myths, legends and rumors that have surrounded garlic over the centuries.  Most people have heard the fantastical claim that garlic wards against evil, such as demons and vampires.  There are also those that believe that garlic brings good luck.  Even though garlic does not have those powers, it does have the power to transform a bland meal or recipe into a savory, healthy culinary delight.

While garlic is mainly used as an herb or spice, it is actually a member of the onion family and is considered a vegetable.  In that capacity, it is a staple ingredient in many dishes around the world, but it is best known for its use in Mediterranean and Asian cuisines.

What are the health benefits of garlic?
Aside from the magical attributes that people have ascribed to it, garlic has been revered for its perceived medicinal properties since ancient times.  Physicians living in the Roman Empire and in ancient Egypt, China, India and Greece believed it cured a wide range of medical ailments.

The curative properties that these ancient civilizations believed garlic to hold have made it an interesting item of study for many scientists.  While some studies have shown promising results, not enough research has been done yet to make a definitive statement regarding garlic’s health benefits.  Some preliminary research, however, suggests that garlic may lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, promote weight control and even decrease the risk of some cancers.  Studies have also shown that garlic may act as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral agent. More studies are needed though to determine if those preliminary results are correct.

The one area we are sure of is the nutritional content of garlic.  Garlic is an excellent source of manganese and a good source of vitamin B (B1 & B6), vitamin C, protein, phosphorus, selenium, calcium, potassium, iron and copper.

How do I choose and store garlic?
Choosing what garlic to eat is an important step in getting the most health benefits from it.  For the maximum flavor, freshness and nutritional benefits, garlic should be eaten fresh.  While garlic is still tasty in either powder or flake form, it provides less health benefits than if it is eaten fresh.

  1. Choosing: Select heads of garlic that feel heavy, firm, plump and free of damp or soft spots.
  2. Storing: Place fresh garlic in a container or uncovered in a cool, dark place away from heat and light.  That prevents sprouting and maximizes its freshness and flavor.

How can I include garlic in my diet?
Here are 3 ways you can include more garlic in your diet:

  1. Main meals: Garlic is a great seasoning for most main dishes.  It is a tasty addition to steamed vegetables, especially sautéed spinach.  It is also wonderful in stir fry dishes.  Plus, pureed roasted garlic with olive oil can make a tasty mashed potatoes dish.
  2. Sauces and soups: Garlic adds a nice, bold taste to sauces and soups.  I enjoy garlic when I make wine/tomato based sauces and also as an addition to vegetable soups.
  3. Dips, spreads or dressings: Garlic is a wonderful addition to many dips and spreads.  My favorite is pureed fresh garlic in hummus.  Also, you can add pressed garlic to olive oil and use it as a dressing for your salad.

The bottom line:
Garlic may not ward off evil and bring good luck, but it will make a bland dish flavorful and potentially healthier.  So, add garlic to your meals and enjoy the bold and aromatic taste that it adds, not to mention the health benefits!

Comments (4)

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by charlieandsandy. charlieandsandy said: Garlic May Ward Off More then Vampires http://bit.ly/135Pam […]

  2. Awesome post, I’ve been trying to get more garlic in my diet (as well as my wife’s). Used to not like it as a kid, but it’s hard to have pasta without garlic anymore!

  3. Maria Isabel says:

    I put garlic on all my dishes. I also enjoy eating Trader Joe’s Colossal Olives hand stuffed with garlic cloves with my dinner.

  4. Mara says:

    The thing that bothers me about articles like this is that they don’t give any indication of quantity.

    “Studies have also shown that garlic may act as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral agent.”

    This statement is meaningless unless it is stated how much garlic needs to be consumed to show any of the benefits described. Take the old statement that red wine is good for your heart. Without saying “one glass of red wine per day” someone might think that the more red wine they drink, the healthier their heart will be, which we all know is not true. However, in this article and may other articles like it, it is much less obvious what quantity is being discussed.

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