Garlic can contain health-promoting benefits; however, this depends on the way you prepare and cook it. Garlic adds both flavor and nutrition to almost any dish you like to prepare. This article will explain the history, how to shop, store and prepare garlic as well as explaining the benefits of this wonderful allium vegetable.
A Little Bit About Garlic
In the history of agriculture, garlic bulbs have never been altered to make them larger, sweeter or taste milder and for this reason, garlic has retained most of its ancient nutrients. Garlic has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes.
Raw garlic contains two isolated substances needed to create allicin (a sulfur-containing molecule and an active ingredient). The two substances need to come in contact with each other to produce the health-promoting benefits. The allicin compound can be created by slicing, pressing, mincing or chewing the garlic clove which breaks the barriers between the two substances but, allicin can also be loss during this process.
One substance is a protein fragment named alliin and the other is called alliinase, which is the heat-sensitive enzyme. In order to maintain the health benefits in garlic, you need to prepare garlic correctly which I will be explained later on.
Garlic contains phytonutrients, antioxidants, anti-microbial properties and heart healthy benefits. Garlic has a unique smell and pungent taste like no other allium vegetable. There are a number of garlic preparations in the grocery store that you can purchase. You can buy powdered garlic, minced garlic, garlic paste, pre-peeled garlic, garlic salt, or fresh garlic bulbs.
The Health Benefits of Garlic?
- Heart-healthy properties
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Anti-microbial benefits
- Weight control
- Improve metabolism
- May reduce cancer risks
Promotion of a Healthy Heart
Garlic has been proven to thin the blood, reduce blood triglycerides, reduce total cholesterol and maintain blood pressure. Garlic contains a disulfide substance called ajoene which has the ability to have anti-clotting properties. Garlic may contribute to prevent the formation of clots or blocked blood vessels.
Garlic’s heart protective benefits may contribute on the production of hydrogen sulfide gas which helps our blood vessels expand and help maintain blood pressure. Not only the sulfur containing compounds help protect our heart but also garlic contains vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6, and selenium.
Garlic Lowers Oxidative Stress and Contains Anti-inflammatory Properties
Garlic contains antioxidants which lowers our risk of oxidative stress. In this case, garlic also helps prevent risks for cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and other troubling conditions and diseases. These substances include alliin, allicin, n-acetyl cysteine and diallyl.
The sulfur containing phytonutrients in garlic have shown to inhibit inflammatory messenger molecules. These substances include thiacremonone and 1,2 vinyldithiin.
May Reduce Some Cancers
Research on allium vegetables like garlic, have shown to have anti-cancer properties. Having one clove per day will lower your risk factors for almost all cancers with the exception of breast and prostate cancer.
Types of Garlic
At your local grocery store or farmers market, you will typically find two kinds of garlic. One type is called softneck garlic (Allium sativum L. var. sativum) and the other type is referred to as hardneck garlic (Allium sativum L. var. ophioscorodon). Both types contribute to your health but hardneck contains more medicinal properties because it is genetically closer to the wild garlic.
The most common garlic found is the softneck garlic. The California Silverskin is a type of softneck garlic. If you open this type a garlic, you will find several concentric rows of cloves. The smaller cloves will be towards the center. Having different sized cloves creates softneck garlic more heavier and plumper.
If you open a hardneck garlic bulb, you will find a single row of uniform cloves rotating around the stem. Rocambole, Purple Stripe, Spanish Roja and Porcelain are all part of the hardneck variety. Growing hardneck garlic requires more hand on labor so expect to pay a little more.
Tip: Garlic ships well, so you can also order online. But it’s always recommend looking for hardneck varieties in specialty stores, farmer’s markets and stands.
The Best Way to Select Your Garlic
Look for bulbs that are plumped because they will have the best flavor. Select firm bulbs that show no brow spots, decay, softness, dampness, sprouts or mildew. The larger the clove, the easier the peel process.
If you prefer to but garlic in a more convenient way, you can purchase garlic powder, flakes, or paste.
The Best Way to Store Garlic
You can store garlic up to one month if properly stored. But it’s better to consume your purchased garlic bulbs sooner than later for best flavor and nutrition.
Store your fresh garlic bulbs in an open paper bag or loosely covered container to allow good air circulation. Place into a cool, dark place away from light or heat-generating appliances.
Refrigerating garlic may cause garlic to sprout and soften due to humidity. Once the bulb is open and you start using some of the cloves, garlic will only last up to two weeks.
The Best Way to Peel Garlic
First step is to grab an individual garlic clove. To do this, slightly press the bulb using the palm of your hand at an angle on a flat surface. The pressure will release the tight bond between the individual cloves. You can also use a knife to get an individual clove from the bulb.
Second step: Using a cutting board, grab one individual clove and place on side so that its lying down. Take you chef’s knife and lay it flat on top of the clove. Gently apply pressure until skin is loosens. You can easily peel the rest by using your hand.
The Best Way to Cook with Garlic
Listen up, because this step is MOST important! Remember when we talked about how to create the compound allicin and that it’s made when two substances combine? This can only be done by rapturing the clove either by slicing, pressing, mincing or chewing.
