It’s flu season again. Every year those nasty little viruses take hold of our bodies (probably to get a bit of warmth) and rule just about everything we say, do, feel, or think–at least for a few days. This year’s swine flu has people particularly nervous. If you’re trying to survive flu season unscathed or to beat the flu you already have, make sure you eat plenty of garlic. Your friends won’t like you, but neither will the flu bugs and other viruses you want to keep at bay.
Not only does garlic beat off flu viruses, that small clove helps lower high blood pressure, prevents hardening of the arteries and lessens cholesterol buildup in the heart. Thanks to many studies on garlic’s medicinal properties, we also know it is antibacterial and antifungal. Research even implicates garlic in the prevention of stomach cancer and in giving the immune system an overall boost. Just what the doctor ordered at this time of year.
While garlic contains potassium and germanium, two minerals that are critical to health, it is best known for its sulfur compounds, particularly allicin. These are the main phytochemicals (natural plant chemicals) you’ll want in your diet.
Unfortunately, many manufacturers of garlic supplements haven’t captured enough of the active ingredient to make the pills worth popping. However, some of the aged garlic extracts are effective. Forget garlic powder you can purchase in most grocery stores. It is the lazy person’s garlic and doesn’t offer many rewards in exchange for the saved time. Pill or powder, neither compares to the real thing.
So, heat up your oven and start chopping. It’s time to throw some fresh garlic into your favorite soup, stew, chili, stir-fry, meat, or veggie dish. For those of you scared to offend the significant other in your life, try roasting garlic by cutting off the stem, exposing the top of each clove and drizzling a bit of olive oil over it. Wrap it in foil or place in a garlic roaster and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour. This greatly minimizes its powerful aroma but creates a spread that tastes fabulous and has the consistency of butter. For even more potent health benefits, add raw garlic to your meal after it has been cooked. Or, top your favorite toasted bread with minced garlic, some sea salt, chopped tomatoes and a dash of olive oil for a fast and delicious bruschetta.
There are three main types of garlic: Creole, Italian or Mexican, and Tahitian. Most of the garlic on our grocery store shelves comes from California and is likely of the Creole variety. Italian or Mexican garlic is a bit smaller than its Creole counterpart and has a slightly purplish-coloured skin. Tahitian garlic is also known as elephant garlic largely because of its size. It is several times larger than its Creole, Italian or Mexican sisters. But, don’t let the size fool you. When it comes to garlic, good things come in small packages; the Italian or Mexican variety is the most potent.
Look for garlic that is firm and free of black mildew on the skin. Store it at room temperature in a well-ventilated spot such as a garlic keeper. Most experts suggest trying to get at least one clove a day to reap the maximum health benefits. But, if your taste buds shout for more, let them have it.
So, if your flu hasn’t already abandoned ship at all this talk of garlic, whip up a garlic-laden dinner and it will be running scared.
So will your friends, you say? Find some friendship among fellow garlic eaters. And consider that Roman centurions marched side-by-side into battle and across the European countryside sporting their finest military garb and cloves of garlic between their toes (to ward off fungal infections).
How’s that for friendship among the ranks?