Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Food for Thought: Garlic and Onion Health Benefits and Nutrition

May 18th, 2009 · 21 Comments · Science of Nutrition, Super Foods

Garlic and Onions :: via Kitchen Stewardship

Man walks in house:  “Mmmm, what’s that smelling so delicious?”

Generally, the only veggies that get this reaction are sautéing onions and/or garlic.  You can’t beat the aroma of fresh garlic wafting through the house.  (My husband would probably say a savory roast or spicy taco meat might beat it, but we’re talking vegetables here!)  Cutting onions may make you cry, but they certainly make the meal once cooked.  How many recipes do you have that include onions?  Garlic?  They are prolific! (top photo source)

Beyond the bazillions uses for these veggies, in almost every genre of cooking and at every meal, garlic and onions have some incredible health benefits that will get you jumping up and down every time you buy a bag, and maybe even convince you to include them in more meals than you do now.  They’re on the list of Super Foods for a reason.

Garlic will give you the following nutritional and health benefits:

  • Vitamin C, B6 and selenium
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-viral
  • Improves immune function
  • Thins blood (to control blood pressure)
  • Increases anti-oxidants/fights free radicals in blood

Fight these diseases and issues with garlic:

  • Colds, flu, stomach viruses (see this soup for a great idea!)
  • Infections, including yeast infections
  • Can even kill some strains of bacteria (staph) that have become resistant to antibiotic drugs!  (see this post for more on bacterial resistance and soaps)
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High triglycerides
  • Increase unborn babies’ weight gain
  • Helps prevent lots of kinds of cancers
  • Removes heavy metals from system
  • Diabetes
  • Prevent weight gain
  • Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis

How to Prepare Garlic for Greatest Benefits

The compounds of garlic that fight infection are released when garlic is chopped or crushed. BEST practice is to crush 7-14 minutes before eating.  If you have to crush it right into the pan, though, that’s better than not eating it!  Garlic cooked whole (like I used to do in my stocks) has none of the medicinal value.  Also best practice to add garlic near the end of sautéing so it doesn’t get cooked very long.  Raw garlic has the most benefits.  Dehydrated and powdered garlic don’t have near as many (if any) of these nutritious elements.

Note:  Garlic AND onions also help when grilling meat.  Research shows that grilled meats have carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals, and these veggies can reduce them.

There are fascinating tips for emergency medicinal uses of garlic here.

Garlic and Onions for Heath

(photo source)

Onions will give you the following nutritional and health benefits:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Prevents constipation
  • Increases blood circulation
  • Rich in chromium, Vitamin C

Fight these diseases and issues with onions:

  • Prevents cancers
  • Arthritis
  • Fights infections, colds, fevers
  • Asthma
  • Heart health
  • Osteoporosis
  • May lower blood pressure and triglycerides
  • Improves gastrointestinal health

The Best Onions…

Western Yellow, New York Bold, and Northern Red onions have the highest amount of healthy compounds to give you all the benefits listed above.  In general, the stronger the onion, the healthier.  More tears when cutting equals more protection against disease and infection.  Also, the best benefits are received when onions are eaten raw.  You just have to get the good information past the bad breath!

This week’s Super Foods also include peppers, since many dishes can include all three:  garlic, onions and peppers.  Since garlic and onions share so many qualities, however, peppers will get their own Food for Thought.

Click here for the related Monday Mission.

Other Super Food Health Benefits:

Mind the Microwave in May:


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21 Comments so far ↓

  • Sarah

    At least 50% of my rotating recipes start with sauteeing onions and garlic . . . it is a staple in our home! And peppers are my husband’s favorite as well . . .

    Best,
    Sarah

    PS – My parents have been known to roast a bulb of garlic PER PERSON for dinner accompaniment. My dad is rarely ever sick!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Wow! Do you just eat it out of the peelings with a fork? That’s awesome. I made some dressing today with 5 cloves of garlic in it, and I could smell it on my daughter’s head after I nursed her! Seriously strong stuff! :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jamie

    Garlic is wonderful! Shortly after my son was born I developed mastitis. Hoping to avoid taking antibiotics, I ate 4-5 whole cloves of garlic a day for a few days, and it completely cleared up!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sarah W

    I linked over to the GourmetGarlicGardens. What a lot of info! I only skimmed and couldn’t find the exact use of garlic water on that page, but I have been drinking garlic water every day since my son started having a runny nose and so far I do not have any feelings of getting a cold! Normally, I always catch their colds.

