10/12/2012 08:55 EDT | Updated 11/22/2013 04:19 EST

Garlic Benefits: 7 Things You May Not Know About Garlic


It might make your breath a little stinky — but there's nothing bad about the benefits of garlic.

This weekend, Toronto will be warding off vampires and celebrating garlic at the second annual Garlic Festival at Evergreen Brick Works. This year's festival features varieties of garlic, garlic exhibits, local gardens and expert chefs.

But despite its popularity, garlic (or the "stinking rose") isn't just a tasty flavour for cooking — it's also a superfood for your health. Garlic has been known to be a great immune booster, especially during the cold and flu season. Garlic can also help reduce blood pressure, provide anti-clotting effects and give your body its needed dose of vitamins C and B6.

This year, the festival will uncover the "truths" about garlic, including rules for storing it and the journey of the smelly clove throughout history. It will also feature a garlic breath contest run by the Ontario Science Centre where people will have a chance to have the odour of their breath measured by a machine that looks at parts per million in order to determine, yes, whose is the worst.

In honour of one of our favourite cooking ingredients, here are 7 things you may not know about garlic:

Photo gallery 7 Things You May Not Know About Garlic See Gallery

Why Does It Give You Stinky Breath?

Garlic breath is determined by three major garlic elements: hydrogen sulphide, methanethiol and dimethyl sulphide. These compounds can actually increase the microbes that are already in your mouth that cause bad breath -- and they also go into your bloodstream, meaning its not only your breath that smells, but everything that comes out of your pores as well.

Keeping It In The Family

Allium sativum or garlic is actually part of the onion family. Other close relatives include onion, shallot, leek and chives -- could explain the stinky reputation of all of them.

Cashing In

Garlic may come in massive quantities now, but during the Mongol Empire, garlic was so precious it was used as currency.

The Diversity

Garlic is pretty diverse with over 17 sub-varieties, including purple and artichoke garlic, though the main distinction is "softneck" and "hardneck." The kind at the grocery store is softneck, though garlic connoisseurs swear by hardnecks' hotter flavour.

Watch Out :

Botulism, a form of bacterial spores can potentially grow in prepared garlic-in-oil that is not used immediately. These spores are not able to grow if they are exposed to oxygen, according to Canada Health. If garlic is covered in oil, the oxygen is removed and toxin-filled spores can spoil the garlic and cause a form a food poisoning. To be safe, use homemade garlic-in-oil immediately and refrigerate right away.

It's Hot In Here

Garlic burns very easily loses most of its nutritional values when heated — adding fresh garlic to your meals is the healthier alternative.

How To Store It

You don't need to put your garlic in the fridge. Garlic for consumption tastes best when stored at 0°C to 4°C.