This week I’m taking a look at garlic, a member of the amazing allium family. Love it or loathe it, chefs prize it for the delicious flavour it gives our food, but garlic does more than just flavour our food. This week I’m looking at what it is, why it’s so good for us, how should it be prepared and cooked, and how many servings we should be eating each day. Read on to find out more…
What is garlic?
It’s part of the allium family, which includes garlic, chives, spring onions, onions, shallots and leeks. You can eat the bulb, leaves and flowers of the plant that is grown year round.
Why is it good for us?
The allium family is packed full of flavonoids and sulfur-containing compounds such as thiosulfinates (the best known compound is allicin), sulfoxides (the best known again is alliin), and dithiins (in which the most researched compound is ajoene).
Flavonoids, which in the human body function as antioxidants, stimulate production of glutathione. Glutathione is the liver’s most potent antioxidant that enhances the elimination of toxins and carcinogens from our bodies.
When garlic is crushed or chopped it produces allicin one of the sulfur compounds. This is what gives garlic its distinctive smell, but allicin is very powerful and in many clinical trials its been shown to have the ability to benefit people in the following ways.
These are the 3 Reasons You Have To Eat Garlic Every Day:
Garlic has been shown to lower total cholesterol, LDL, or “bad cholesterol” and triglycerides while increasing the good cholesterol, HDL. Garlic’s unique set of sulfur-containing compounds also help to protect us against our blood vessels from becoming blocked and may also be able to help prevent clots from forming inside our blood vessels. It can also help to lower our blood pressure.
Antibacterial and antiviral benefits…
…of eating garlic are legendary. Not only will they help to control infection by bacteria and viruses, but they’ve also been shown to help prevent infections with the yeast Candida albicans and very recently, research has shown the ability of crushed fresh garlic to help prevent infection by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa in burn patients.
While cruciferous veg are the king in this area – (if you didn’t read my post on cruciferous veg, click here to read it) the allium family, and in particular garlic, have also shown that they have anti-cancer properties. Research has shown that eating garlic every day can lower your risk of virtually all cancer types except cancer of the prostate and breast cancer.
Garlic, however just doesn’t produce allicin, it’s also an amazing source of vitamin C, vitamin B6 as well as phosphorus, selenium and manganese, protein, vitamin B5, thiamin, calcium, iron and zinc. It’s small but it packs a great nutrient punch!
How to prepare and cook garlic?
One you’ve crushed or chopped garlic you need to let it sit for at least 10 minutes so it can release the potent ‘allicin’. It’s a sulphur compound that’s activated if the garlic is damaged, for instance chopping or crushing it, but this powerful enzyme can be quickly destroyed by cooking it immediately after you’ve chopped or crushed it, so let it sit to release this wonderful enzyme.
Garlic is often best eaten raw so you can maximise its nutrients, but I know that’s not for everyone. If you’re adding to recipes try adding it towards the end of the cooking time to retain as much of the flavour and nutrients as possible.
How many should I be eating each day?
Try to get at least seven servings of fruit and veg each day and make at least one of these an allium. If garlic is your chosen allium for the day, put one to two cloves in your recipe or go raw and eat half a chopped or crushed garlic clove.
A serving of cooked veg is about half a cup or 125ml or one cup/250ml raw.
So if you don’t include the allium family every day in your meals, I urge you to think again. Your body will thank you for it!
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