We've known for some time that garlic is a nutritional powerhouse. It's been shown to boost immunity; relax blood vessels to open up blood flow and reduce blood pressure; quell inflammation, a known trigger of premature aging and disease; protect blood vessels from damage, thus lowering the risk of heart disease; and even protect against osteoarthritis.
Now, a new Korean study published in the Journal of Nutrition shows garlic may help with weight control as well. Researchers fed mice a fattening diet for eight weeks to plump them up, then served them the same diet supplemented with 2 percent or 5 percent garlic for another seven weeks. The addition of garlic reduced the mice's body weights and fat stores and lessened the effects of the unhealthy diet on the animals' blood and liver values. Yet another reason to savor the "stinking rose," as it's affectionately called by those who love it.
To get the most bang for your bulb, crush fresh garlic, then let it sit at room temperature for a full 10 minutes before cooking. Several studies have shown that this helps retain about 70 percent of its beneficial natural compounds compared to cooking it immediately after crushing. That's because crushing the garlic releases an enzyme that's been trapped in the cells of the plant. The enzyme boosts levels of health-promoting compounds, which peak about 10 minutes after crushing. If the garlic is cooked before this, the enzymes are destroyed. (Related: 5 Brilliant Ways to Get More Nutrients Out of Your Produce)
Oh, and if you adore this herb as I do, and you haven't tried black garlic, it's amazing. Free from additives and preservatives, black garlic is made from whole garlic that's been aged for at least a month in a special fermentation process under high heat, which gives it a darker color and sweeter taste. It's been shown to pack twice as many antioxidants as raw garlic, and it's so soft you can easily spread it. I love to slather it onto whole-grain crackers as a snack along with lemony hummus and veggies. (Read more: The Top 20 Weight-Loss Foods That Won't Leave You Feeling Hungry)