Garlic: The Toxin Fighter Superhero
When I was in cooking school, I remember stifling a yawn as my instructor said something like, “So, in garlic, alliinase modifies alliin into allicin, which is a potent antioxidant.” Um, what? How useful is that to me as a natural chef? Thankfully, she went on to explain the part I remember to this day, which is the part I like to teach to all my clients. The Garlic that Is a Superhero When you make even a small effort to study the health benefits of garlic, you will start to see that it comes up as a cure-all and preventative for nearly every ailment and disease known to humankind. Scientific studies confirm garlic’s health benefits in treating infection, protecting circulation, and fighting toxins, some of which are carcinogenic. What’s also astounding is that cultures all over the world grow and use garlic in their diets. There are hundreds of varieties of garlic, and it grows absolutely everywhere on our planet. It has been in culinary and medicinal use for centuries by nearly every culture we know about. This is the part I love to teach my clients - that garlic is important historically, medicinally, and to almost everyone - this must mean something, right? How do you get the most health benefit out of garlic in your diet? To get the most health benefit out of garlic, it’s good to let your garlic “rest” before you cook with it or mix it with other ingredients. Chop, crush, or slice your garlic, then set it aside in the corner of your cutting board while you get the rest of the recipe going. This ten minute “power nap” gives garlic a chance to undergo its molecular modification and to make available its potent healing capabilities. Another important point that I tell my clients is that garlic is most definitely (I say this emphatically and with my chef-ly "serious" face!) on the list of foods that you want to buy organic. According to Sonoma County garlic guru Chester Aaron, who wrote three garlic books, most non-organic garlic in U.S. stores comes from China. His research, which was tested by a chemist at UC Berkeley, found that most people probably wouldn't want to know what's in this Chinese conventionally grown garlic. Pretty scary, huh? Since garlic is used sparingly in most cooking, it’s not going to break the bank to buy it organic! Another fun fact is that, unless otherwise advised by your health practitioner (or perhaps based on your social plans), there is no upper limit on the recommended daily intake of garlic - be it raw, cooked, roasted, juiced, or aged. In other words, enjoy it and share it with those you love. Now that we've seen the advantages garlic has on health, let's take a look at a delicious and easy sauce recipe to maximize those garlic health benefits! Note: This sauce is delicious on hard-boiled eggs, baked potatoes, feta cheese, roasted root vegetables, and garbanzos, among many other foods and dishes. Plus, it’s a "user-upper" for a bunch of fresh herbs that you have left over and don’t want to waste. Feel free to experiment with different herbs; even a single one is delicious. But, I just have one request: please go to the trouble of hand-chopping this recipe instead of using an electric gizmo. It really does make a difference to how the sauce "sings" on the palate and plate. The little extra effort will reward you a sure-fire way to make the simplest foods irresistible. As I always say, I will never tell you what you should eat, only how to cook something to maximize its nutritional benefit. What do you think of this recipe? Please let me know in the comments below. For more information on this topic, check out the following resources used in this article: Prescription for Dietary Wellness The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods Certified Natural Chef Monica Sallouti’s lifelong passion for delicious nutritious food comes from both her formal training and time spent in the kitchens of her two grandmothers as a young girl. She honed her culinary skills and nutritional education at the Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts program at Bauman College in Penngrove, CA. The specialty of nutrition for Chef Sallouti was sparked after a health crisis some 19 years ago. In her late 20’s, she was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. As part of her “treatment,” she developed a keen awareness of the inextricable link between food, cooking and health. Now, 19+ years later, Sallouti brings her knowledge, culinary creativity and care to both her clients.