The Magic Onion: Garlic's Health Benefits | UMZU
By Sara Novak
Garlic is one of the most versatile health foods out there. I call it a health food because whether it is lowering your blood pressure or amping your body up with antioxidants, garlic is loaded with everything good. If it is not in your regular cooking repertoire, it should be, and here is why.
- What Is Garlic
- Types Of Garlic
- How To Cultivate Garlic
- How To Put Garlic To Use In Your Kitchen
- Beneficial Garlic Compounds
- The Health Benefits Of Garlic
What is garlic?
Garlic is an allium, which means that it is in the onion family along with onions, leeks, and scallions. While it is native to central Asia, it is cultivated all over the world. In fact, you may have some growing in your garden right now. Garlic has been used medicinally since the ancient Egyptians. This perennial plant starts out as a bulb then a shoot blooms up and the plant is blanketed with tiny pink and purple flowers. The bulbs are housed in crispy white “sheathing” that has to be removed to get to the meat of the plant. Garlic is great because of its long shelf life. Like a tuber, you can have it in your pantry for long periods of time before it goes rancid.
Types of garlic
If done correctly, garlic can be grown as far north as Alaska and as a result, there are many different types of garlic. The colors, shapes, and cloves of garlic can vary. For example, the cloves of the elephant ear garlic are huge. Here are just a few examples:
- Marbled purple stripe
- Elephant ear
How to cultivate garlic
Garlic is not very difficult to grow and in many cases it might be easier to grow at home. Simply plant the “fists” (cloves) of garlic, once bloomed, into the ground. They can be planted throughout much of the warm months. Plant the length of your hand apart from one another, and as deep as your thumb in the ground. Make sure you choose organic garlic to avoid the pesticides and herbicides sprayed on the conventional variety.
How to put garlic to use in your kitchen
1. Tomato sauce
Simply chop up a few cloves of garlic and add to sizzling olive oil. It should only be in the heat for a few seconds or until fragrant before adding tomatoes. If it’s burned, which can happen really fast, it goes rancid and can ruin the flavor of your sauce.
2. Roasted garlic
By cutting off the top, exposing the cloves inside, you can roast the whole head of garlic. This changes the flavor profile and makes the garlic taste sweeter and fuller bodied. Add roasted garlic to all of your favorite recipes like pizza, hummus, and the list goes on.
3. Garlic shrimp
Sauté garlic with organic butter, a squeeze of lemon, and chopped parsley for a delicious garlic use. After peeling the shrimp, it takes just a few minutes to prepare and it tastes like a restaurant quality dish.
4. Garlic butter
Combine chopped garlic with organic butter and sea salt. Whip it in the Cusinart for a few seconds. Roll the butter up into parchment paper and cut off as much as you need at one time. It lasts in the fridge for weeks. Add on top of a high quality grass fed steak or slather into a delicious baked potato.
5. Garlic dressing
Make a creamy garlic dressing with olive oil, stoneground mustard, garlic, and lemon. Drizzle over your savory fruits or over a piece of high quality protein like organic chicken or pork.
6. Easy garlic spread
Now that you have roasted that delicious garlic, why not put it to good use in a yummy spread? Combine roasted garlic with olive oil and sea salt and whip up into a tasty concoction.
Give This Recipe A Try: Parmesan Garlic Crusted Cod
7. Easy pickled garlic
It is garlic and it is fermented, which makes for a double whammy when it comes to optimal gut health. Add 1 pound of garlic cloves to 2 cups of white vinegar, 1 tsp of sugar, and 1 tsp pickling salt. Add a pinch of crushed peppers and oregano. Let set in the refrigerator for a few hours for a quick pickle.
8. Garlic broth
Make your own broth at home. Take the sheathing off of a head of garlic and bring a gallon of filtered water to boil. Add other scrap vegetables like carrot and onion peels or a sachet of herbs, whatever you have on hand. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook covered for 1 hour and then drain. Preserve the broth and use in all of your favorite soup recipes.
Beneficial garlic compounds
Garlic is a complex vegetable that contains a number of important health producing compounds that researchers are only beginning to understand. It is hard to believe that one tiny vegetable can have this many active compounds. It is all the more reason to chop it up and add it to all your favorite recipes.
