The health benefits of garlic are pretty impressive. It makes food taste yummy, and is a staple ingredient in almost every style of cooking. And it’s good for you! It’s also inexpensive, easy to store, and useful in a variety of home remedies for illness. Using it usually goes something like this –
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!).
Beyond the bazillions uses for this veggie, in almost every genre of cooking and at every meal, garlic has some incredible health benefits that will get you jumping up and down every time you buy some, and maybe even convince you to include it in more meals than you do now.
Health Benefits of Garlic
While making your food delicious you will also be getting these healthy benefits:
- Vitamin C, B6 and selenium
- Improvement of immune function
- Thins blood (can help control blood pressure)
- Increases anti-oxidants/fights free radicals in blood
Garlic can also be an important part of a natural medicine cabinet. It is great for warding off many germs and even working on some health issues or illnesses.
These diseases and issues may show positive results 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
- May remove heavy metals from system
- Prevent weight gain
- Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
Prepping Garlic for Health Benefits
Chopping or crushing garlic before you use it will give you the most nutritional value. If at all possible crush or chop your garlic 7-14 minutes before you need to use it. If you can’t do that though, don’t stress! It’s better to eat garlic without that prep time than to skip it entirely.
Making sure to add garlic near the end of a recipe whenever possible so it cooks for the least amount of time is good. Eating it raw is even better. And, unfortunately, anything that uses whole garlic cloves won’t give you any of the health benefits of garlic.
How to Cut Garlic:
First pull a clove (i.e. one small part, surrounded by papery peel) off of the whole head or bulb of garlic. Snip off the bottom end with your knife, then turn the knife flat on top of the garlic clove and WHACK it with the flat of your hand. If you do it hard enough, you’ll crack the skin and it will be easy to peel off. (I didn’t always get the clove vs. head thing – read my funny story.)
You DO want to cut or crush garlic to release all the health benefits. (See this post for more details.) I find that if I’m using both onions and garlic in a recipe, I use my food chopper for both. If I only need garlic, I use a garlic press (which I got on super discount for 25 cents!) You can also chop finely with a knife, but you’ll get smelly hands and it’s hard to get the pieces small enough (especially if you have patience like mine – not much!).
Cooking note: be sure to only lightly cook garlic if at all possible. Cooking for 10 minutes got rid of all the “phytonutrients” in the garlic. Three minutes was fine, except in the microwave, which almost completely took out all the phytonutrients. (source) Hmmm…just another piece of research to make me skeptical about the microwave.
Benefits of Different Types of Garlic
Depending on how the garlic is prepared or used can have a big impact on the health benefits. How to use your garlic from healthiest to no health benefits:
- Raw, crushed or chopped 7-14 minutes before use
- Cooked, crushed or chopped 7-14 minutes before use, not cooked long
- Powdered or dehydrated garlic, no or minimal health benefits
- Whole, cooked, minimal health benefits
How to Select Garlic:
Squeeze it – it should be firm and not damp with no broken skins. Avoid garlic that is soft, shriveled and moldy or that has begun to sprout. This source says, “Once you break the head of garlic, it greatly reduces its shelf life to just a few days.” Really?? I don’t know how to use a whole bulb of garlic every few days except for this soup. Anyone know if that’s really true?
Some people might think it’s silly to save 30 seconds, but when you’re making everything from scratch, every second adds up.
Since garlic is supposed to be kept in a cool, dark place anyway, so rather than keep it on the counter in a bowl or in the basement with the onions, I’ve started keeping a few heads right in the knife drawer.
See? My favorite knife (found on Amazon), garlic, cutting board – all the things I need to actually use the garlic in cooking, all within 12 inches of each other. The garlic press is right there, too.
I used a cottage cheese tub – free storage! – to keep the little garlic skins from getting everywhere in the drawer.
Garlic AND onions also help when grilling meat. Research shows that grilled meats have carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals, and these veggies can reduce them. Use this meat marinade for grilling for a great one-two punch on carcinogens!
There are fascinating tips for emergency medicinal uses of garlic here.
Increasing My Garlic
I was thinking about how much more garlic I go through than my recipes would indicate, and I wondered if anyone else cooks with garlic like I do:
- If a recipe calls for one clove, I use two.
- If a recipe calls for 2-3 cloves, I use five.
- If a recipe calls for garlic powder, I find a way to make it fresh.
- If a recipe calls for onions but not garlic…chances are good I’ll throw some garlic in, anyway!
- When making up my own recipes, pretty much anything with meat gets at least one clove of fresh, crushed garlic.
A Garlic Recipe – Creamy Garlic Dressing
I couldn’t give you all this great garlic-y information without a recipe to go with it, right? This dressing uses raw garlic – go easy at first. Raw garlic can taste sharp or spicy if you aren’t used to it. If you don’t know how to crush garlic, it’s easy. Lay a clove (still in the papery skin) on a cutting board and put the flat side of a chef’s knife (or large knife) on it. Then smack it with your hand.
Tearing off the papery part will be easy now, and you can include the clove in a blended recipe already, press it in a garlic press or finely mince with a knife for use in recipes. We even teach kids how to do this in our Kids Cook Real Food eCourse, Advanced Level!
- Just mix and enjoy. Store refrigerated; lasts as long as your mayo or yogurt would to begin with. This is a great way to get in your immunity-boosting fresh garlic!
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