Lots of you know about the benefits of garlic and are smart enough to include this odoriferous (that means “smelly”) bulb wherever you can in your diet. But just how and why it has such amazing health promoting properties is just now being discovered.
The Science Behind the Story
Garlic is in the Alliaceae family along with it’s cousins leeks, shallots, and onions. It is the substance allicin, which is contained in such great quantities in garlic that is responsible for its incredible anti-oxidant properties. In fact, science is discovering that the allicin in garlic is the most potent anti-oxidant there is.
A recent Canadian study, revealed that it is the decomposition of allicin that creates the substance sulfunic acid. Sulfunic acid is a potent anti-oxidant that eliminates free radicals and prevents the breakdown of healthy cells that lead to disease and aging. The allicin found in garlic decomposes very rapidly thereby releasing an enormous amount of this acid which acts at amazing speed.
“The reaction between the sulfenic acid and radicals is as fast as it can get, limited only by the time it takes for the two molecules to come into contact. No one has ever seen compounds, natural or synthetic, react this quickly as antioxidants.” states Dr Pratt, head of the study.
Good news for those of us who want to prevent cancer, heart disease, and getting old (ok…you’ll still get old, but maybe not look as old)
***To release the most allicin out of your garlic, let it rest for 10-15 minutes after it is peeled before adding it to recipes….something not many of us do.
Along with the production of sulfuric acid, garlic also causes our bodies to produce more of the natural substance hydrogen sulfide. Elevated levels of naturally produced (inside the body) hydrogen sulfide also acts like a powerful anti-oxidant that also relaxes the blood vessels promoting health blood flow and healthy blood pressure.
Boosting hydrogen sulfide production has also been shown to reduce the incidence of certain cancers including breast, prostate, and colon. It also has shown some promising effects on heart muscle tissue. Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that injecting hydrogen sulfide into mice almost completely prevented the damage to heart muscle caused by a heart attack.
Another study done on mice showed that diabetic mice fed garlic oil were protected from heart disease prevalent in diabetics called diabetic cardiomyopathy, a condition that causes the heart to enlarge (not in a good way) and weaken.
So how can I get more garlic?
If you love garlic, there are many ways to include garlic in your diet (and I don’t mean Papa John’s garlic breadsticks, no) The first food that comes to mind is hummus. If you have never had hummus, I recommend you make this very simple and delicious spread made from chick peas. You can adjust the amount of garlic based on taste.
Try this as a dip or spread it on a whole wheat or corn tortilla with lettuce, red peppers, tomato and olives. Wrap it and enjoy! Traditional hummus is made with tahini, a sesame product, that is not a usual staple in American households. This recipe is tahini-free.
1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed or 15 ounces dried chickpeas soaked overnight and simmered 1 1/2 hours or until tender
juice of 1/2 fresh lemon or 1 TBS lemon juice
2 TBS of fresh chopped parsley
1-2 TBS olive oil (depending on what consistency you prefer)
3 (or more) cloves of garlic crushed (remember to let it rest for 15 minutes after it is peeled to get the most allicin!)
dash of cayenne pepper
dash of black pepper
Place all ingredients in food processor or blender and combine until creamy. Add additional ingredients for your taste. Use cut up celery, baby carrots, red peppers, summer squash etc. to dip.
Yeilds about 2 cups. per 1/4 cup: calories 150, fat 5.5 g, protein 5.2 g
Mediterranean diets use a lot of garlic. Think Italian and Greek. If you abide by your healthy eating rules, you can get lots of garlic from these and other types of foods.
What about supplements?
There may or may not be some benefit to taking garlic capsules, however it does not seem to surpass the beneficial effect obtained from the whole garlic, peeled, rested and crushed, extreme high temperatures avoided, and used in your food.
Let’s face it, isn’t it more pleasurable to eat fresh garlic in your favorite recipe than to down a pill with a glass of water?
So, with your healthy diet, you may want to think about including garlic, when and wherever you can, to get the most from your food!
ViprajaVaidya,K.U.Ingold&DerekA.Pratt*Garlic:SourceoftheUltimateAntioxidants–Sulfenic Acids. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2009, 48, 157-160. (highlighted by media around the globe)