Garlic seems to get a lot of attention in our home. One of us enjoys the taste of garlic, particularly the more subtle taste of cooked garlic, but the other one of us LOVES garlic, raw or cooked, and would probably eat it every day without complaint. The thing about garlic is if one person in your house loves it, everyone really has to love it. Otherwise the aroma detection discrepancy becomes evident, if you know what I mean. Perhaps a little odor is a small price to pay for the tremendous health benefits of garlic. Lemon juice, parsley, spinach, and apples have all been reported to curb odor from garlic, so go ahead and give them a try if you love garlic but not the lingering aroma.
Origins of Garlic
Allium sativum, more commonly known as garlic, is the edible bulb from a plant in the allium family, which also includes onions, scallions, chives and leeks. Garlic has been used by cultures around the world for medicinal benefits for thousands of years including the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Japanese, and First Nations peoples.
Garlic contains manganese, vitamin C, calcium, selenium, copper, phosphorus, and potassium, but you’ll have to eat several cloves to get a lot of benefits from these nutrients. The real powerhouse in garlic comes from the sulphur compounds.
Allicin is the active ingredient that gives garlic its immune boosting properties. Its antibacterial properties are equivalent to weak penicillin (1). Allicin is unstable and changes its chemical structure quite quickly. When garlic is chopped or crushed, the enzyme allinase is activated and acts on alliin (an amino acid present in whole garlic) to produce allicin. Allicin is the source of the odor emitted by fresh garlic. It is also the source of the rich flavour. In addition to allicin, garlic also contains oligosaccharides, arginine, and flavonoids, which also have health benefits (2).
The World Health Organization’s guideline for general health promotion is one clove of fresh garlic daily for adults, which is equal to 2 to 5 mg of allicin. Alternatives include 0.4-1.2g of dried garlic powder, 2-5g of garlic oil or 300-1,000 mg of garlic extract (3).
Benefits of Garlic
Garlic has been used in herbal medicine for centuries and has a number of scientifically proven health benefits (4):
- Reduces risk of cancer
- Antioxidant (phytonutrients that help to reduce oxidative stress)
- Helps to relieve intestinal upset
- Reduces risk factors for cardiovascular diseases: lowers blood pressure, prevention of atherosclerosis, reduction of serum cholesterol and triglyceride (5)
Potential Interactions with Drugs
Garlic acts as a natural blood thinner, and therefore should be avoided by anyone taking blood thinners, as well as pregnant women. Potential interactions could occur if you are taking aspirin, NSAIDs, heparin, warfarin, or medication for blood sugar (6).
Roasted Garlic, Cauliflower and Bean Soup
- 3 tbsp avocado oil
- 2 garlic bulbs
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 cauliflower
- 1 can cannellini beans
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme
- 1 cup cashew milk
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ½ lemon juiced
- Heat oven to 400°. Cut top off garlic bulbs so cloves are exposed and will be easy to squeeze out of the bulb after roasted. Place bulbs in small glass dish. Drizzle with 1 tbsp avocado oil. Cover and roast for 30-35 minutes, until garlic is soft and golden. When cool, squeeze garlic cloves out of bulb into a small dish and put aside.
- Cut cauliflower into florets.
- Heat 2 tbsp avocado oil in soup pot. Add chopped onions and cook on medium heat until onions are translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add cauliflower, cannellini beans, roasted garlic, vegetable stock, turmeric, salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Blend in pot using an immersion blender.
- Add milk, fresh thyme, lemon juice and nutritional yeast. Stir. Heat for 5 minutes. Serve.