Well, the heat-sensitive enzyme (alliinase) is actually destroyed which in return no allicin is created which means no health benefits are made. If you microwaved freshly chopped garlic for 30 seconds, 90% of the cancer fighting properties are vanished. Microwave for 60 seconds and ALL beneficial properties are gone. If you place fresh chopped garlic straight into the frying pan, it only takes two minutes for garlic to lose its flavor and its nutritional value.
So, how are you supposed to retain garlic’s medicinal properties?
There is only one solution and its actually quite simple. After you chop, mince, press, slice or mash your garlic clove, keep it away from any heat source for ten minutes. This is the perfect amount of time for the maximum amount of allicin to develop and the alliinase is no longer needed. After those ten minutes are up, you can sauté, fry, or bake garlic and retain all of its healing power. Adapt this tip to all of your future recipes.
Ways to Enjoy Garlic
Listed below are a few of my favorite garlic recipes and uses for garlic.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
What you will need:
- 8 Russet Burbank potatoes (organically grown)
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup low fat milk
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
Place the potatoes, unpeeled, in a large pot and cover them with cold unsalted water.
Bring them to a boil, covered, then take the lid off and reduce the heat to medium/high so water is slightly boiling
Cook for 25-30 minutes or until they are easily pierced with a fork. They must still be somewhat firm, as opposed to grainy.
Drain the water and place potatoes back into the pot, on the stove.
Make sure potatoes are dried first. Use a potato masher until you create a lumpy puree. This puree will be quite heavy and is made to be that way. Add the rest of your ingredients. Mix well and enjoy.
Tip: Leave the peels of the potatoes on because the peel contains fiber and antioxidants. Use organic potatoes because there are hidden chemicals and compounds found in non-organic potatoes that you don’t want to consume. Potatoes are part of the “Dirty Dozen.”
Going Camping and Forgot Your Insect Repellant?
Don’t worry, garlic has your back. Garlic is a natural anti-mosquito repellent. All you need to do is dice 1 garlic clove and swallow each individual piece one at a time. Beware, the taste is very pungent, but it works like a charm.
Garlic Ginger Rice
You can prepare this with whichever type of rice that you enjoy eating. It’s recommended to use brown or wild rice for this recipe. When there is about 5 minutes left for the rice to cook and 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped garlic and 1 tablespoon of freshly minced ginger. When the five minutes are up, the garlic ginger rice is ready to be served.
Tip: Don’t forget about the 10-minute rule before adding in your garlic. Better than rice, try cauliflower rice instead!
Baked Garlic Chicken
What you will need:
- 6 to 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne chili powder
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh scallion
- Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C.
Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet/roasting pan or coat with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, add in your lemon juice, garlic powder, cayenne powder, sea salt and pepper. Then place in your chicken thighs. Mix well with your hands to help spices penetrate the chicken.
Place chicken onto the prepared baking pan. Add your olive oil on top.
Bake chicken until internal temperature of 165°F (75°C), about 25-30 minutes. Then set oven to broil for 2-3 minutes to make the chicken skins crisp.
Remove from oven. Cover with foil and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes while the juices settle before serving. Serve hot, garnished with chopped scallion.
For this recipe, you will need a food processor or blender
- 2 cups cooked or canned garbanzo beans. (Make sure that there is no BPA)
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Pepper and sea salt for taste
Combine all ingredients in your blender or food processor until fully blended. Serve with your favorite pita chips or raw vegetables.
Vegetable and Garlic Spaghetti
What you will need:
- 1 box of 100% whole wheat spaghetti
- 1 jar of garlic spaghetti sauce
- 1 carton of lean ground turkey
- 1 whole (orange or red) bell pepper
- 1 bag of baby spinach
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. pepper
On a clean cutting board cut your 3 garlic cloves into tiny dices and set aside. Chop your clean bell pepper into small cubes and set aside. Open spinach bag and set aside.
Directions: For noodles
In a large pot add 5 cups of water and set to boil. Once boiling, add your spaghetti noodles and lower heat to medium high. Timing will be different according to the box directions. You will know when the noodles are done when your able to chew the noodle easily. About 10-15 minutes. Then drain and set aside.
Directions: For meat sauce
In a large pan add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Place heat on medium. When heated add in the full box of ground turkey. Fully cook the turkey until light brown and you see no red meat left.
Once the turkey is cooked add in the chopped bell peppers and spinach. Mix until desired texture of bell peppers are met.
Add in the jar of sauce along with the chopped garlic pieces. Add in your pepper and turmeric. Mix all ingredients well together.
Grab a plate and serve your noodles first then top it with your vegetable meat sauce. Best served when hot.
Tip: Try making your own tomato sauce rather than buying a jar. It will be healthier and more nutritious.
As a Plain O’l Spice
You can use garlic in almost any dish that you prepare. Garlic has many health-promoting benefits so use garlic in all of your favorite recipes. The ones listed above are just a few of my favorite recipes and secrets. Just always remember the 10- minute rule.