Sunday, February 19, 2012

Superfood Sunday: The Power of Garlic

When I think of superfoods, the foods that normally come to mind are nutrient-dense foods that are not usually part of our diets.  In the past, I have focused on these foods.  However, garlic contains enough healing and therapeutic properties to put it in a superfood class.  Used as a culinary flavor enhancer in recipes from around the world, this bulb food (part of the same family as onions and chives, Allium) does a lot more than enhancing the flavor of food.

A native to Central Asia, garlic includes several subspecies, with the most popular varieties being the white and purple cloves.  Several studies confirm that garlic can lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease and fight cancer cells.  In addition, garlic has been established to have anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral activity.  It also has a long history in traditional medicine as a remedy for colds, infections, and digestive disorders.  A little known fact about garlic is that it contains a high amount of vitamin C, which supports the immune system and prevents scurvy.

Because it has a high amount of sulfur (like other spicy foods), garlic is considered to be a beauty food.  Sulfur-containing compounds protect the skin from free radical damage and support collagen growth.  In fact, it may be one of the reasons the Mediterranean diet keeps people young and beautiful.  The French and Italians along the Mediterranean are known for using garlic liberally in their food.

The only significant downside to eating garlic is its effect on the breath and body odor.  Eating raw garlic certainly poses this problem for many raw foodists.  There are a couple of things you can do to alleviate this uncomfortable side effect.  First, eating garlic with fresh parsley takes care of the breath problem.  Parsley freshens the breath and also aids in the digestion of parsley.  In fact, many dark greens can help with people who have digestion problems.  Second, aged garlic is becoming more popular and more readily available.  By aging garlic, many of the odor-causing properties are neutralized.  The flavor continues to exist during the aging process, but digestion and assimilation is easier.  Finally, eating garlic with probiotics also seems to curb some or all of these effects.  Adding coconut kefir, raw sauerkraut or other fermented foods is a great way to improve digestion and assimilation.

However you decide to add garlic to your diet, you really don't want to miss out on this versatile superfood.  It's an amazing way to balance flavor, spice up your meal and boost your body's ability to fight disease.  Most recommendations suggest that you can eat up to three or four bulbs of garlic a day.  Enjoy and be healthy!

Mystic Merman

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