Eat it Up: Garlic

October 29, 2010 – 3:17 pm

I just got done reading my weekly e-newsletter from Vegetarian Times.  They were polling people about how they get rid of garlic smell on their fingers after chopping garlic.  My response to this: I consider garlic-scented fingers to be part of my signature fragrance.  I’m sure my children and grandchildren will remember me for it, for better or worse.

Do garlic-fingers bother you?  Not me.  I like knowing that I prepared and consumed something scrumptious and healthy.  And lately, garlic is in season, so I have a big supply of it from my CSA share.   I always always double (at least) the amount of garlic any recipe calls for.  As far as I’m concerned, you can never have too much.

Healthwise, garlic will be your best friend. It’s been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure; it’s anti-microbial, stimulating the immune system; has anti-inflammatory properties; helps fight colds and flu; and has been shown to inhibit the growth of some cancers.  The thing about garlic is: the stinky part is the important part.  The volatile sulfur-containing compound Allicin is what is responsible for the medicinal properties of garlic, as well as the odiferous ones.  And heat inactivates the Allicin (well, actually it inactivates the enzyme that is responsible for acting on Allicin’s precursor compound alliin to make Allicin), which is why cooked garlic is not nearly as stinky as raw.   So, fresh garlic is highly superior to aged or cooked garlic in terms of health benefits, and this is demonstrated in the scientific data.

Drs. Pizzorno and Murray, authors of The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, recommend garlic for the treatment of asthma and hay fever due to its anti-inflammatory properties; candidiasis (yeast/fungal overgrowth) due to its anti-fungal/anti-microbial properties; high cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure; diabetes (garlic even has blood-sugar-lowering properties!); and increased platelet aggregation (sticky blood) which promotes the formation of atherosclerosis.

Lately, during the change of the seasons which can wreak havoc on our immune systems, I’ve been trying to eat a clove or two of fresh garlic each day.  Yes, this is a somewhat odiferous endeavor.  My current method for getting them down is to smash the cloves up, mix them with some honey, then chase this down with orange juice.  If you know that your immune system is weakened or in need of a boost, I definitely recommend doing this, or else getting a quality garlic supplement (like Kyolic) and taking a double dose.  The fresh garlic is more powerful, but some folks can’t stand to get it down.  So if you’re set on choosing a garlic supplement, look for one that has a high allicin content, equivalent to that of a fresh clove.  A clove of fresh garlic has about 10 mg of Allicin, or 4000 mcg of Alliin.

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