    I crush one clove of garlic in a few ounces of water, let it steep a couple of hours. Strain, then sip on it throughout the day. (I can’t drink it all at once b/c then I feel nauseous.) I find this much easier than swallowing chopped up cloves, and from what I read on that website, the water method is actually much more beneficial.

    Have you tried that before?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Sarah,
    That’s a new one for me! Is it kind of gross? A friend was trying to eat raw garlic, maybe in a drink, and felt terrible in the stomach once. Maybe she needed to space it out, too – very interesting! Thanks – Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Sarah W Reply:

    No, it’s not gross. When I first sip it, it tastes like water, then it finishes with the taste of garlic and is a bit spicy.

    When I first read about it, the person who posted described it as “mild.” That would not be my choice of words! But it’s not bad, and I really prefer it over chopping up cloves and trying to swallow them raw. Which now I think is not nearly as beneficial anyways since crushing the garlic is necessary for the formation of allicin.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Laura N Reply:

    My kids and I like to squirt garlic into lemony water and add stevia for garlic lemonade. Even some of the little ones have drunk the pieces of garlic (but my almost 19yo dd won’t touch the drink!)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Laura N Reply:

    Forgot to say we use a whole lemon and 1 clove garlic. Also, I thought you were supposed to eat garlic soon after crushing it because it starts loosing the good stuff?? Also, I did get nauseous once but it was when I drank a lot of it on an empty stomach (dumb, but I was frustrated with what I thought was a bad staff infection and ended up being blisters from eating wheat).

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Holly

    I used to be a garlic fanatic. Whenever a recipe called for one clove, I used 2-3. I used to make a salad with just radicchio, olive oil, and garlic. It was a staple in our diet.

    Then a doctor told me that it’s important to eat a variety of foods: a little of everything…except garlic.

    I wasn’t sure if I could take garlic out of my diet, but in the end we made the change. Now, whenever I make an exception and eat something with garlic in it, I have terrible indigestion (with the exception of problems with wheat, I generally have no digestive issues). (This is about once every 8-10 days.)

    My boyfriend and I experience the exact same effect every time we eat a dish with garlic. It might be interesting to try removing garlic from your diet for a month or so and then adding it once a week to see how your body reacts. I used to be a huge fan of garlic, and now I realize that its effect on my body isn’t what I thought it was.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Holly,
    Strange – I’ve never heard that one. Do you know the reasons behind the garlic’s effects on our bodies? I’d love to hear more! Thanks – Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Holly Reply:

    I had never heard it either, and was a BIG garlic fan. Despite the fact that I’ve read the opposite on the web, apparently garlic’s antibacterial properties also annihilate intestinal flora.

    I think it’s worth taking a break from garlic, and then introducing it one meal at a time, to see if it has that effect on other people. I’m happy that I discovered my body doesn’t do well with garlic, because I used to eat so much of it.

    BTW, this is a very open minded doctor that recommends acupuncture, Bach flower therapy, etc. It’s not like he’s just a fan of big pharma and not herbal treatments.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Sarah W Reply:

    Hmm.. well I’ve still been doing daily milk kefir for probiotics while trying to prevent catching a cold with the garlic water. I don’t plan on drinking garlic water once the runny noses have gone away. The only thing that has been causing me indigestion lately is all the garbagey food I ate yesterday for the 4th of July!! LOL

    [Reply to this comment]

    Holly Reply:

    Garbagey food will do that!

    One thing I forgot to mention is that my boyfriend and I both had the same experience with garlic: we ate LOADS of it before, then once we quit, we’ve had the same extreme indigestion every time we make an exception to the no-garlic rule.
    .-= Holly´s last blog ..Squash Soup =-.

    [Reply to this comment]

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  • KristinaD

    I took the entire family to the doctor yesterday and spent $400. The main verdict? Eat more garlic. Really, that’s what she said!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Kristina,
    Wow! I added some to tonight’s dinner where none was called for. Hope it helps dh knock out the bug he’s fighting! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • whatawhale

    I’ve read that hyper-thyroids should avoid garlic.

    [Reply to this comment]

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  • 'Becca

    Do you have a reference for the idea that garlic needs to be crushed a certain number of minutes before eating?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Becca,
    One of the sources cited at the end of the post is this: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=60

    And a bit more on the subject here: http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com/health.htm (scroll down to the last section I think)

    Some other sources might have more on the number of minutes, but I don’t have time to click them all. :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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