A star in both the kitchen and the medicine cabinet, delicious, versatile garlic is worth celebrating.
The health benefits of garlic have long been the stuff of legend—and superstition. While garlic probably won’t save you from blood-thirsty vampires, it might help ward off a number of everyday evils, from the common cold to cancer.
The Health Benefits of Garlic
The first mentions of garlic’s medicinal qualities date back to 2500 B.C., when it was fed to slaves building the Egyptian pyramids to increase their stamina and protect them from disease. Over the past 20 years, a number of studies suggest that garlic may indeed reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer, especially ones of the digestive tract. For example, findings from the Iowa Women’s Health Study, published in theAmerican Journal of Epidemiology, found that women who consumed the highest amounts of garlic had a 50 percent lower risk of colon cancer compared with women who had the lowest level of garlic consumption. Garlic’s “magic” medicinal ingredient is thought to be allicin, the phytochemical that gives the plant its pungent smell and packs a powerful antibacterial and antiviral punch.
What’s really great about garlic, though, is that it may be the most flavorful medicine you’ll ever take. A staple of Mediterranean and Asian cuisines, garlic goes well with seafood, pasta, most vegetables, and legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas. But just as garlic can overpower bacteria, it can also overpower a dish. One of the keys to satisfying garlic cookery is staying within your aromatic comfort zone. A time-tested trick for toning down garlic’s smell in a dish and on your breath afterward is to combine it with copious amounts of fresh, raw herbs such as parsley and basil, whose chlorophyll has a deodorizing effect. With the odor neutralized, the vampires won’t be repulsed—but neither will your dinner date!