What would the world do without garlic? This bulbous plant is a critical ingredient across cultures in many popular dishes. And while some may avoid it to evade “garlic breath,” many more count themselves as garlic lovers, doubling or tripling the garlic called for in recipes to take advantage of its distinct flavor.
Garlic for Health
It’s the garlic lovers who have the advantage when it comes to health. Garlic has a blood-lipid-lowering effect and some research shows it can be beneficial in controlling abnormal blood sugar levels for people with diabetes. Garlic has also been shown to lower blood pressure. Researchers attribute many of these benefits to a variety of substances found in garlic, as well as onions, called allylsulfides.
Supplements or dietary?
Garlic’s positive health effects are practically medicinal, but that’s because these studies used garlic powder in pill form. In terms of supplements, this is about as natural as you get, but we don’t really know if actually eating garlic in normal amounts in the long term has these same effects. However, one analysis looked at intake of actual garlic and onions, as opposed to garlic powder supplements, and found that eating high amounts of onions and garlic can protect you from cancers of the digestive system as well as prostate cancer. Like most nutrition research, we’re still in the early stages. However, this preliminary evidence points to garlic’s preventative power for a host of interrelated chronic diseases, so maybe it’s time we’re proud of our garlic breath.Garlic may lower your risk for chronic diseases Click To Tweet
Short-term health benefits
In addition to protecting us from chronic disease, the allylsulfides in garlic (and onion) might also protect us from more short-term health issues. Many people, women in particular, are iron deficient. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which leads to fatigue and general sluggishness because your body isn’t getting the nutrients and energy it needs from the blood.
Since many people are moving towards a plant-based diet because of the strong evidence that it is healthier for our bodies as well as the planet, we might not be eating as many animal sources of iron. Meat contains iron that is highly bioavailable, while plant sources of iron aren’t always absorbed into our bodies as well. All this to say, garlic is here to help. Garlic’s allylsulfides can actually increase the availability of the iron from cereal grains and legumes, so that our gut can absorb the iron up to about 70% more efficiently.Garlic helps your body absorb iron Click To Tweet
Ways to Enjoy Garlic
So eat more garlic, your taste buds and body will thank you. But is garlic meant to play a supporting role in dishes, only meant to elevate vegetables, chicken, soups and bread forever? Nonsense.
Garlic deserves a starring role. One of the most decadent preparations of garlic is roasting it whole in the oven. Try this recipe from the Kitchn. Garlic is magically transformed from its raw, acrid state to a soft, spreadable form that is slightly sweet with complex, caramelized flavors. Simple and inexpensive, roasted garlic is a high delicacy for the rest of us. Spread on crackers and bread or use in soups and salad dressings.
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Gautam S, Platel K and Srinivasan K. Higher bioaccessibility of iron and zinc from food grains in the presence of garlic and onion. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Jul 28;58(14):8426-9. 2010
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