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The French, Spanish and Italians have the lowest heart disease rate in the world - thanks to the potent protection of garlic, olive oil and red wine.

The men swear that the wine is the most important ingredient in the health battle. The women say that it is the garlic and olive oil.

What's beyond dispute is that garlic is packed with vitamins and minerals and has been used down the centuries as a natural remedy for all kinds of ailments.

Doctors in Ancient Greece called it "the great panacea" and prescribed it regularly. The workers who built the Egyptian Pyramids were given garlic every day to build strength and prevent disease.

So what is it that makes this pungent relative of the onion family, which grows wild almost everywhere in the world, sohealthy?

Garlic is an antiseptic with antibiotic and antifungal actions. It can lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and clear fatty deposits in the blood vessels.

Herbalists prescribe garlic for a variety of reasons.

If you eat it daily or take it in tablet form, it can prevent all kinds of circulatory problems, help the immune system fight recurrent infections like coughs and colds, and is a natural substitute for powerful antibiotic drugs.

And you don't have to eat raw garlic or take the tablet form to benefit. If made into a syrup, garlic can be used to combat lung infections, such as bronchitis, sinusitis, and even intestinal worms. To make the syrup, place finely chopped garlic in a jar, cover with honey and leave for four days. Then strain off and give children, aged three and over, two teaspoons a day and adults four teaspoons.

As an infused oil it is highly effective, and as a chest rub to treat allergic asthma and hay fever, and can even be used as drops for ear infections. To make the oil simply chop fresh garlic and leave it in olive oil overnight, then strain off in the morning. As if that wasn't enough, garlic juice is often applied to fungal infections, while the itch of insect bites can be soothed by cutting a clove in half and rubbing it over the affected area.

If you fancy introducing this wonder plant into your health plan - but are too put off by the smell - then we've got a hot tip for you. Eating fresh parsley will reduce that nasty niff!

If you're off on a healthy picnic, remember to be generous with the garlic and olive oil. And here are some other tips...

Choose thin sliced wholemeal bread.

Try to take as many portion- controlled items as you can including hard-boiled eggs, whole tomatoes, individually-wrapped 1oz portions of cheese. If you take a whole cake you'll only hack off a large slice if you're hungry.

If fresh fruit will suffer in the heat, take individual Fruitini' tins by Del Monte. At about 77 calories each, they're packed with vitamins as a healthy alternative to fat-laden biscuits or ice cream.

On long walks it's no good if everyone falls by the wayside from tiredness. Try making a cool thermos of home-made banana milk shake rather than sugar- free fizzy cans.

The artificial sweeteners in diet colas is laxative and nutritionally they are rock bottom.

But the shake, made from skimmed milk, has fibre, vitamins, calcium and protein for stamina. Add a few strawberries to the blender to spice it up.

Better still, make everyone do their own meal from scratch. Time spent carving your slice of bread, shelling eggs and slicing tomatoes means they eat more slowly and there's more time between courses for the 'full' signal to reach the brain.

As well as using plenty of olive oil at your picnic, don't forget that cod liver oil is one of the oldest dietary supplements around. It's been used for centuries as a lubricant for joints, and anyone who was a child during the war will remember their daily helping.

Oh, and don't forget to pack the red wine if you want your picnic to go with a really healthy swing!
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 6, 1997
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