Ingredient of the Month: Garlic

(Garlic cloves by Marco Bernardini/Flickr Creative Commons)

(Garlic cloves by Marco Bernardini/Flickr Creative Commons)

Garlic. Some will argue it’s smelly and others that it is tasty, but most will agree that it has plenty of health benefits.

Garlic is a spice that’s easy to get your hands on and adds tons of flavor to your meals–plus antioxidants [1]. Garlic is a good source of sulfur compounds (along with its family members, the onions. It’s why you cry when you cut them: the sulfur compounds become sulfuric acid in your eyes and you tear up to get that stuff the heck away from your delicate eye tissue).

While only two protein-building amino acids contain sulfur, they are essential to human life. The first is the essential methionine, which is the first amino acid in every single protein made by eukaryotic cells (that’s us!). The second is the only amino acid capable of forming disulfide bonds–an important part of protein folding–called cysteine. Our bodies can produce cysteine, but it we need sulfur to do so [4].

Garlic is  also protective against cancers of the digestive tract [2] and heart disease [1, 3]. In connection to its anti-cancer benefits, garlic has anti-inflammatory properties [6]. It’s even recommended to deal with heavy metal exposure, like lead-poisoning [5].

Of course, most people aren’t shunning garlic because it is good for them. More like they will be shunned for smelling like garlic. In a study published in April 2014, raw apple, parsley, lemon juice, and green tea all decreased the effects of bad garlic breath [4]. So, the moral seems to be cook garlic with parsley or reach for an anti-oxidant rich apple for dessert next time you indulge in garlic!

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