- Food and Cooking
Health Benefits of Garlic
Garlic Health Benefits
Daily consumption of garlic can prevent and even help to cure many health problems. Not only is it a delicious seasoning, adding great flavor to numerous foods, but it is also anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. Garlic consumed in small doses, and consumed often, is an excellent supplement. It should be included as part of your healthy diet and healthy lifestyle. Its specific benefits will be reviewed here.
Garlic has been a cultivated herb since ancient times - as far back as 2000 B.C. in China.
It was considered to , and act as an aphrodisiac. These all seem to make sense, as it does have blood thinning properties.
Hippocrates, the man considered to be the father of modern medicine, used garlic to treat cancerous tumors.
In 1858, Louis Pasteur, verified that garlic has antiseptic properties. Throughout history it has been shown to be a strong anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral and anti-parasitic herb. This has been verified by numerous studies.
In WW1, even though penicillin had already been discovered, if there was a shortage or lack of penicillin, medics and doctors would use garlic on the wounded to prevent infections and gangrene. It was placed raw on the wounds, and may have saved many lives.
Garlic is composed of a variety of enzymes, flavonoids, antioxidants, and minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and selenium. The vitamins it contains are vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
Two very important components are the sulphur-containing compounds - allicin, and diallyl sulphide. We will look at these a little more closely.
Both the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society have endorsed scientific evidence pointing to garlic's anti-tumor properties. A healthy immune system is necessary to fight cancer, and we already know conclusively that garlic supports that system. It appears that it also has the ability to reduce the formation of cancerous cells, and slow the growth of tumor cells. Studies show compounds in garlic slow the rate of growth in the tumor, even reducing the tumor size by half. In reference to breast cancer, it has been shown that garlic contains compounds that can actually prevent carcinogens from attaching to breast cells. What are these compounds? They are diallyl-sulphide and s-allycystein, or allicin! Yet another sulphur component or garlic is ajoene, which is also noted for its "antitumor" abilities.
It is thought that the allicin in the garlic plant helped it to ward of fungus and insects. Its anti-fungal properties may be beneficial; to us as well. Allicin is produced when garlic is finely chopped or crushed. It starts to break down almost immediately, so its medicinal effects decrease quickly as well. Cooking and microwaving also destroy its benefits. Therefore, to use most effectively, you should crush a little and combine it with cooked food shortly before serving.
Diallyl-sulphides, a similar ingredient, is less volatile than allicin, and will survive in cooking somewhat better. Sulphides are found to lower levels of bad cholesterol, so garlic is also good for heart and cardiovascular health. Once again the garlic should be chopped or crushed.
As mentioned previously, another benefit of garlic to heart health is its ability to help control our blood pressure by thinning our blood. The chemical found in garlic, called ajoene, thins the blood and keeps clots from forming. Studies show that in populations where there is more garlic consumed, there is also a reduced incidence of hypertension and heart disease. The Mediterranean diet of Greece, exemplifies this. The diet is famous for reducing the risk of tumors, cardiovascular disease, lowering blood pressure, thinning the blood to prevent the formation of blood clots, and preventing atherosclerosis.
A study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food, found that sulfur compounds found in both garlic and onions help to promote the absorption of of iron and zinc found in whole grains. therefore, combining these with whole grains results in positive health benefits. Iron helps shuttle oxygen to cells; zinc is needed for healthy immunity and repairing wounds. Adding sautÃ©ed onions or garlic to whole-grain dishes takes them beyond ordinary-and now we see it makes whole grains healthier too.
Store fresh garlic in either an uncovered or a loosely covered container in a cool, dark place away from heat, sunlight and other foods. It should keep for about a month this way. Don't refrigerate or freeze unpeeled garlic. Peeled garlic, roasted garlic and garlic in oil should be kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator to inhibit bacteria growth.
Garlic Storage Containers
Even though cooked garlic loses much of its health advantages, there is no denying that roasted garlic is still delicious. I personally enjoy spreading it on crusty wheat bread. I want to include my method of roasting that I find easier.
1. First separate the cloves, and drop them into boiling water for a minute or two to allow the skins to come off easily.
2. Fold over the edges of the pouch on the three open sides and put in my toaster oven at 325 degrees ( I don't like to heat up my full size oven for something so small.)
3. Take a peek in the pouch after about 40 minutes to check the progress and flip the pouch over for more even browning. It may take up to an hour to cook. Toaster ovens vary considerably so you will have to do a test run on time and temperature. Try not to raise the temperature much, because the cloves will cook too fast and be hard on the ends. Aim for a soft clove that is a light brown color.
4. Spread over warm French bread, mix with sour cream for a topping for baked potatoes, or mix it in with Parmesan and pasta.
An Easy, Healthy Garlic & Onion Pasta Sauce
Start with a bottle or can of marinara sauce, and end with a chunky, homemade-style pasta sauce. (Read the label and pick out a healthy, low fat, low sugar option.)
* 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 2/3 cup chopped sweet onion
* 1/2 cup chopped red, yellow or orange bell pepper
* 2 teaspoons minced garlic
* A dash of black pepper
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
* 2 cups bottled or canned marinara sauce
* 1/4 cup red wine of choice, such as merlot (optional)
1. Add olive oil to a medium, nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add onion and bell pepper and saute until cooked (about 4 minutes).
2. Reduce heat to LOW. Stir in minced garlic and black pepper and cook about a minute more. Stir in fresh basil, marinara and wine (if desired) and simmer until the sauce is good and hot (a minute or two more). Serve with cooked pasta, chicken, fish, etc.
servings (about 3/4 cup to 1 cup each)
Per serving: 132 calories, 3 g protein, 17 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat, .9 g saturated fat, 3.8 g monounsaturated fat, 1.4 g polyunsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, about 500 mg sodium (depending on the marinara sauce used). Calories from fat: 41%.
Â© 2007 Elaine Magee