Garlic, also known as Allium sativum, has been around for centuries. Legend says it was found in Egyptian pyramids and ancient Greek temples as an offering to the Gods. And Hippocrates, considered the father of Western medicine, was said to have used garlic to treat cancerous tumors, pneumonia, digestive disorders, as a diuretic and for infections.
Both cherished and sought for its healing powers, garlic is still being promoted as a health food with numerous therapeutic benefits. Raw, crushed garlic is both antibacterial and antiviral due to the presence of allicin, which has been shown to kill more than 20 types of bacteria.
Garlic is also known to have cardiovascular benefits because it helps lower blood triglycerides and total cholesterol. The compound diallyl disulphide-oxide, found in heated or cooked garlic, has also been shown to lower serum cholesterol by preventing clotting in the arteries.
Garlic’s antioxidant vitamins and sulfur-containing compounds help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, which can stimulate the body to fight carcinogens and may even aid in preventing certain types of cancer, such as stomach cancer. Garlic's sulfur compounds have also been shown to regulate blood sugar metabolism, detoxify the liver and stimulate blood circulation. (Explore Pharmaca's garlic supplements now!)
Cooking with garlic
Let’s start with the basics:
- Store in a cool, dark place (though not a refrigerator); garlic can be kept for several weeks.
- Cooking garlic decreases the strength of its flavor, making it much milder than raw garlic. For a mild flavor, add whole cloves to food while it cooks or marinates, and then remove before serving (although I personally can’t imagine removing the garlic once is has become soft, creamy and delicious!). When sautéing garlic, be careful not to cook it too long at a high temperature, as it will brown very quickly and become bitter and unusable.
- The more finely garlic is chopped, the stronger its flavor will be.
- Remove garlic odor from your hands by rubbing them with salt or lemon juice and then washing them with soap.
- Get rid of garlic breath by chewing on a bit of fresh parsley (or better yet, make sure everyone near you has eaten their fair share of garlic, too!)
Simple ways to add garlic into your diet:
- Flavor soups, stews and casseroles
- Roast with meats, fish, poultry and vegetables
- Chop finely and add raw to salad dressings
- Bake whole heads until softened and spread on bread
Quick and Easy Hummus Recipe
- 1 16 oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
- 1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
- Juice from 1 or 2 lemons*
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini paste (sesame seed paste)
- 1-2 cloves raw garlic, crushed*
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Drain chickpeas, reserving the liquid and a few whole chickpeas for garnish. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Blend for 2 minutes on low and then add the reserved liquid until thoroughly mixed and smooth.
Place in serving bowl, and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus.
Add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil in the well and garnish with parsley and the reserved whole chick peas.
Hummus can be served immediately or covered and refrigerated. Hummus can be used for dipping with fresh or toasted pita, sliced vegetables or as a spread for sandwiches or wraps.
*The amount of garlic and lemon juice can be adjusted according to your personal taste. If you are new to using raw garlic, you may want to start with just one clove, as the flavor can become stronger as the hummus sits.
Add a dash of red chili pepper or cayenne pepper for a spicier hummus
Top with roasted red bell peppers or finely chopped green olives
Add cooked, chopped spinach for added iron
Sharon Wegner is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Nutritional Consultant and member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Sharon teaches her clients how to make healthier food and lifestyle choices by creating simple and sustainable changes. She shares her passion for cooking with her clients by teaching them how to make fresh and delicious REAL food. For more healthy recipes and to find out more about her work visit her at Essentials for Healthy Living blog.