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Garlic has been used throughout history for both culinary and medicinal purposes.
Allium sativum, garlic’s botanical name, often attracts special attention due to its beneficial organosulfur compounds, alliin being just one of them. I must admit that I don’t love the term “superfoood” as I tend to believe every real food deserves that designation. But nevertheless, garlic often makes its way onto those lists. Health claims range from reducing cancer risk to protecting against cardiovascular disease to reducing inflammation. But the research has been inconsistent at best.
A 2007 study at Stanford University took a closer look at the cardiovascular effects of garlic. They targeted subjects who had moderately elevated LDL levels, which meant they were not yet appropriate for treatment with medication. Ultimately, they found no reduction in LDL cholesterol in any of the four groups that consumed either raw garlic, an aged garlic supplement, a powdered garlic supplement or a placebo. Researcher Christopher Gardner summed it up well: “There’s no shortcut. You achieve good health through eating healthy food. There isn’t a pill or an herb you can take to counteract an unhealthy diet.”
While it may not be an effective “treatment” for many health conditions, it does show promise from a disease prevention standpoint. Several studies have linked garlic to a reduction of risk for certain cancers.
For some people, large quantities of garlic can be dangerous–though it’s worth noting that most of the risks have been associated with highly concentrated supplements rather than raw cloves used for culinary purposes. For example, garlic can enhance the blood thinning actions of anticoagulants. Yet the jury is still out as to how much garlic actually poses a problem. It’s always best to discuss potential medication interactions with your doctor as they can sometimes vary dosages depending on an individual’s eating style.
Medicinal uses aside, the pleasing flavor of garlic is reason enough to periodically include it in your diet (unless you’re among the few who are allergic or simply dislike it). And that’s precisely one of the reasons I included it in my self-care challenge.
Yesterday, the aroma of roasted garlic wafted through my kitchen as I prepared the ingredients for a spicy garlic soup. I happen to love the flavor of garlic–and it helps when your significant other does too since, when consumed in large quantities, it can cause unpleasant breath and body odor. (It isn’t nicknamed “the stinking rose” for nothing.)