Although best known for its addition to Italian cuisine, garlic seems to be used in virtually every cuisine as a strong flavoring agent. The bulbs are also sometimes used for medicinal purposes, to relieve health problems while preventing chronic health problems. Learn more about the ins and outs of this popular spice and see how it could fit into your own diet and lifestyle.
What is garlic, and where does it come from?
Garlic (Allium sativum) is an age-old spice made from a bulbous plant. But before becoming the staple of the kitchen we know today, garlic had a rich history of cultivation, medicinal benefits, and consumption. Garlic is believed to have originated in India and Egypt around 5,000 years ago, and some historical records suggest it was used in China around 4,000 years ago. The species of garlic found in this region are often referred to as “wild garlic” due to their native nature. Garlic is also mentioned in biblical texts, as well as in documents from ancient Greece.
Historically, garlic was used primarily for its medicinal components. In ancient civilizations, people used it in hopes of increasing their strength. Indeed, some historical documents indicate that the ancient Greeks used garlic to improve their performance during the Olympics.
What is particularly interesting about garlic is that it was used simultaneously by different civilizations and cultures for similar benefits, all without contact between these cultures. Yet cultivated garlic does not resemble the “wild garlic” found in Asia and the Middle East. It is more like the varieties first harvested in Europe nearly 1,000 years ago. But garlic was also discovered in the wild by indigenous civilizations in North America, where it was used in teas for medicinal purposes.
Today, an estimated 10 million tons of garlic are produced worldwide. Although used as a food flavoring agent, garlic is still considered a ‘natural antibiotic’ by many cultures. In the 21st century, garlic continues to be a common seasoning in foods and packaged goods, but its potential medicinal properties are increasingly appreciated in Western cultures.
Garlic Nutrition Facts: Calories, Carbs & More
While garlic is a low-calorie food, it’s not particularly high in the nutrients you need on a daily basis. From a nutritional standpoint, garlic is most useful as a spice or as a way to bring out the flavors of other healthy foods, such as vegetables. The following nutritional data is based on an estimated serving size of one teaspoon:
Protein: 0.18 grams (g)
Natural sugars: 0.03 g
Calcium: 5 milligrams (mg)
Iron: 0.05 mg (0.03% of the daily value, or DV)
Vitamin C: 0.9 mg (1% Daily Value).
Garlic is also considered a source of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and enzymes, which can help your body build muscle and protect your gut health, respectively.
Garlic and other foods that can help prevent cancer
While there’s no single way to completely protect against cancer, research suggests that making sure your diet is rich in these fresh foods may help reduce your risk of certain types of cancer. disease.
What are the health benefits of garlic? A glimpse of what the research suggests
Historically, garlic was used for the following medicinal purposes:
blood pressure regulator
Relief of menstrual symptoms
Relief of muscle pain
Today, research confirms some of these medicinal benefits, but most studies are inconclusive overall. Research primarily supports the potential antibacterial benefits of garlic, as well as its ability to help control cholesterol-causing lipids in the blood. Garlic also contains antioxidants, which can help prevent free radicals that contribute to chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
Some of the most promising research on the health benefits of garlic relates to cholesterol and high blood pressure. But research on these effects is limited. In some small studies, garlic supplements have been shown to lower blood cholesterol within three months. In other studies, however, garlic had no effect on cholesterol.
Although garlic may provide antioxidants that could help prevent certain types of cancer over time, these benefits are linked to garlic consumption, garlic supplements do not have the same effects. Some of the most studied effects of garlic on cancer include colon, stomach, breast, esophageal and pancreatic cancers.
Nonetheless, a 2015 meta-analysis suggested that more research is needed to determine whether garlic and similar vegetables, such as onions and leeks, may play a role in cancer prevention. Scientists also don’t know how much garlic people need to consume to see the benefits.
Another potential benefit of chewing garlic is boosting heart health. This benefit is compared to that of ingesting garlic or garlic extracts that have not been chewed.
Can Garlic Help You Lose Weight? A look at the available searches
Some people tout garlic as a weight loss aid. But most studies on the effects of garlic on weight have been done on rodents, not humans, so more studies are needed.
A study found that garlic may help reduce body weight and fat accumulation in obese mice fed a high-fat diet. Another study, in rats with hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and high insulin levels fed a diet of high fructose corn syrup, suggested that commercial garlic products promoted weight loss.
However, a study in adults with obesity showed that those who took a supplement containing garlic, caffeine, ginger and other herbs saw modest weight loss. It is unclear whether the weight loss was attributed to a single ingredient, a combination of ingredients, or just lifestyle habits.
Instead of relying on garlic as a weight loss tool, it’s best to follow proven weight loss methods that include healthy eating and an active lifestyle.
How to choose and store garlic to get the best quality and the best taste?
Garlic is used in various ways for food. The more traditional method is to buy whole garlic bulbs and chop or slice them for cooking. Look for white bulbs without brown or black spots. The bulbs should also be firm, with no soft spots or loose pods. If you don’t want to cut or mince the garlic cloves, you can also buy ready-to-use minced garlic, garlic oil or garlic powder. Be aware that the more the garlic is processed, the less aroma and flavor it has, your choice depends on your personal preferences.
Tips for cooking with garlic in your home kitchen
Garlic has an intense smell, thanks to its sulfur-containing compounds. These glycosides are only released when the bulbs are peeled and cut or crushed. Raw garlic is sliced or chopped before being added to your favorite dishes. You can also sauté the garlic cloves in olive oil or roast them in the oven.
Can eating garlic help prevent or shorten the common cold?
During cold and flu season, some people swear by eating or chewing garlic, or even taking garlic supplements. It’s thought that the antioxidant content in garlic can help boost the immune system so you get sick less often. But garlic alone may not be enough to keep you from getting sick, and preliminary studies conclude that garlic does not help prevent colds. While consuming garlic may have other health benefits, you shouldn’t rely on the bulbs alone to avoid getting sick.
Does eating garlic have any side effects or health risks?
For most people, it is safe to eat too much garlic. But it is also possible to have an allergy or sensitivity to these bulbs. Spice allergies aren’t as common as other food allergies, but you may be at higher risk if you’re also allergic to birch pollen. If you are allergic to garlic, you may also be allergic to other related spices.
Signs of an allergic reaction to garlic can include hives, facial swelling, and difficulty breathing. A non-allergic food sensitivity to garlic can cause gas, bloating, and other gastrointestinal discomfort.
Be careful when using garlic essential oils on your skin. These can cause eczema, burns and irritation if misused. Also, do not ingest essential oils.