The study of hieroglyphics and ancient scrolls reveal that ancient Egyptians and Greeks were perhaps the first people to realize the benefits of garlic. These peoples used the stinking rose for culinary and medicinal purposes, religious offerings, and warned never to order the garlic-stuffed chicken breast on a big date.
For the longest time, Anglos were hesitant to jump on the garlic wagon, using the vegetable (yes) only to ward off vampires and other supernatural creeps. While modern folk are still obsessed with vampires, everyone seems to have discovered the benefits of the magical flower, as planet Earth produces nearly 30 billion pounds of garlic annually.
Garlic can add a pungent and delicious flavor to nearly any dish, but recent studies suggest it also has a profound positive affect on human health. In 2007, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that a garlic rich diet stimulates hydrogen sulfide production, a natural antioxidant that increases circulation. The researchers, who made this discovery by injecting garlic juice into red blood cells, say the findings shed light on why people who eat a diet high in garlic are much less prone to breast, prostate, and colon cancer.
Oh That Smell
The majority of garlic’s health benefits stem from it being chock full of the sulfur compound allicin, which is also responsible for garlic’s powerful smell. A 2012 study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine reviewed an impressive number of clinical trials that touted garlic’s power over the common cold. Researchers were able to legitimize claims that the allicin in garlic has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. In addition to finding that garlic consumption fights off bacteria and viruses, the researchers learned that a garlic-rich diet lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Garlic in the Raw
Our own resident nutrition expert Mary Hartley, RD champions the use of garlic for its blood thinning, antibiotic, and diuretic properties. She says garlic helps regulate blood pressure and cholesterol, and claims the allium in garlic is a blood cleanser. However, when cooking and preparing garlic, there are ways to nullify its benefits.
“Cooking garlic destroys its blood thinning benefits, although gentle heating might increase anti-cancer activity,” she said. She recommends eating raw, crushed garlic in salad dressings and salads with legumes, nuts, and grains.
Eat Garlic Every Day
To fully reap the health benefits of garlic, you need to eat around two good-sized cloves daily. While that may seem like a lot—unless you’re on the Mediterranean diet or an Italian—if you incorporate garlic into most of your meals, it should be an odoriferous breeze.
Here are some great DIR recipes full of the stinky, yet incredibly healthy rose: