Garlic's Goodness Best Released With a Crush
September 18, 2007
Consuming large amounts of raw
garlic may be good for your heart, but not necessarily your social life. So,
how do we best enjoy these pungent little bulbs, without missing out on their
impressive health benefits?
Crush them. Then bake them slightly. That's according to Agricultural
Research Service (ARS) scientists and
collaborators in Argentina.
Researchers have known for some time that garlic--like its close relative,
the onion--is a rich source of heart-protective compounds called
thiosulfinates. These sulfur compounds, best known for causing eyes to water,
may lower blood pressure and break up potentially harmful clusters of platelets
in the bloodstream.
But, up to now, most researchers and nutritionists assumed that the best way
to seize on garlic's cardiovascular benefits was to eat the small bulbs in
their most unfettered form: in the raw.
Not so, discovered ARS plant geneticist
Simon and his colleagues Pablo Cavagnaro, Alejandra Camargo and Claudio
Galmarini, whose findings appear in the Journal of Agricultural
and Food Chemistry. Simon works in the
Vegetable Crops Research Unit in Madison, Wis. Cavagnaro, Camargo and
Galmarini work at the INTA La Consulta in
Since most people worldwide sauté or bake their garlic before eating
it, the researchers wanted to know if cooking reduced garlic's blood-thinning
effects. They also wanted to see what impact crushing the garlic before cooking
had on its ability to bust up artery-clogging platelets.
After boiling, baking and microwaving both crushed and uncrushed cloves of
garlic and evaluating them for their antiplatelet activity, the scientists
learned that lightly cooked, crushed garlic provides most of the health
benefits found in raw garlic. The only exception was microwaving, which
stripped garlic almost entirely of its blood-thinning effects.
The researchers contend that while heating might be generally blamed for
reducing garlic's antiplatelet activity, it's the crushing that enables the
beneficial compounds to be freed in the first place.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.