A part of the onion family, garlic is a commonly used food that we humans absolutely love. It is a versatile food that is perfect with chicken, stir-frys, and in sauces. But the question begs, is it a root or a vegetable? In this short and sweet article, we look to answer that question directly, provide some fun facts, and name a few health benefits attached to the consumption of garlic (raw or cooked) that we think you will enjoy.
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What is garlic?
Grown underground, it is in the form of a bulb. Garlic has long green shoots that produce edible flower stalks called scapes. Covered in inedible papery skin, the bulb, or head, comprises individual sections called cloves. It has pale yellowish flesh within, used for cooking. When eaten raw, garlic has a powerful, pungent flavor. For that reason, it’s customary to cook it in some way before serving it, which mellows the flavour considerably. So, if you are wondering, the best way to avoid strong garlic breath is to cook the garlic first.
To Answer the Question
To be blunt about it, there is a case for both. Primarily, garlic is seen as a vegetable because it has a stalk, flowers, and roots, and because both the stems and the roots can be eaten, this does qualify garlic as a vegetable.
However, it can also be classified as a root because, after all, garlic bulbs grow under the ground. However, most people will commonly state that, seeing as it is a part of the onion family, it is a vegetable.
Looking to improve your overall health? Well if so, then perhaps you can start eating some garlic, because, as you will see below, there are several key health benefits that garlic allows for.
Various Medicinal Properties
Throughout history, garlic has been used by many different societies and empires as a means to provide improved health. How? Well when you chop or crush garlic, it releases a compound known as sulfur, and this enters your body through the digestive tract, allowing for aided digestion, and as you will learn below, reduced blood pressure, and better overall bone health.
Protection against Cold and Flu
Studies have taken place that prove garlic (or garlic supplements) greatly reduce the risk of contracting a cold. When compared to a simple placebo tablet, the garlic supplement saw a 60% reduction in the number of colds that were gotten, and when someone did get a cold, using the supplement helped to drastically reduce the length of symptoms (by up to 70% in many cases). There is certainly more research to be done in this area, but based on what we have seen so far, the science is promising.
A Reduction in Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is alarmingly common among people, and many of us dont even know that we have it. High blood pressure is such a concern because it is a leading cause for the likes of stroke or heart attack. However, garlic and garlic supplements have been shown to reduce blood pressure levels. So if you have found out that your blood pressure is high, perhaps some garlic supplement or extract could be worth trying for a few weeks. You might just see astounding results.
Improved Athletic Performance?
Before ‘pre-workout’ and energy drinks came along, garlic was used to enhance sporting performance. Particularly in ancient cultures like Greece (during the first few Olympic Games’). It is worth noting that little scientific research has been done on this, but studies on rats have shown an increase in overall exercise performance. However, in the small number of studies that have been done, garlic supplements (if taken regularly over a number of weeks) have been shown to reduce peak heart rate, and help users to achieve a better capacity for exercise. Si again, something worth considering.
Increased Bone Health
This ties in a little with athletic performance because after all, bone health and athletic performance work in tandem. Again, studies on rate have seen that garlic has increased estrogen levels in females, and as a result, bone loss is decreased. There have also been claims made that the likes of garlic and onion are beneficial for osteoarthritis.
Regardless of whether or not you are inclined to believe many of these supposed ‘health benefits’, the fact that so much research has been done and many small wins have been highlighted when it comes to garlic improving overall health, it is well worth at least trying out.
8 Fun Facts About Garlic
So we know that garlic is primarily a vegetable, and we are aware of the various health benefits that are said to be attached. Let’s lighten things up a little and introduced couple of fun facts that we bet you didn’t know about garlic:
- After the fall of Roman Empire, European countries used garlic for everything from food, medicine, to remedies in supernatural rituals.
- There are 450 varieties of garlic.
- Six bulbs of garlic were discovered in the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun (ruled 1332–1323 BC).
- 90% of United States garlic production comes from California.
- Many ancient cultures believed that garlic can protect us from evil spirits and ensure healthy birth of a child. Because of this, many European countries practiced the belief of placing garlic into rooms where childbirth was to be performed.
- Homer’s Odyssey mentions garlic.
- At around 46 billion pounds a year, China leads the world in terms of garlic production. 2/3rd of the world’s garlic is produced in China!
- Don’t like the garlic smell on your fingers? There’s a simple trick to get rid of it. Place your fingers underneath cold running water, grab a stainless steel object and rub your fingers with it. Voila! The smell will be gone.
In essence, garlic is a vegetable and also a root. The term “Root” is the shortened form of root vegetables, which garlic happens to fall into the category. Garlic is the most complicated species in the genus Allium, which looks like onion.
The garlic bulb at the root consists of 10 to 20 cloves packed together in a covering like paper, typically removed before consumption. The edible part within this papery skin is pale yellowish in color.
Root vegetables are used for their roots, like carrots, parsnips, potatoes, horseradish, and beets (although we also use beet greens a lot, but it is primarily grown for the root, otherwise we would just grow chard) Stem vegetables are grown for their stem such as celery, lemongrass, rhubarb, fennel, leek, and cardoon.
The Active Compounds in Garlic Can Reduce Blood Pressure Cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes are the world’s biggest killers. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most important drivers of these diseases. Similarly, a Chinese study of several hundred lung cancer patients found that regular consumption of raw garlic was associated with a lower risk of lung cancer. The primary side effect of garlic consumption is its blood-thinning properties.
If you prefer to eat garlic cloves directly: chop them up, place them on a spoon and consume to enjoy the benefits of eating raw garlic fully. You can attempt to minimize the garlic breath by consuming it at night. You can also try placing some honey on the spoon before you eat the garlic. The honey may mask the garlic flavor.