The Science Behind Garlic and What You Should be Doing to Maintain it’s Health Benefit

GArlic

These days there is a month and a day to celebrate anything – April just happens to be National Garlic Month. While we can blame Bram Stoker for our association of garlic to ward off vampires; garlic has been studied and used throughout history to ward off a variety of diseases and health conditions. A PubMed search beginning with “garlic and” will show a wide variety of studies looking at garlic supplementation and health conditions ranging from the effects of garlic on cardiovascular disease and cancer to its effect on the common cold.

While recent scientific reviews show dispute between the type of garlic supplement and its effect on disease – one thing many of us can agree on is garlic adds great flavor to food. So what about using actual garlic, are we getting any nutritional benefit? In garlic the compound allicin is what provides the health benefits – it also gives garlic is distinctive taste and smell.

1 gram of garlic cloves provide 2,500 – 4,500 micrograms of allicin. One fresh garlic clove weighs 2 – 4 grams (1). While it is hard to compare the allicin content of whole food garlic to supplemental garlic used in research studies – observational studies of cardiovascular disease and the Mediterranean diet show a cardio-protective effect of the diet. The high, whole food, garlic content of this diet is just one aspect of the Mediterranean diet providing this cardio-protective effect.

Research has shown that cooking the garlic uncrushed has caused a loss of allicin (the compound providing the health benefit) when heated. To partially conserve the health benefits of allicin found in garlic it is recommended by some scientists that you crush or chop the garlic then allow it to “stand” for 10 minutes prior to cooking (1).

GarlicPress

Garlic provides a strong spicy flavor that sweetens when cooked. By using crushed or cut garlic (that we have allowed to “stand” for 10 minutes) we are gaining some of the health benefits of allicin and inadvertently increasing our health through removing sauces, dips, and / or salt. Processed sauces and dips have the potential to contain added sugar, preservatives and lots of sodium.

Bottom Line:
While the debate remains as to how much and what kind of garlic extract provides the most health benefit, consider adding more whole food garlic to your diet as a means of gaining garlic’s allicin benefit AND reducing processed food intake.  Also, in cooking be sure to crush the garlic (or cut the cloves) and allow to stand for 10 minutes before heating to help maintain allicin’s health benefit.

To begin incorporating more garlic in your meals try some of these Andrea Approved recipes for ways to increase your garlic intake in celebration of April being National Garlic Month!

GarlicRoasted

Simply Recipe’s Roasted Garlic Cloves

*Be sure to let your cut cloves sit for 10 minutes before roasting.

Add your roasted garlic cloves to:
– Skillet dishes or stir fries
– Soups
– Pasta or zucchini noodle dishes
– Homemade hummus
– Homemade pizza
– Mashed potatoes
– Mashed sweet potatoes
– Mashed cauliflower

Simple Balsamic Salad Dressing

Ingredients
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar (be sure the ingredient list does not contain caramel coloring)
1 tbsp agave nectar
2 garlic cloves crushed
**feel free to add 1 tbsp of fresh herb of choice or 1 tsp of dried herb of choice

Directions
1. Combine all the ingredients in a salad cruet or Mason jar.

 

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Sources

1. Linus Pauling Institute. “Garlic and Organosulfur Compounds.” LPI. Oregon State