By Alejandra Perez, CSUN Dietetic Intern
From all the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that bloom this season, garlic is a beloved favorite. Most of us might like garlic for its sharp, savory taste but the qualities of garlic extend beyond its ability to season food. Garlic is a bundle of antimicrobial and antioxidant activity all at a very affordable price. With each bulb of garlic containing 10-12 cloves and costing about 79 cents, you are truly getting your money’s worth. In addition, garlic has a long storage life (3-5 months!) if kept in a cool, dry and dark place.1 Next time you mince a garlic clove to add to a dip, side dish, or soup, think of the following positive benefits garlic can have in your diet.
When a bulb of garlic is attacked in some way (crushed or contaminated by a plague), it produces allicin as a defense mechanism. Allicin has antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties. Garlic extracts have been found to inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori, bacteria that can cause stomach infections, and P. ginigvalis, bacteria that causes periodontitis (gum disease).2,3 If the fear of having garlic breath has stopped you from cooking with it, think about how the garlic can actually destroy oral bacteria.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are naturally formed by the body and have a role in cell signaling. However, high levels of ROS can cause damage to cell structures due to their instability. Allicin, a sulfur-containing compound in garlic, interacts with these unstable compounds, reducing their ability to cause harm.3
Anti-inflammatory effects of garlic and its sulfur containing compounds can have a protective effect on blood vessels. Garlic inhibits platelets in blood from clumping together, which can lead to blood clots, and has been found to reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients. 4,5 Other studies have linked garlic consumption with a reduction in total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol (known as bad cholesterol) among participants with abnormal cholesterol levels.4 Although garlic is not a replacement for medical prescriptions, it can be part of a healthy diet for those with cardiovascular concerns.
Last but not least, garlic can be used as a flavor enhancer in place of salt or other sauces/seasonings high in sodium. This is especially important if you have hypertension and need to monitor you salt intake. Raw garlic will have a stronger, pungent taste while cooked garlic is milder and sweeter. Roasting garlic brings out nutty flavors. Use raw garlic in salad dressings and dips and sautéed/roasted garlic in pastas, roasts, and soups. For your convenience, many stores carry jarred minced garlic. You can also use garlic powder or dry garlic but read labels to make sure it is not garlic salt.
Garlic Zucchini Noodle Recipe
This recipe is a delicious way to get more veggies into your diet!
- 3 medium zucchini, spiralized
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 gloves of garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon of fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon of black pepper
- red chili flakes
- Start by mincing the garlic and slicing the zucchini using a vegetable spiralizer.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet at medium heat. Once hot, toss in the garlic, zucchini, salt, and pepper.
- Cook for about 5-7 minutes. Stir the ingredients while cooking. Once done, drain out any extra liquid to keep the noodles from becoming soggy.
- Serve on a plate, adding as little or as much red chili flakes as you want.
Tip from Alejandra: I like this recipe because it is very simple with few ingredients but you can customize it. Include garbanzo or white beans for added protein. You can also add more vegetables for more color.
- “Garlic: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve, and Enjoy”. (2016, October). UC Food Safety Home. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from http://ucfoodsafety.ucdavis.edu/files/250352.pdf
- Bakri, & Douglas. (2005). Inhibitory effect of garlic extract on oral bacteria.Archives of Oral Biology, 50(7), 645-651.
- Rahman, M. (2007). Allicin and Other Functional Active Components in Garlic: Health Benefits and Bioavailability.International Journal of Food Properties, 10(2), 245-268.
- Tsai, Chen, Sheen, & Lii. (2012). Garlic: Health benefits and actions.BioMedicine, 2(1), 17-29.
- Varshney, R., & Budoff, M. (2016). Garlic and Heart Disease.The Journal of Nutrition, 146(2), 416S-421S.