The Greek physician Hippocrates is often quoted as saying “let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”. There’s such a lot of truth in this, and nutritionists and health coaches like me have spent years studying what this actually means in real life. One of his secrets to lasting health was garlic, and he often prescribed it to his patients for its restorative power and life-extending potential.
I’m a massive garlic fan because many dishes are simply better with it in, but it is also a functional food, which means it actually does something above and beyond tasting good.
Here’s the science bit: garlic is packed with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, meaning it’s great at warding off infection. It contains high levels of vitamin C, known to for its immunity-boosting and disease-fighting properties. Indeed, a study even found that eating about two teaspoons or more of garlic a day could significantly reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
In addition to that, garlic has a high potassium content that can help the body absorb essential nutrients, helping your digestive system do its job properly. This all singing, all dancing ingredient also has anti-inflammatory compounds that can help our musculo-skeletal and respiratory systems.
Garlic is also an ace ingredient for helping your body to detox naturally. It contains several sulfur compounds that activate the liver enzymes responsible for expelling toxins from the body. It also has allicin and selenium, two important nutrients that play an important role in protecting the liver from damage.
Most of us will cook garlic straight after crushing or chopping, which doesn’t allow enough time for enzyme reactions that boost the healthy compounds in garlic. My tip for getting the most out of the garlic you use is to crush it at room temperature, and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Never cook at high heat – try eating it raw or lightly cooked for maximum health benefits (parsley is excellent for combatting garlic breath!).