Garlic has been used to treat and prevent illness dating back well over 5000 years. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks used it for heart problems and headache; the Chinese used it for a variety of common ailments and to boost immunity. And modern scientific research confirms its curative powers. National Cancer Institute studies show that a diet rich in garlic may reduce risk of colorectal, stomach and prostate cancer by as much as half. Research also shows that garlic has antiviral properties that protect against infection and inflammation, may destroy certain flu viruses, and help kill intestinal parasites.
How can this little "rose" do so much? It contains a powerhouse of nutrients, including vitamins A and C; the minerals potassium, selenium, phosphorus and zinc; and amino acids. It also has an unusually high concentration of the sulfur compound allicin, which is a potent antibiotic and the compound primarily responsible for its healing properties.
If a little garlic each day keeps the doctor away, what's the best way to get it? Cooked or raw, all forms have health benefits, but raw garlic has the edge. It's simple to add it to a variety of dishes; for example:
o Top scrambled eggs with it.
o Add it chopped to cooked tomato sauce just before serving.
o Sprinkle it minced on a baked potato.
o Spread it minced on buttered, crusty bread.
And here's a classic with taste that's out of this world:
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Peel away the outer layers of the bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Using a knife, cut off 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of the top, exposing the individual cloves.
3. Place the garlic heads in a baking pan; muffin pans work well for this purpose. Drizzle a couple teaspoons of olive oil over each head, using your fingers to make sure the bulb is well coated. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 400°F for 30-35 minutes, or until the cloves feel soft when pressed.
4. Allow the garlic to cool enough so you can touch it without burning yourself. Use a small small knife cut the skin slightly around each clove. Use a cocktail fork or your fingers to pull or squeeze the roasted cloves out of their skins.
You can eat it as is or mash with a fork and use for cooking. It also can be spread over warm French bread, mixed with sour cream for a topping for baked potatoes, or mixed in with Parmesan and pasta. Fresh garlic generally offers the best prevention against disease, but eating more than three raw cloves a day may cause gas or bloating in some people. Additionally, not everyone enjoys the pungent aroma. If you'd rather not eat it, try a nutritional supplement. Research recently has shown that supplements containing an extract often work as effectively as fresh -- without the garlic breath.
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