Eating healthy is an ongoing challenge. Just when you’ve adjusted your menu to include the good things and ease out the bad, a new report emerges and it’s back to square one. Garlic, however, has been steadfast in keeping its place on the positive side. Besides the great flavor and aroma it adds to dishes, we’ve always felt good about its health benefits. For years, we’ve reaped garlic’s contributions to a healthy heart and cancer prevention. The tiny vegetable also has anti-inflammatory properties. It also has antibacterial and antiviral benefits and supports iron metabolism.
But while we’ve been enjoying garlic and all its perks, experts have been exploring it even more. Everything we knew about its nutritional advantages are still true. Now there are even more reasons to celebrate it.
Studies have revealed that if you let raw garlic rest after you’ve minced, chopped or crushed it, it has more health benefits. Breaking down garlic’s fibers gives the allinase enzymes more potency. Let it sit for a few minutes before you heat it or change its pH. The pH is altered by adding an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice or wine. Research found that just 60 seconds in a microwave or boiling garlic diminishes its cancer-defensive properties.
Garlic juice or liquid garlic extract are easy to use in preparing hot foods. However, you should be aware that allicin, one of the most important sulfur compounds, is highly compromised in this form. The compound only survives for 2 to 16 hours when extracted. Conversely, its viability in crushed garlic is still strong after 2 ½ days.
Garlic protects heart through the way our red blood cells process its sulfer-rich molecules called polysulfides. The blood cells use the molecules to produce H2S. This gas helps blood vessels expand and keep blood pressure on track. Again, garlic in food form appears to significantly aid in this process but some processed extracts performed poorly.
Iron is most beneficial to our well-being when it’s free to go where it’s needed in your body. Research has shown that the diallyl sulfides in garlic can help increase production of ferroportin. This protein transverses cell membranes. It then creates a path for stored iron to exit cells and go where your body needs it most.
The Good Earth
We’ve known for years that garlic is a great source for selenium, which has antioxidant properties and may facilitate cell damage protection. It’s recently been discovered garlic is also among the more reliable sources for this essential mineral. Garlic falls into the “seleniferous” plant category. This means it has the unique capability to absorb selenium from soil, even when soil concentrations are not favorable to this consumption.
Although the verdict is not yet in, early studies of how garlic may help control obesity look promising. Obesity is progressively viewed by more researchers as a chronic state of low-grade inflammation. Since the sulfur compound in garlic has already been credited with anti-inflammatory benefits, initial findings means it may be even more beneficial. Scientists found that some of our body’s fibroblastic cells only develop into full-blown fat cells under certain circumstances. When your metabolism involves activity of the inflammatory system, that sulfur compound may be able to stop the fat-cell development.
New Forms Of Garlic
While fresh garlic cloves have the best taste and scent, most people occasionally save time by using garlic from jars, either chopped or pureed. But now there are a couple new takes on garlic. You’ll find green garlic and garlic scapes in the produce department or at your local farmers’ market.
Green garlic is often confused with garlic scapes.Green garlic is really just regular garlic picked before it reaches maturity. It has tender, mild-tasting leaves that are a nice addition to mixed green salads or as a fragrant soup garnish.
Garlic scapes form on traditional garlic plants later in life. The shoots are longer and curlier than those on green garlic. They also have a closed bud on the top of each slender stalk. Once the shoots are removed, the garlic bulb is left to grow to maturity. Scapes have wonderful flavor, like your favorite fresh greens with a touch of infused garlic.
Meet The Family
The unique, satisfying flavor of garlic is unmatchable. However, the famously nicknamed “stinking rose” comes from a family of proud relatives. Chives, scallions, green onions and spring onions are part of the same allium family as garlic. These favorite culinary ingredients are bulbous plants, related to onions, all with unique flavors and forms. Mix and match them to find the perfect balance for your palate.