Home sweet home. We’ve all gotten well acquainted with our digs over the last year, more so than ever before. How about your kitchen? Gotten to know every nook and cranny, I’m sure, as cooking is on a path to becoming the new normal post COVID. 

In fact, according to a recent study by the food and beverage communications firm Hunter, many people say they’ll continue with their cooking habits even after we get back to some semblance of normality. I would bet most of us could now give the capricious Gordon Ramsey a run for his money!

While I’ve missed eating out and supporting our local businesses, I do love to cook. I know the exact ingredients I’m putting into my meals, and I like that, too. 

When it comes to cooking, the one staple I can’t live without is the stinking rose. Yes, garlic – that ubiquitous, sticky, delicious, aromatic, awesome vegetable; not only because I’m Italian, but also because of its countless health benefits. 

For one, garlic contains antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals, boosting our overall health and even potentially reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s believed that the aromatic bulb was used by Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, to treat many health issues, including poor digestion, fatigue and parasites. It’s also a known mosquito repellent. Perhaps the reason for that is obvious! 

Yes, garlic is a staple that has more than proven its dietary worth. It’s even been noted to have been used as a weapon against the plague during the Middle Ages. 

We’ve also heard it can help prevent cancer, maybe. It does contain phytochemicals, which are believed to protect against heart disease, and yes, cancer – specifically stomach and colorectal cancers. 

People have used garlic to fend off the flu or a cold for centuries. If you understand that garlic contains 17 different amino acids, which aid in maintaining normal body functions, as well as vitamins A, C and B-1, calcium, iron and magnesium, then it stands to reason that garlic does a body good. 

So, how can you maximize these benefits? When you cut or crush fresh garlic, healthful compounds are released, which kill more than 20 types of bacteria, including salmonella. Thus, eating it shortly after you cut or crush it will give you the most health benefits.

When you heat garlic, the bulb yields a different kind of magic during the cooking process and forms yet another new compound that can prevent clogged arteries. Heated garlic increases the herb’s ability to reduce blood pressure and lower a person’s cholesterol levels. Not so worried about garlic breath now, are you? 

I could go on and on extolling the virtues of my favorite superfood, so I’ll leave you with this… 

There’s a reason that every year since 1979, there’s a grand festival in Gilroy, California, starring all things garlic. Perhaps it’s no surprise that it was the brainchild of an Italian. Salute!

Janet Zappala is the author of My Italian Kitchen Homestyle Recipes Made Lighter & Healthier available on www.Amazon.com. She’s also a certified nutritional consultant, an Emmy award-winning news anchor and reporter, and the creator and host of Your Health Matters. Find her on Facebook @JanetZappalaYourHealthMatters.

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