By Cal Orey –
One trip to Anchorage, Alaska in December on the night before flying home, I felt a cold coming on. I ordered artisan Greek vegetarian garlic pizza. I sipped herbal tea while savoring bits of fresh garlic, tomatoes, and olives. I scheduled my flight later to get a good night’s sleep. I did not get sick. I give credit to the garlic, nature’s cure that protected me like it is believed to have done in the Middle Ages when people used the herb to fight the bubonic plague.
Essential compounds in garlic are well, essential. One important ingredient from garlic is allicin, which is a heart healthy treasure that’s also found in onion. Another compound worth noting is diallyl disulfide, which is in the anti-cancer lock box. Garlic’s plentiful list of ingredients makes this herb antimicrobial, antiviral, heart healthy and a cancer fighter, tool.
Garlic may not make the grade as a super nutrient-dense herb. But antioxidant-rich garlic still delivers the goods. In fact, like vinegar and olive oil, remarkable garlic deserves its own book. Just ask the United States Department of Agriculture. It reports that three-and-a-half ounces of garlic contains: Water 61 percent, carbohydrate 30.8 grams, protein 6.2 grams, dietary fiber 1.5 grams, fat 0.2 grams, potassium 259 milligrams, phosphorus 202 milligrams, calcium 29 milligrams, sodium 19 milligrams, iron 1.5 milligrams and ascorbic acid 15 milligrams.
Garlic is known as the heart-healthy herb, thanks to its compounds, especially sulfur. Stacks of studies, past and present, show it can help keep the numbers in check for blood pressure and cholesterol, while lowering the odds of heart attacks and strokes.
The herb is also an immune system booster, which may lower a person’s risk of developing cancer. University of Buffalo and the University of Puerto Rico researchers say that garlic and onions may reduce the odds of developing breast cancer by 67 percent. Lead researcher Gauri Desai pointed out that Puerto Rico has lower breast cancer numbers, comparted to the rest of America. In the journal Nutrition and Cancer, he emphasized women in Puerto Rico consume more garlic and onion, two ingredients in the condiment sofrito, which is used in bean and rice dishes.
Holistic doctors also tout garlic’s healing powers of garlic. Herbal expert Alan Keith Tillotson, R.H., Lac, Ph.D., of Chrysalis Natural Medicine Clinic, Wilmington, Delaware, for example told me: “I personally use fresh garlic almost every day on my raw salad. I take extra if traveling in closed spaces like airplanes–in that case I use a garlic capsule,” And that takes us full circle because it is known that garlic contains antiviral compounds.
Shake It Up Now
Garlic is a popular culinary herb in a variety of dishes. My personal favorite is sautéing the cloves to give it a mellow flavor in stir-fries and herby Italian sauces. I eat garlic when I am traveling. It is available in many forms from chopped fresh cloves to minced, ground powder and in spice blends as well. Capsules contain the active ingredient allicin. It can be consumed and used topically.
Safety Sound Bite
Do not consume more than two cloves of raw garlic daily. If you overindulge, the consequences can be digestive problems, such as heartburn or acid reflux and flatulence. Remember, less is more.
Pasta with Garlic and Tomatoes
Pasta with garlic and tomatoes is an Italian dish that can be made quickly. But make sure to use favorite extra virgin olive oil for it. This recipe is easy on the budget. Two favorite herbs—garlic and parsley—make it a perfect dish for any time year-round. It is a fail-proof recipe which can be used for a side dish or a light meal.
¾ pound of spaghetti, cooked
Sea salt to taste
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
¾ teaspoon lemon pepper
1 cup Roma tomatoes, chopped
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Marjoram or basil for garnish
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and salt. (Italian chefs recommend salting the water to the salinity of sea water). Cook pasta, several minutes, until al dente (not overcooked). Drain. Do not rinse. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over low heat, then add garlic and sauté, do not overcook. Stir-fry tomatoes in same pan. Transfer drained pasta to warm serving bowl. Add the garlic and tomatoes to pasta. Toss. Top with cheese. Makes 4 servings.
Healing Highlights From Nature’s Garden-Fest
- Garlic has been appreciated for more than 5,000 years. Sure, its origin goes back to Asia but it was also cultivated and used in ancient Europe.
- This Mediterranean herb contains a mega-amount of antioxidants.
- Not only is garlic heart-healthy due to its disease-fighting compounds, it also has immune-enhancing properties.
- It’s these ingredients, such as allicin, in garlic that may help to guard against viral infections, including colds and flu.
- Garlic can be consumed raw or cooked and enjoyed for its aroma, flavor and health benefits.
- Amazingly, garlic is also used topically, which provides many benefits to help heal skin infections and inflammation.
Adapted from The Healing Powers of Herbs & Spices: A Complete Guide to Nature’s Timeless Treasures, Kensington.
About Cal Orey
Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, Superfoods, Essential Oils, Herbs and Spices) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.)
For more information, visit www.calorey.com