"Finally!" I hear you say. A superfood you can get behind. The world would agree with you! By 2025, this aromatic lily's estimated annual global consumption will surpass 31.1 MILLION tons. Weighing in at an impressive 75%, China takes the cake for both the production and consumption of garlic.
No other produce item has seen this sort of meteoric climb from the 1920s, like garlic. Year after year, global consumption was up, save for the US from 2004 to 2008. Guess we were just too focused on Britney Speares and Janet Jackson. So, let's get the focus back where it belongs, on garlic... June's superfood!
Garlic: A History
Exactly how far back have our ancestors been eating garlic? According to the earliest records, our Egyptian and Indian ancestors made mention of it 5000 years ago. The Babylonians had cultivated it 4500 years ago. Some Chinese texts make mention of the Chinese growing garlic as early as 4000 years ago. To that fact, this area of Asia is considered garlic's center of origin. This just means that it's the only place where garlic truly grows wild and flourishes.
It is also one of the earliest recorded currencies used during the time of the great pyramids of Egypt. A garlic shortage caused by the flooding of the Nile River actually caused one of the two recorded Egyptian slave revolts. Being paid to the poor and rather smelly, garlic was looked down on by the upper crust of society even though garlic on the crust is delicious! I digress.
Greeks were barred access to their temples if they couldn't pass a garlic breath test. Ancient Indian nobility did not wish to smell garlic due to its association with smelling like the commoners. In England, it was deemed unsuitable for courting youth to have garlic breath. Unfortunately, that way of thinking stuck in the colonies. Knights of King Alfonso de Castille would be banished from the company of polite society for a week. So I can eat garlic and avoid tedious small talk? Sign me up!
Speaking of knights, the crusaders brought garlic back to Europe from their, well... crusading. As stated before, Americans really didn't hang a fang in garlic properly until the 1940s. However, garlic consumption in the United States has more than tripled since 1990 and is lauded for its many health benefits.
So good that it has to be bad, right?
It's true! While garlic itself is highly nutritious and low in calories, it is added to things that we wouldn't necessarily call health food.
Take, for example, Provino's garlic roll. Akin to the chips and salsa of your Mexican restaurant, this devious little bowl of delicious is never-ending. I still haven't figured out how to walk away from that restaurant without reeking of garlic and uncomfortably full of carbs.
However, for one little old clove of garlic, the nutrition is high while calories are low. If you get an average clove of garlic, it'll weigh around 3g. That 3g contains 4.5kcal, .2g protein, and 1g of carbs. Not a whole lot of each of your macros for the day. So, the power of deduction tells us that the micronutrients make this food a powerhouse.
With the same 3g serving of garlic, you get:
Manganese (2% of Daily Value (DV)): This mineral aids the body in forming connective tissue, and bones, aids in blood clotting, and the production of sex hormones. It also plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, absorption of calcium, and blood sugar regulation.
Vitamin B6 (2% DV): Primarily maintains a normal amount of amino acids in the blood for better circulation. B6 is also proven to strengthen your immune system and guard the body against infections. This vitamin has also been shown to improve brain function and lower the risks of some cancers.
Vitamin C (1% DV): Ah, the best-known antioxidant friend of folks everywhere. Vitamin C is responsible for the breakdown of free radicals that infiltrate the body from tobacco smoke, sun radiation, x-rays, and a number of other sources.
Selenium (1% DV): This mineral is essential for various enzyme and protein production. These selenoproteins help make DNA and protect against cell damage and infections.
Fiber (.6% DV): Regulates the body's use of sugar, keeps satiety levels high, and promotes overall gut health.
Good for Heavy Metal... Not the Music.
A month-long study was done pitting high doses of garlic against the drug D-penicillamine, which is created to lower lead levels in the blood. Who better to test this out than employees at a car battery plant?
Garlic, taken daily for four weeks, reduced lead levels in the blood by 19%, and it actually outperformed the medication made for the same reason. Go, mother nature!
The bottom line remains that garlic has way more benefits than downsides, so don't worry about that garlic breath. Garlic supplements are readily available, and adding garlic to your diet is both easy and delicious. This stinky member of the onion family was made to enhance flavor while not adding anything bad to a dish. So move aside sodium; there's a new flavor bringer in the house!
Make sure to get garlic in whatever form you can. Not only will it make you a better cook, but it'll also make you a healthier person! You know, if you skip covering it in fats and cheeses. Fine, every now and again is alright. Get some garlic this June! It aids the beach body or body by burritos!