Garlic truly is a wonder food, well known for its cardiovascular and immune system benefits. It turns out, like other health-promoting plants, garlic is a powerful antioxidant. In a recent study released by Angewandte Chemie, scientists found that garlic’s antioxidant power comes from the organic compound allicin. The allicin compound is responsible for garlic’s characteristic smell, and must be exposed to air to produce sulfenic acid, which quickly reacts in the body with potentially damaging radicals.
In order to get the most out of garlic, it’s important to buy fresh, raw garlic and crush it to release the allicin. Commercial garlic products don’t preserve allicin as well, but if you buy garlic powders or capsules, make sure the label says it contains allicin. Cooking garlic can destroy the allicin content, so letting it sit for 10 minutes will help to retain some of its antioxidant power. The benefits of raw garlic are clear, but don’t forget that cooked garlic also has health benefits because it releases anti-coagulants ajoene and adenosine.
If you want those antioxidants, but garlic isn’t your thing, onions, leeks and shallots can also act as antioxidants. Just note that allicin decomposes slower in these vegetables than in garlic, so less sulfenic acid is available to combat free radicals, diminishing the antioxidant power.
For recipes that take it up a notch with garlic, click here.