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National Garlic Day: Health and Nutrition Facts About the Plant Shunned by the British Royal Family

Garlic is a perennial favorite ingredient found in stalwart comfort foods. But how much do you know about it? Is it a herb or a plant? Is it from Italy or China?

In celebration of National Garlic Day (April 19) we've brought together all the fragrant foodstuff facts you need to know.

What Is Garlic?

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, garlic, also known as Allium sativum, is a plant of the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae), a relative to the lily. It is native to central Asia, and it also grows wild in Italy and southern France. The plant itself can reach 60 centimeters (1.96 feet) tall, but the bulb is what is used as a cooking ingredient.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, over 28 million tons of garlic was produced across the world in 2017. China was the main producer, pushing out over 22 million tons.

What Do We Use Garlic For?

Garlic has several different uses, but mainly it is used in cooking. It is part of the same family as the onion, and is often used alongside it. The cloves within the bulb, which has been dried in the sun, are the most used, though sometimes the bulbs can be smoked for a different flavor. 

In ancient and medieval times, garlic was prized for its medicinal properties and was thought to protect against imagined evils such as vampires, according to Britannica. 

How Nutritional Is Garlic? 

One small clove is packed with some beneficial nutrients, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture. These include:

  • Water - 1.76 g
  • Potassium - 12 mg
  • Phosphorus - 5 mg
  • Calcium - 5 mg
  • Magnesium - 1 mg
  • Sodium - 1 mg

Based on on one garlic clove (3g), this might not seem like a lot. But adding one or two gloves to a meal each day could make all the difference in helping in lowering cholesterol and developing strong bones, especially for women experiencing menopause, according to a 1994 study in the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians.

It also only holds 4 calories per clove. 

Does Garlic Have Any Health Benefits?

While evidence to suggest that garlic has healing properties is limited, studies have found that garlic can help in dealing with an illness.

According to a study by the University of Copenhagen, “an active sulphurous compound found in garlic can be used to fight robust bacteria in patients with chronic infections.” This means that it destroys the “biofilm” of resistant bacteria that makes antibiotics work again.

LA BioMed published an article in the Journal of Nutrition on how aged garlic extract could reduce dangerous plaque buildup in arteries and prevent the progression of heart disease.

According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers from Kyungpook National University and other institutions in the Republic of Korea found that garlic which had “sprouted for five days had higher antioxidant activity than fresher younger bulbs.”

The plant has also been linked to better memory in Alzheimers' studies on mice.

Is Garlic Good for the Common Cold?

According to a study discussed on PubMedtaking one garlic supplement over a 12-week period could help in preventing common colds and aid in speedier recoveries.

Is the Royal Family of Great Britain Allowed to Eat Garlic?

Unfortunately, not everyone is a fan of eating garlic cloves. Queen Elizabeth II has been reported to dislike the plant and has banned it from royal menus. 

Other members of the royal household also refrain from eating garlic. According to the report, the queen’s daughter-in-law, Camilla Parker Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall, confirmed the royal family is indeed not supposed to eat garlic.

“I hate to say this, but garlic…is a no-no,” Bowles replied when asked about royal dietary restrictions during an appearance on MasterChef Australia in 2018.

This article was updated to include information on the researchers behind the study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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