By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 28 October 2008)
Garlic provides a cornucopia of anti-cancer compounds, including allicin, allyl sulphides, allixin, organosulfur, and quercetin, as well as vitamins B6 and C and the fat-fighting mineral selenium. In addition, cooking meat with garlic reduces the carcinogens produced by certain high-temperature cooking methods (including grilling).
Other significant health benefits include cardiovascular protection (there is evidence that eating a clove of garlic each day may lower cholesterol and blood pressure), as well as anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal activity. This means that garlic offers some protection against both contagious illnesses and funguses such as Candida, and may also help to mitigate the symptoms of certain chronic conditions including arthritis. Garlic also helps to kill the microbes responsible for regular colds and flus, as well as the nastier bugs that cause tuberculosis and peptic ulcers. In addition, it contains substances that help to prevent obesity and maintain a healthy body weight.
Regular Versus Elephant Garlic
There are two types of garlic commonly found in supermarkets – regular (small) garlic and the milder elephant garlic, which has larger cloves. Elephant garlic, though tasty, does not offer as many health benefits as regular garlic.
Minced or Crushed Garlic is Better Than Whole Garlic
Garlic needs to be cut up or crushed to rupture its cells, causing it to release a sulphur-based compound (alliin) and an enzyme (alliinase) that form the allicin compound. Garlic should be chopped as finely as possible to get the maximum amount of allicin. Pressing garlic into a fine paste makes it more pungent and generates the most health benefits. Overall, the stronger the garlic smells once it has been prepared, the more health-protective effects it will provide.
Garlic should be left for at least 5-10 minutes after mincing or crushing to allow for the generation of allicin. Prepare garlic first and then let it stand while preparing other ingredients for a meal.
Consume Garlic Raw or Cook It Lightly
Raw crushed garlic is the most beneficial, but cooking lightly preserves garlic’s health-protective effects. Cooking for 10 minutes or more or microwaving for any length of time will eliminate many of garlic’s health-promoting effects, so garlic should be heated for the shortest amount of time possible.
Garlic Recipes and Serving Suggestions
Chopped garlic can be used to add flavour to a wide variety of cooked vegetables, including spinach, mushrooms, and potatoes. Garlic can also be added to stews, soups, and sauces, preferably late in the cooking process so that it’s not subjected to high temperatures for very long. To get the most benefits from garlic, consume it raw in salads, dressings, and dips.
Fresh pureed garlic can be used to make hummus dip by blending the following ingredients in a food processor:
- 2 cups canned, drained chick peas
- 2/3 cup tahini
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves mashed garlic
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin (optional)
- Pepper to taste
Add enough olive oil to achieve the desired thickness. Garnish with parsley and/or paprika before serving.
Dipping sauces for breads can be made from a combination of crushed garlic; olive oil; and fresh diced herbs such as rosemary, parsley, basil, and oregano. A basic vinaigrette salad dressing using raw garlic can be made by mixing:
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1-2 tsps minced garlic (more or less depending on preference)
- Honey or sugar, salt, and pepper to taste
Dressings, marinades, and dipping sauces must be kept refrigerated because botulism microbes grow quickly in garlic-and-oil mixtures at room temperature. Amy Simonne, PhD, of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, recommends using refridgerated mixtures within 2-3 days.
- Perry, L., Dr. (n.d.). “The Many Uses of Garlic,” University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science.
- Simonne, A., PhD (2012). “Herbs and Garlic-in-Oil Mixtures: Safe Handling Practices for Consumers,” Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.
- The George Mateljan Foundation. (2008). “Garlic” and “How to Bring Out the Health Benefits of Garlic.” The World’s Healthiest Foods.