Once known as the ‘stinking rose’ and appreciated only for it’s vampire deterring properties, garlic is now classified as a ‘Super-food’, thanks to it’s many recognised health benefits.
Garlic is a member of the lily or Allium family, which also includes onions, leeks and chives. Garlic is a source of magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin C and selenium. It is also rich in a variety of powerful phytochemicals including allicin, allin and diallyl sulphide. While these compounds are responsible for garlic’s characteristic pungent odour, they are also the source of many of its health promoting effects.
Health Benefits of Garlic
Heart Health - A growing body of research suggests that garlic may lower high blood pressure and the harmful LDL-cholesterol. It may also keep your blood free flowing and dissolve clots. As a result of these beneficial actions garlic may help reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Cancer Protection - Studies have shown that the antioxidants found in garlic may help protect against colon and stomach cancer.
Reducing Inflammation - Garlic contains compounds that reduce inflammation, which may help reduce the pain and disfigurement of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Antibacterial and Anti-viral - Allicin, a sulphur-containing compound found in garlic, is a powerful antibacterial and antiviral agent, which has been shown to be effective against common infections like colds and flu .
Choosing & Storing Garlic
When choosing garlic look for unblemished heads that are firm when lightly squeezed. Avoid soft cloves or browning on the skin. Store unpeeled garlic in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
Most of us are accustomed to adding garlic to our recipes- including pasta dishes and stir-fries. Here are a couple of extra garlic ideas to help you get the most out of this Superfood.
- Add a handful of whole garlic cloves to a tray of roasted vegetables and cook for 30 mins. The garlic flavours the vegetables beautifully and becomes much less pungent. Once cooked, you can use the soft, roasted garlic as a spread on the vegetables, spread on crusty Italian bread, or blend with olive oil and balsamic vinegar over a salad [see recipe on page 8].
- Puree 4 fresh garlic cloves, 250g canned chickpeas [drained and rinsed], 2 tablespoons tahini, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons lemon juice for an easy hummus dip. Serve with sliced mixed vegetables.
- Saxelby, C. Nutrition for Life: Everything you need to know about food and nutrition. Hardie Grant Books, Vic, 2002.
- Stanton, R. Complete Book of Food and Nutrition. Simon & Schuster, NSW, 1995.