Growing up in Denver we often went to a local restaurant, The Saucy Noodle, for dinner. Walking in, one of the first things you were meant to notice was printed on the back wall, – If you don’t like garlic, go home!
It was one of my favorite places to go. Mostly because of the garlic.
At home, however, we never ate much garlic and it didn’t help that I went on to marry a man that hated garlic. Luckily, while I was pregnant with my son I took my first cooking class. A wonderful experience that sent me on the way to cooking for my family and incorporating garlic into our daily diet.
It turns out adding just this little, but highly nuturious, vegetable to our diet can have many health benefits. Documentation of the use of garlic goes back centuries.
Egyptians, four thousand years ago, used garlic in addition to onions and radishes to feed thousands of pyramid builders to keep their up their strength. In Ayuveda medicine, which dates back 2,000 years, garlic is believed to help maintain a healthy heart.
Many cultures over the years have claimed various health benefits when it comes to garlic. However, the first documented experiment was not done until 1858 when French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur found that garlic inhibits the growth of bacteria.
Almost a century later in 1944 Chester Cavallito, an American Chemist and also known as the Father of Garlic Chemistry, isolated and started to study allicin in garlic.
Allicin really is the magically component to garlic. It is a sulfur compound that is not present until the clove of a garlic is crushed. This sulfur compound is the plants natural defense mechanism against insects and fungi. Which makes sense since it is the reason for garlic’s pungent taste.
Allicin is highly unstable and breaks down into more than a 100 biologically active sulfur containing compounds. One of these compounds is Ajoene. It is believed that ajoene is responsible for garlic’s anticoagulant proprieties and maybe why studies have shown garlic helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Several studies have been done on garlic intake and hypertension. Individuals with high blood pressure had reduced blood pressure while taking a garlic supplement. The intake to achieve this reduction is high. Close to 4 cloves of garlic a day! (1, 2)
Cholesterol can also be reduced. One study showed up to a 10-15% reduction in LDL. (3, 4)
With all these health benefits there are so many reasons to start adding garlic into your daily diet. One of my favorite ways is roasted. It is super simple and adds so many flavors to an otherwise blah dish. I love to add the raw cloves to a pan of roasted vegetables or to just roast an entire clove. Then I can add to salads or smear onto a nice piece of gluten free bread!
The roasted garlic is much milder than raw and for individuals that have a hard time digesting garlic this maybe the way to go.
Roasting Garlic 101
First remove as much of the outer papery skin as possible without having the cloves come apart.
Next, cut the top 1/4 inch off the top of the garlic.
Then place the garlic in a small sheet of aluminum wrap. Drizzle with olive oil.
Wrap up the garlic. Place on a baking sheet.
Roast at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes.
The cloves should be soft and the juices brown.
Use a small fork to remove the cloves.
Enjoy in salads, on a piece of toast or with any meal really!
On our next garlic post: Garlic Soup & Cold Cure