People have been enjoying garlic as food and medicine for a very long time. Remarkably, many of the purported health benefits of this tasty herb, first recorded thousands of years ago in Chinese, Greek, Indian, and Egyptian medical texts, are backed by modern science today! The benefits of garlic are numerous. Research shows that each pungent clove of garlic packs powerful phytochemicals, minerals and health-promoting fibers that may boost immune function, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and support the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. As an added bonus, garlic is delicious and versatile, adding sweet, savory or pungent flavors to meals, depending on how you slice, mince, press or roast it! We recently visited the set of AZTV’s Daily Mix to talk about the many benefits of garlic and to enjoy some rich, flavorful roasted garlic soup.
Garlic is packed with nutrients, including potassium, which may have a role in lowering blood pressure, and zinc: an important nutrient that supports healthy immune function. Garlic also contains a special fiber called inulin; a prebiotic that feeds and supports the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Studies show that inulin-containing foods (which also include leeks, asparagus, onions, wheat, soybeans, bananas, and Jerusalem artichokes) increase the number and variety of healthy Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria in the large intestine. These health-promoting bacteria help to reduce inflammation in the gut (and consequently, throughout the body) and may also boost immune function. Reduced inflammation is thought to lower the risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
When garlic is chopped, pressed or sliced, the health benefits of garlic persist as a powerful phytochemical called allicin is formed. Scientific studies demonstrate many beneficial effects of allicin, including improved immune function, reduced cholesterol, and anti-cancer activity. It takes time for allicin to form after garlic is chopped, pressed or sliced, so to get the most out of garlic, let it sit on your cutting board for about 10 minutes before cooking. FYI: Allicin also gives garlic some of its pungent bite, and the longer chopped garlic sits, the sharper its flavor will be!
Although the benefits of garlic are numerous, it can be challenging to have a social life while eating lots of raw or even cooked chopped garlic. Try roasting whole bulbs of fresh garlic instead! Roasted garlic is sweet and savory and you can enjoy eating a lot of it without any unwanted side effects! Although roasted garlic does not contain allicin (because the cloves are cooked whole and are not chopped, sliced or pressed), it does provide all of the other health-promoting nutrients, including potassium, inulin and zinc. Use roasted garlic as a spread on bread, or in sauces, salad dressings, or even hummus, and check out how easy it is to make roasted garlic soup! This recipe combines roasted garlic with a little lightly sautéed minced garlic; providing all of the health benefits with a milder flavor and aroma.
For more delicious and nutritious recipes, plus dozens of healthy cooking videos, check out Your Healthy Kitchen at YRMCHealthConnect.org. You can also follow us on Facebook, at YRMC’s Your Healthy Kitchen, where Rita Carey Rubin, MS, RD, CDE, posts photos and quick videos of meals she prepares in her home kitchen, plus links to food-related community events, nutrition-related videos, and recipes from her favorite food blogs.