Super foods, the ultimate health foods – Garlic

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Thursday, 26 February 2009.

Super foods, the ultimate health foods – Garlic

Long hailed as ‘nature's penicillin', garlic was used as a medicinal by the ancient Egyptians, Vikings and Chinese. The slaves who toiled to build the Great Pyramid kept their strength up with a ration of garlic and onion each day.

Lowers cholesterol

Both fresh and dried garlic have been shown to lower LDL-cholesterol, lower high blood pressure and help dissolve clots, although not all studies agree. The dose required is quite large for most of us - 10 to 20 grams fresh garlic (2 to 4 cloves) a day or 600-900 milligrams of powder garlic. Garlic's pungent odour comes from allicin and other sulphur compounds which at present are credited with being its active agents - odourless garlic tablets are not as effective.


Only in recent times have garlic's powers been supported by scientific and medical research. Pasteur first documented its broad-spectrum anti-bacterial activity in 1858, which gave it the oft-quoted title of ‘nature's penicillin'. Today research has proven that garlic can slow the growth of harmful bacteria, yeasts and fungi. It is yet to be proven that garlic can keep vampires at bay so keep your silver bullets handy!

Fresh is best

To be effective against bacteria, garlic must be eaten fresh. Fresh garlic can slow the growth of bacteria and fungi and is always the best choice if you are seeking its anti-bacterial or anti-viral qualities. Many garlic devotees finely chop one or two cloves and simply swallow them with the help of a small glass of juice; others prefer to add the raw garlic to salads and enjoy it with a meal. Or you could try the pungent garlic paste that is often served with chicken in Lebanese cuisine.

Nutrition stats

Per serve

Two cloves garlic (weighing 6 g) supply: less than 1 g protein, trace of fat, trace of sugar, less than 1 g starch, 2 g dietary fibre and 30 kilojoules (7 calories).

Per 100  g fresh garlic:

6 per cent protein, 3 per cent fat, 2 per cent sugars, 9 per cent starch, 17 per cent dietary fibre and 520 kilojoules (124 calories).


Easy ways to enjoy garlic

  • Slice the top off a whole head of garlic and roast for 30 minutes or until soft. Squeeze the soft thick garlic puree out of each clove and spread over toast or use in cooking. It's much milder than fresh crushed garlic.
  • Use plenty of chopped or sliced garlic in your stir-fries and curries.
  • Roast baby potatoes in olive oil, garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs.
  • Add a couple of crushed cloves of garlic to enliven any salad dressing.