Garlic is the hero in every kitchen, and we all love to add it to our special dishes. It is largely appreciated for its unique and pungent flavor. Although it is considered to be a spice, garlic is actually a vegetable from the allium family.
It is from the same family as onions, shallots, leeks, and chives. It is well known for its flavor-enhancing properties, but it is also a powerful agent that improves overall health.
The power of garlic is first noticed in the taste and aroma senses, which stimulate the salivary glands and digestive juices. Tasting and smelling food prepares our stomachs for the food.
Without them we will not be able to digest food properly and use its beneficial nutrients. This is one of the reasons why supplements are never as accepted as whole foods.
Swallowing a garlic capsule leaves out the first phase of digestion, and you will not get your salivary glands active after seeing a vegetable capsule, right? Use garlic to enhance the flavor of your dishes and start off the first phase of your digestion.
Health benefits of garlic
It is not only your digestive tract that benefits from the pungent bulb. According to Ayurveda , pungent tastes like the one garlic has can benefit both our lungs and large intestine.
Garlic works better for those with Dosha types of Kapha and Vata. Organosulfur compounds give garlic its pungent flavor, aroma, and health benefits.
These compounds aid in preventing and treating chronic diseases like cancer, inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases. Whole garlic cloves contain two classes of organosulfur compounds — γ-glutamylcysteines and cysteine sulfoxides.
It is not important that you remember these names. It is more important to understand what triggers these compounds. Crushing, mincing, pressing or chopping raw garlic cloves releases alliinase. Once this enzyme is released, it converts alliin into sulfenic acid.
The same thing happens in onions. By chopping an onion, you break open its cells and create sulfenic acids. In the case of onions, these release a gas that makes your eyes water.
The mutual reaction of sulfenic acids in garlic leads to the formation of allicin, and it is produced at the exact moment when your kitchen is filled with the pungent smell of garlic.
In other words, by chopping and crushing the garlic, you stimulate the enzyme allinase to convert alliin into allicin, which gives fresh garlic its aroma and health benefits.
Scientific literature provides thousands of books based on the potential of this ‘stinking rose,’ and many studies have proven its great effect in the treatment of over 150 different diseases.
We have separated the benefits of garlic in several categories:
- Cardiovascular health and circulation
Garlic prevents blood clotting, plague buildup, hypertension, and it regulates blood lipid levels.
The vegetable decreases the risk of developing osteoarthritis and other inflammation-induced ailments.
- Immune system
Garlic provides strong antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic potential.
It does miracles in the treatment of brain, lung, breast, gastric and pancreatic cancer.
Scientists are still trying to solve the mystery regarding the way human body absorbs these compounds.
It is known that our intestines absorb the allicin, same as 90% of all the nutrients, but it has never been tracked in blood, urine or stool samples, even after the subject has received 25g of raw garlic or 60mg of pure allicin.
So, these findings indicate that our body metabolizes allicin rapidly, and ‘garlic breath’ actually confirms the awesome bioavailability of garlic. Your garlic breath is only a sign of metabolized allicin, and it can be tracked and measured in your breath.
Use the maximum of your garlic
Now that you know the secret of metabolizing garlic, and the pathway of allicin and alliin, you should also know how to ‘extract’ the maximum of your garlic bulb.
You should not heat olive oil, and you should not brown or overcook your garlic. These are two basic roles. Cooked garlic has none of the benefits provided by raw garlic.
The most important thing you should remember is to mince or press your garlic, then let it rest for 5-10 minutes at room temperature to stimulate the enzyme reaction get your allicin.
If you mince your garlic clove, and just throw it into the pan, you will not get the reaction. Once the allicin is formed, you can cook your garlic for 10-15 minutes on medium-low heat. Anything more than this will destroy the allicin. However, we strongly recommend that you eat your garlic raw.
The following chart will show you how cooking can destroy the nutrients in garlic:
- Cook the garlic for 5-15 minutes to preserve most of its nutrients.
- By cooking your garlic for 15-30 minutes you lose moderate amounts of nutrients.
- If you cook garlic cloves for 45+ minutes, you will lose most of their nutrients.
You may think that there is nothing attractive about eating raw garlic, but it is sure a powerful force, so try to add it to your meals.
Garlic can help you in the treatment of:
- Cold and flu
- Sore throat
- High LDL cholesterol
- High blood sugar
- Ear infections
You can also use its potential to:
- Increase bile flow
- Boost immunity
- Fight microorganisms
The greatest thing about garlic is that you can find it everywhere. It is used in every part of the world, we all have it on hand, and can be used as a first aid on vacations.
In addition to its allicin-provided power, garlic is also packed with many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. It is high in manganese, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamins B and C.
Add some minced garlic to your salad dressings, dips and garnishes. If you are one of those who throw their sprouted garlic in the trashcan, you are definitely doing it wrong. Sprouted garlic is even healthier than non-sprouted garlic.
Sprouted foods are higher in antioxidants than their fresher, younger versions. Plant your sprouted garlic to grow new garlic. This is the same thing you do with your grains and edible seeds.
You should not be surprised of the benefits provided by sprouted garlic, because most of the nutritional changes occur when most of the plants sprout.
Once the seedlings grow into baby plants, they form new compounds, including the kind that protects the plant from pathogens. This is exactly what happens with the green shoots from your old garlic bulb.
Eat 1-2 garlic cloves a day, and do not throw them when they sprout. And yes, remind yourself that your garlic breath is only an indicator that something great is happening in your body.