No need to worry about vampires prowling the streets today. It’s National Garlic Day!
Garlic is a versatile vegetable belonging to the Allium class of bulb-shaped plants, including onions, chives, leeks and scallions. Besides kicking up the flavor in culinary dishes, garlic has been recognized for centuries for its health-promoting properties. Ancient Egyptians used it for cooking, embalming and health and dental care, while ancient Greeks used it to repel scorpions and treat dog bites. Early 18th-century French gravediggers drank a crushed-garlic tonic to ward off the plague.
Today, garlic is a staple in most American pantries and is enjoyed both raw and cooked, with whole or half cloves often appearing in soups, salads and baked dishes. Rich in sulfuric compounds which cause the dreaded “garlic breath” (and can also lead to unpleasant body odor), garlic has an intense flavor that’s heightened when bulbs are pressed, crushed, minced, diced or sliced.
Nutrition wise, garlic is rich in vitamins C and B-6 and manganese, and it contains a good amount of protein, thiamin, selenium, calcium, potassium, copper and iron. It’s also packed with antioxidants, powerful compounds that protect healthy cells throughout the body. Its sulfur-containing compounds, including allicin, allin and ajoene, which are responsible for the vegetable’s odor, are also believed to be the source of its health-promoting effects.
Garlic is believed to support cardiovascular and immune health. It may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels already within normal range. Others use it for skin health and to help combat occasional fatigue.
Rather than consuming large quantities of “the stinking rose” (as it’s sometimes \called), many people use garlic supplements. Garlic supplements are made from fresh whole garlic, dried garlic or garlic oil. For best results, choose a standardized extract (which will contain consistent amounts of the active ingredients) and consult with a physician about benefits.