Featured Super Food: Garlic

Featuring everything you wanted to know about (mostly) local and always super, Superfoods!

This month’s super food is also a super medicine, the stinking rose…garlic!

Although the growing season is more in spring and summer, garlic can grow through the fall and stores well all winter making it a delicious seasonal winter food.

History

Part of the alliums’ family, along with onions, chives, green onions, shallots and leeks; garlic is known to have first been grown around 3200 BC. Inscriptions and pictures of garlic found in the pyramids of ancient Egypt testify to the fact that garlic was not only an important food, but also had ceremonial significance as well. Warriors would eat it before going into battle, gods were given gifts of garlic and babies wore garlic around their necks to ward off evil.

Nutrition

It took modern medicine thousands of years to catch-up to the folklore of garlic, but thousands of studies have been conducted on garlic showing it to be among other things: a powerful antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, detoxifying agent, circulatory aid, antioxidant and immune booster. What makes garlic so super other than its distinctive taste is partly the 30 different sulphur compounds, including allicin; which is produced when you crush, bruise, or cut a garlic clove. Key nutrients in garlic include: calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, folate and fiber.

Killing bad bacteria, but not bad breath

Louis Pasteur, who invented the germ theory of disease and invented the process of milk pasteurization, first demonstrated back on 1858 how strong an antibacterial garlic is. Before the advent of antibiotics, wounds and cuts were treated by rubbing garlic juice on the wound. Garlic was depended on by the Russian army when penicillin wasn’t available. Studies have shown that garlic can prevent against helicobacter pylori, a type of bacteria that can cause stomach cancer. Some studies have shown that garlic can kill bacteria strains that resist standard antibacterial treatment

Keeps the blood flowing freely

Garlic has also been shown to help prevent heart disease. A Czech study found that garlic taken as a supplement reduced cholesterol accumulation in animals, while another study showed that garlic supplementation inhibited vascular calcification in human patients with high blood cholesterol. Garlic has also been shown to reduce high blood pressure and lower blood sugar levels.
Studies in India have shown that garlic may benefit the good bacteria in the gut, thereby improving digestion and absorption if nutrients. The Cherokee Indians used garlic as a an expectorant for coughs and croup, and garlic is used today by natural practitioners to treat intestinal worms, excess yeast (Candida or thrush), and as a remedy for infections and digestive disorders. The volatile oil is excreted via the lungs-hence garlic breath, and is especially beneficial for upper respiratory infections. Other home remedy uses for garlic are to help speed recovery from strep throat and ear infection by crushing a clove, mixing it with oil and dropping it in the ear canal.

Although it’s best to get your medicine from food, you can also take garlic as a supplement for heart protection, as an antifungal antibacterial or anti-inflammatory.
Avoid taking large quantities (as a supplement) while taking aspirin or anticoagulant drugs on a regular basis, because garlic also can thin your blood. You may have to monitor your level of medication if you decide to increase your garlic intake, especially if using it as a supplement.

Buying and Eating Tips

Buy garlic loose, rather than packaged so you can choose the best garlic heads. Look for plump, dry, solid bulbs that are free of soft spots and ideally grown locally. They should feel heavy, and have tight, unbroken skin. Garlic will keep for several weeks in a covered container in a dark dry place. Do not refrigerate. If the garlic sprouts, you can use that in your meals as well. It will have a milder flavour more like scallions or chives. Great to give a sandwich some kick!

To peel a garlic clove, place it on the cutting board and lay the flat side of a large knife on top. Tap the knife sharply to split the peel, and then the clove will pop out. If you still manage to get the sticky garlic smell on your fingers after chopping, wash your hands with coarse salt and some vinegar right away to remove the smell.

Because garlic is a superfood, include it in your diet both raw and cooked traditionally to pep up stews and sauces, as well as raw in salad dressings, stirred in yogurt with cucumber as a marinade or dipping sauce, or put chopped raw garlic in your sauces just before serving.

How to get more garlic in your diet: There are many creative ways to add garlic to your food. Try crushing raw garlic with roasted red peppers or sautéed mushrooms to serve as antipasti; add raw garlic to salad dressings, mayonnaise or mustard for more kick; add to it the water when you are boiling potatoes and mash them with the potatoes. Throw an entire head in while you are making soup stalks. Crush and mix raw garlic with butter and add to vegetables or on toast.


“Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French; sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek; soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good”.
  • Alice May Brock, American author, illustrator, and one-time restaurateur, “The Back Room Rest”

Posted on Tuesday February 10, 2009 by Kerri Cooper