Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Power of Herbs - Garlic

I’m guessing that there are not too many people out there that haven’t heard about the benefits of garlic. I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with garlic. We know it’s good for us, but the trail it leaves behind is not so good. I’m talking about the garlic breath and the garlicky smelling sweat from the next day’s workout.

But there is no denying that garlic should be included in our diets. I remember a classic experiment we did as an undergrad in Microbiology class. We began with a Petri dish of solid growth medium that had a lawn of bacteria growing on it. We added a small piece of raw garlic to the middle of the dish, covered it, and let it incubate overnight. The next morning, there was a dead zone surrounding the piece of garlic where the bacteria had died and were unable to re-grow.

The main active compounds in garlic are sulfur-containing and include allicin. Besides acting as an antibacterial, garlic also exhibits antiviral and antifungal properties and can be used to fight and prevent a cold. It is strongly anti-inflammatory and has been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing the oxidative damage done to blood vessel walls, lowering the accumulation of plaque. Its vasodilative effect also relaxes the blood vessels, which helps to lower blood pressure.

Garlic also has anti-cancer properties. Diallyl sulfide (DAS), a sulfur-containing compound in garlic has been shown to inhibit the conversion of heterocyclic amines that are produced by cooking meat at high heat, into carcinogens in the liver.

To get the most benefits out of garlic, it should be crushed or chopped and allowed to sit for 5-10 minutes for the conversion of alliin to alllicin. Although some may not be able to take the heat of raw garlic, but it is best to eat it as close to raw as possible. Still, there is nothing better than the aroma of sautéed garlic or garlic roasting in the oven. To retain its health benefits, add it into dishes at the end of cooking.

Just 3 cloves of fresh garlic have the following micronutrient profile with trace amounts of additional vitamins and minerals:

% Daily Value

Vitamin C 5

Vitamin B6 6

Manganese 8

Calcium 2

Selenium 2

Here are some ways to add garlic to the diet:

  • Add it into hummus or pesto
  • Use it minced in dressings
  • Include it in sauces and soups
  • Mix it into a marinade
  • Chop off the top and roast it in the oven, then spread the soft cloves on bread : )
  • Make garlic-flavored oil by soaking the cloves (this should not be stored at room temperature)
  • Use the tender shoots, or scapes in dressings, soups, stir-frys, or on salads
Can you think of more??

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