Ahh, garlic. A “superfood” of its own. The world over it has been used both raw and cooked (both the cloves and whole heads) as a part of meals, as a flavouring, as a botanical medicinal extract, as a nutritional supplement, the list goes on…and that’s just for consumption. There are many other uses for garlic in eclectic, traditional and naturopathic practices.
And why not? A member of the Allium family (along with onions, shallots and leeks), whole books have been written about it due to its multiple therapeutic (not to mention palatable) benefits. A couple of examples of its effects in our bodies include:
- Cardiovascular: garlic can help to improve blood pressure (by dilating blood vessels), lower total and LDL cholesterol as well as triglyceride levels, protect against oxidative damage to the lining of the vessels (which allows blood to flow more freely thus helping to protect against heart attacks and atherosclerosis), and protect against inflammation (which with oxidative damage, can lead to plaque formation and clogging of the arteries) and blood clot formation.
- Systemic (whole body): garlic is an overall powerful antioxidant throughout the body. This means that not only our hearts, but our lungs, muscles, joints, eyes, etc. are benefited by regular garlic consumption.
- Anticancer: there is evidence that daily intake of garlic may help lower the risk of several types of cancer, including colorectal and renal.
- Anemia: garlic appears to have the ability to improve the metabolism and transportation of iron, which is an important component of hemoglobin (which transports oxygen from the lungs through to the body via your blood).
- Antimicrobial (fights bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc): the most well known feature of garlic throughout medical history. High intake of garlic is associated with improved immunity and decreased infections (onset and duration).
- Nutritional: besides the healthful components previously described, garlic also contains small amounts of manganese, vitamins B and C, phosphorus, selenium, copper among other nutrients.
Preparation: While the medicinal properties of garlic are at their best raw, it is still excellent when roasted, cooked or preserved.
- If serving/using raw, it is important the garlic be cut and left for a few minutes before consuming, which allows the active compounds to become activated by exposure to air. It can be added to salad dressings, hummus and spreads, dips, etc. Some people unfortunately experience heartburn from raw garlic, but this generally is prevented if it is cooked prior to consuming.
- Roasting garlic is a phenomenal way to serve it, and imparts a wonderful flavour to your meal. Roasting also helps take the bite out of it, making it easier to digest for sensitive people. Simply cut the top off of a few garlic heads and place in a baking dish with a small amount of water in the bottom. Cover and bake 45-60 minutes at 350ºF. The cloves can then be squeezed and the soft paste used in a variety of dishes, or the heads can simply be placed whole on dinner plates for diners to consume “as is”!
- Garlic can be chopped or minced and added to any cooked foods; examples include soups, stews and stir-fries, meat, fish or tofu, marinades and gravies, even mashed potatoes! Be creative!
Here’s an easy and delicious recipe for a Roasted Garlic broth, which can be used as a stock for other soup or stew recipes, as cooking liquid for rice or grains, or even just as a broth on its own with vegetables, rice or pasta added or bread on the side.
Roasted Garlic and Miso Stock
- 2-3 Whole Heads of Garlic (not separated into individual cloves)
- ¼ Cup Miso (any type)
- 3 Cups of Purified Water
- 3 Cups Vegetable Stock
Roast garlic as described above. When cooked, squeeze the garlic pulp into a blender and puree with the miso and water until smooth. Bring the vegetable stock to a boil then simmer. Slowly add the garlic-miso broth while whisking and bring to up to heat. Use in your favorite recipe or serve as is. Enjoy!
Keynote: As much as possible, it’s important to buy garlic that’s been organically grown. As garlic grows, it takes up the minerals and components that are present in the soil it has been planted in. This means that if chemicals or fertilizers are used in the soil, they will be amplified in your garlic. Conversely, if the soil is deprived of nutrients, so too will your garlic, both of which are not nearly as healthy or tasty for you.