January is a hard time to eat locally. Vegetables that store well, like winter squash and onions, make great from-the-garden winter eating. But perhaps my most reliable and delicious winter ingredient is garlic.
I’ve blogged about why growing garlic is good for your garden. But garlic is also good for your body. It has been used medicinally since at least 1550 BC. And while some previous studies have reported no health benefits from various forms of concentrated garlic, a new study published last week in Clinical Nutrition ESPEN found that garlic, or at least aged garlic extract, reduced markers of chronic inflammation.
Aged garlic extract is chemically similar to garlic, minus the compounds that give garlic its distinctive smell. It’s made by storing garlic in ethanol for several months.
The study’s authors were interested in chronic inflammation, which often accompanies obesity, because it may contribute to cardiovascular disease. They tested whether aged garlic extract lowered chronic inflammation in 55 obese participants. Half of the participants ate aged garlic extract capsules and the other half ate placebo capsules for six weeks in a double-blind design.
Blood-work of participants who ate the aged garlic extract contained fewer markers of inflammation than those who didn’t. Levels of LDL, the ‘bad’ cholesterol, also decreased in aged garlic extract eaters. The participants’ weight and blood pressure didn’t change.
Previous studies suggest that aged garlic extract can lower cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, and shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms, among other things. However, concentrated garlic extracts can increase your risk of bleeding and should not be taken with aspirin, warfarin, or within 10 days of surgery.
I’ve never tried aged garlic extract, but I love garlic. My supply is holding up well in the basement. And next year’s crop is buried underneath the snow, ready to be the first green of the spring and delicious, healthy eating for next winter.
For information about how to grow garlic, see my previous garlic post.