Garlic is part of the allium family which also includes onions, shallots, leeks and chives.
Garlic has traditionally been used over the centuries for its medicinal properties as well as for flavoring of food. It is commonly thought to have cardiovascular benefits as well as antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties.
Raw garlic is thought to have the most health benefit, but encapsulated versions are also beneficial.
Garlic can be used to help improve conditions related to the blood and cardiovascular system such as cholesterol, blood pressure and artery health, as well as immune health.
Allicin is the chemical produced by garlic that gives it its beneficial properties.
Garlic is not good for everyone
In sensitive individuals, garlic consumption can lead to skin irritations and rashes, headaches, yeast infections, diarrhea, bloating, flatulence, a hangover effect and even anaphylaxis. Garlic is thought to stimulate the trigeminal nerve, which is one of the cranial nerves that is involved in facial and motor functions such as eating and chewing. This causes peptides to be released that trigger headaches. The sulfur compounds in garlic which give it its pungent smell can be a cause for negative reactions.
If you are a garlic lover, here are some tips to ensure maximum benefits from the consumption of garlic:
Avoid buying pre-minced garlic.
Garlic begins to oxidize once its chopped, so it is a good idea to use it soon after chopping it. When you buy it already minced it may have lost some of its health benefits due to oxidization.
Fresh garlic also contains higher levels of allicin so is therefore more beneficial for circulation and the prevention of bacterial infections.
Make sure that the garlic you are buying is its freshest.
Garlic that has been stored for too long also loses its health benefits. Fresh garlic should feel firm and should not have any sprouts forming.
Store your garlic in the right place.
If you are harvesting your own garlic, it should be refrigerated and used within a week, whereas the garlic we buy in the shops should ideally be stored at room temperature in a dry, well aerated place. It can also be kept in a brown bag as long as it’s in a place that is dry and well-ventilated place to prevent it from sprouting. Garlic stored in this manner can be kept for several months as long as the cloves remain intact and not separated from each other.
If it does start sprouting, plant the bulb in your garden and grow your own garlic.
Avoid using a garlic press.
Pressed garlic has a more intense flavor, and it can also burn more easily. Pressing, like juicing, removes a lot of the fiber and can change the flavor profile of the garlic. Well defined and rough textured chopping gives garlic a more mellow flavor to make your meal more flavorful.
Less is more.
Garlic is not the only spice available and can enhance a dish if used in the right quantities. Not all dishes need garlic and overuse should be avoided. Other seasonings, spices and flavorants such as lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, honey, and wine can enhance the flavor of your food too.
You may be experiencing some symptoms that are related to a garlic sensitivity which you may or may not associate with garlic consumption. If that is you, try avoiding it for a while to see if your symptoms improve. Not all things are “healthy” for all people. Adding a supplement like molybdenum, which supports Sulphur detoxification can also be helpful especially if it’s only a mild sensitivity.
Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 17 June 2021 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am