Thiosulfinate is a component in garlic that provides its antimicrobial activities, which is important for the immune system.
S-allylcysteine is an organosulfur compound found in fresh garlic and in many garlic supplements. It is an amino acid which has been shown to protect the body against oxidative stress and the degenerative diseases that it can cause in the body.
Known as SAMC, research has shown that this organosulfur compound found in fresh garlic, is also an antioxidant.
Saponins found in garlic are the main active nonsulfur compounds. They may be at least partially responsible for garlic’s heart protective properties.
Nα-fructosyl arginine is another active compound found in garlic that has been shown to be an antioxidant that protects the cells from aging.
Learn More: UMZU Research Library - Garlic Powder
The health benefits of garlic
The health compounds that make up garlic provide a number of benefits. Here are just a few of them:
1. Heart health
Garlic is widely coveted for its ability to protect heart health. According to a study published in the journal Food, “garlic was reported to inhibit platelet aggregation, which might be related to the antioxidant activity of garlic and its antioxidant compounds. The polyphenols in aged black garlic extract had a relaxing effect on coronary arteries in rat hearts and improved myocardial contractility.” Additionally, according to a review published in the journal Neurological Research, researchers found that “based on current research, garlic favorably affects atherosclerosis, hypertension, and diabetes, and helps decrease the risk of myocardial infarction and ischemic stroke.”
Redwood has the exact clinical dose of vitamin c and garlic shown in clinical research to help boost nitric oxide (a necessary agent to increase blood flow) by up to 200%!
2. Immune health
Garlic also improves the functioning of the immune system which has a much larger impact on its other therapeutic health impacts. According to a study published in the Journal of Immunology Research, many of the therapeutic effects including the cardiovascular benefits are caused by the immune system. The authors write, “garlic appears to enhance the functioning of the immune system by stimulating certain cell types, such as macrophages, lymphocytes, natural killer (NK) cells, dendritic cells, and eosinophils.” It boosts immune cells and functioning.
3. Cancer fighting compounds
This miracle food has also been shown to slow the growth of cancer cells in some types of cancer. Research published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research found that epidemiological studies have shown the beneficial nature of garlic in preventing certain types of cancer, especially those of the gastrointestinal tract. A meta analysis published in the journal Medicine found that epidemiological studies showed that garlic may decrease the risk of colorectal cancer.
4. Blood sugar regulation
Many of the same antioxidant protections found in garlic that help protect against heart disease and cancer also help stabilize blood sugar. A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Supplements found that a possible mechanism by which garlic, white onion, and purple onion exert anti-diabetes and antihypertensive properties could be through the inhibitory effect on ACE, α-amylase, and α-glucosidase coupled with their ability to prevent lipid peroxidation in the pancreas and heart.” Another study published in the journal Arquivos Brasileiros de Cardiologia found that garlic is therapeutically a positive treatment for regulating glucose in those with diabetes.
5. Increases cognitive function
Garlic has been shown to increase longevity and also decrease your risk of certain neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Research published in the journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine found that certain compounds in garlic seem to have neuroprotective impacts against Alzheimer’s disease. The authors write that certain chemicals in garlic seem to improve memory and have other cognitive benefits. Research published in the Journal of Health and Aging found that “the beneficial effects of garlic and its constituents on neuronal physiology and brain functions are beginning to emerge.”
6. Detoxifies heavy metals
Now this is impressive. Not only is garlic nutrient dense and loaded with therapeutic benefits, it has also been shown to detox the body of heavy metals like lead. Researchers publishing in the Journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine looked at its consumption among people with lead poisoning and found that its healthy compounds seemed to remove lead from the body. The authors write “the frequency of side effects was significantly higher in d-penicillamine than in the garlic group. Thus, garlic seems safer clinically and as effective as d-penicillamine. Therefore, garlic can be recommended for the treatment of mild-to-moderate lead poisoning.” As part of the study, researchers found that three doses of garlic each day seemed to be more beneficial to removing the deadly metal from the body compared to d-penicillamine. While much more research needs to be done on the subject, the results are promising and there is little to no downside of consuming garlic on a regular basis.