As February is Heart Month, let’s take a look at a food which should be part of everyone’s diet to promote heart health – garlic.
Garlic: the sweet smell of health
It is affectionately known as “The Stinking rose”. Garlic or Allium Sativum, is a member of the lily family. It is native to central Asia and is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. There are approximately 300 types of garlic.
People have always been of two minds regarding this herb. It has been traditionally used for its exceptional culinary and medicinal qualities, yet garlic has a bad reputation due to its pungent odor. The odor comes from the sulfur-containing compounds which are the very substances that promote health. As written by William Shakespeare in a Midsummer Night’s Dream: “…eat no onions, nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath”.
If one were to exclude garlic from their diet, they would be missing out. Aside from warding off vampires, including 1-2 cloves of garlic daily in your diet can be an effective way to prevent and reverse serious health issues.
First of all, garlic may reduce your risk of colon cancer. According to current statistics of the Canadian Cancer Society, 2 in every 5 men and 1 in every 3 women will develop cancer sometime in their life. Overall, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer. Substances found in garlic, such as the sulfur-compound allicin, have been shown not only to protect colon cells from cancer-causing chemicals, but also to stop growth of cancer cells once they develop. A study done at the University of North Carolina concluded that a high intake of either raw or cooked garlic may be associated with a protective effect against both colorectal and stomach cancers.
The same garlic compound that may protect you from colon cancer is also a powerful antibacterial and antifungal agent. Allicin has been shown to be effective against common infections like colds, flu, stomach viruses and Candida yeast, as well as harmful microbes including tuberculosis and botulism. The antibacterial power of garlic may also be responsible for the reduced risk of stomach cancer, due to its potential ability to decrease gastritis caused by Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium responsible for most peptic ulcers. A recent study conducted at Faith University in Istanbul, Turkey showed that people who consumed raw and cooked garlic regularly had the same prevalence of h.pylori, but less antibodies – meaning there was less reproduction of the bacteria, reducing further damage.
As if those reasons are not enough to encourage you to add garlic to your diet, garlic may protect you from cardiovascular disease, which is the world’s leading cause of death. Several risk factors for heart disease that can be addressed with diet are high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and platelet aggregation which can lead to arterial blockage. In the prevention of cardiovascular disease, many of garlic’s nutrients are working together including the sulfur-compounds, vitamin C, selenium and manganese. According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk factor with the most scientific evidence linking it to garlic is high cholesterol. Research has shown a 9% decrease in total cholesterol due to garlic consumption, according to a study done at New York Medical College.
Now that you are convinced and ready to incorporate garlic into your daily diet, here are some easy things you can do:
1. add a crushed clove of garlic to your salad dressing. If you eat salad every day, this modification alone could allow you to start feeling the health benefits of garlic.
2. make hummus – a popular protein snack made from chick peas which gets its delicious taste mainly from garlic.
3. cook with garlic – the taste of many stir-fried, roasted, or baked dishes is enhanced by the addition of a few cloves of garlic. And for those brave souls who want to get a monthly dose all at once, they can try the classic French recipe “Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic”!
Hopefully, you will see garlic in a new light – look past the “stink” and see it just as a rose. In the words of Robert, Duke of Normandy in 1100 AD: “Since garlic hath powers to save from death, bear with it though it makes unsavory breath”.
© 2006 lemon holistic
The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately qualified and licensed practitioner or health care provider.