Love Garlic? Here Are 6 Mighty Health Benefits You'll Love Even More
Savory, pungent, and indescribably tasty, garlic has long delighted people's taste buds with its bright, aromatic punch of flavor. This small root vegetable belongs to the onion genus Allium and adds depth and dimension to more dishes than anyone has time to name. Garlic comes from an edible plant, and we typically cook with the small cloves inside the bulb of the plant.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "garlic is among the oldest known horticultural crops." Researchers have found references to garlic in both Egyptian and Indian cultures dating back some 5,000 years. "There is clear historical evidence for its use by the Babylonians 4,500 years ago and by the Chinese 2,000 years ago," the USDA adds. "Some writings suggest that garlic was grown in China as far back as 4,000 years ago."
Garlic only grows wildly in Central Asia, however, it's now farmed all over the globe. The World Atlas reports that in 2015, the world production of garlic was estimated at 25 million tons. China made up about 80 percent of that growth, with India coming in second. Its bang-for-your-buck flavor and versatility has made it a staple ingredient, both raw and cooked, in most cuisines around the world.
Buying and Storing Garlic
You can easily find fresh garlic any time of year in grocery stores, but the crop is typically harvested over June and July, making it great to buy at a summer farmers market. Garlic bulbs can last up to eight weeks when stored correctly: Simply keep it in a cool, dark spot in the pantry. And don't worry if there are sprouts on your garlic, it can still be used. Just make sure to remove the green shoots before cooking. Storing garlic is simple: Garlic can be refrigerated, but can't be placed in the freezer since it affects the texture and flavor.
Head here for more handy tips on buying, storing, and cooking with garlic.
Health Benefits of Garlic
Beyond imparting mouthwatering zest to recipes of all kinds, garlic also offers some incredibly healthy benefits when eaten. "Garlic contains powerful plant-based compounds (phytochemicals) that have been associated with numerous protective health benefits when included in a generally healthy diet," says Emmie Satrazemis, RD, a board-certified sports nutritionist, registered dietitian, and the nutrition director at Trifecta Nutrition. "Because of these compounds, garlic has also been used as a form of natural medicine throughout history in various cultures."
Josh Schlottman, certified personal trainer and nutritionist, adds that garlic aids in fighting disease, combating inflammation, and even healing wounds. "It's been used in traditional medicine for centuries as an antibiotic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory agent," he says.
We don't know about you, but we love when something so delicious is also good for you—it's something you want and absolutely can (and should!) have. Here's what you need to know about garlic and all its amazing nutritional properties.
How much and how often should you eat garlic?
Schlottman notes that you'll reap more of its benefits if you eat garlic daily. "The daily recommended amount is one to two cloves per day," he says. "Easily add it to your favorite foods like pasta, sautéed vegetables, and garlic bread."
There really aren't any significant reasons to avoid eating garlic, unless you're allergic or simply hate the stuff. Since this pungent ingredient isn't for everyone, Satrazemis acknowledges the perks of eating garlic, but notes that it's "not necessary to consume it if you don't like it."
"While the potential health benefits of garlic sound promising, they don't outweigh the need for a balanced healthy diet and overall healthy lifestyle—in other words, no single food will make or break your health, not even garlic," she says.
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