For thousands of years, this popular crop has been enhancing meals and health.

Aromatic and distinct in flavor, garlic can add spice to a wide variety of dishes, dressings and sides. While pop culture has led us to believe they can ward off vampires, these powerful cloves are more regarded for packing a healthy punch.

Garlic is a vegetable bulb and close relative to leeks, chives and onions. It is among the oldest known crops, dating back to cultures 5,000 years ago. Today, garlic only grows wild in Central Asia.

Garlic is a good source of manganese, vitamins C and B6, calcium and selenium. It is widely used to treat high cholesterol, heart attack, coronary heart disease and hypertension.

Keep it fresh

– Store garlic at room temperature in a container with good air circulation like a wire basket or paper bag
– Storing garlic in sealed plastic containers or a refrigerator promotes mold and sprouting

Garlic contains allicin, a sulphur compound that offers a host of health benefits. The results of a few epidemiological studies suggest that high intakes of garlic and other allium vegetables (e.g., onions and leeks) may help protect against gastric and colorectal cancer. According to information produced at Oregon State University, in an area of China associated with low mortality from gastric (stomach) cancer, 82 percent of men and 74 percent of women reportedly consumed garlic at least three times weekly.

The vegetable’s organosulphur compounds are also believed to cut inflammation, and people who suffer from autoimmune diseases might be helped by including garlic in their diets.

Garlic is also rich in antioxidants — substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage. As people age, harmful particles called free radicals build up and contribute to heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Not only will antioxidants like those found in garlic fight off free radicals, they may reduce or prevent some of their damage.

If the thought of cooking with garlic doesn’t excite you, it’s health benefits are available in supplement form. In fact, garlic supplements are hugely popular in the U.S. These supplements are made from whole fresh garlic, dried or freeze-dried garlic, garlic oil and aged garlic extracts. However, not all supplements contain the same amount of active ingredients. It is important to read the label carefully.

Whether sliced, minced or crushed, garlic is a tried and true vegetable that will not only enhance a meal, but your health, too.

Need a Superfood recipe? Try one of these:

Roasted garlic hummus
Garlic-grilled chicken and vegetables
Garlic roasted carrots

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