Food Spotlight: Garlic

garlic1As a fitness trainer in Sandy, I’m always on the lookout for foods that fuel your fitness efforts. When it comes to health foods, it’s hard to find one that packs more of a punch than garlic. Native to central Asia, garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and has been grown for over 5,000 years. It appears that the ancient Egyptians were the first to cultivate garlic. Interestingly enough, it played an important role in their culture. They would bestow garlic with sacred qualities and place it in the tomb of the Pharaohs. It was also given to the slaves that built the Pyramids to enhance their endurance and strength. This strength-enhancing quality was also honored by the ancient Greeks and Romans, whose athletes ate garlic before sporting events and whose soldiers consumed it before going off to war.

Garlic was later introduced into various regions throughout the globe by migrating cultural tribes and explorers. By the 6th century BC, garlic was known in both China and India as well. India used garlic for its therapeutic purposes.  Throughout the years, garlic has been a much loved plant in many cultures not only for its culinary yumminess but also for its medicinal properties. Over the last few years, it has gained increased popularity through all the research that has been scientifically validated stating its numerous health benefits.

These health benefits include the ability to lower your triglycerides, raise HDL (the good cholesterol) and lower over all cholesterol, protecting your blood cells and  vessels  from inflammatory and oxidative stress, helps keep your blood vessels  dilated  and clear from blockage which also leads to lower blood pressure, prevent clots from forming in the first place and has been shown to help prevent heart disease. Garlic also has  antibacterial  and antiviral benefits, has been shown to help prevent cancer and increase the body’s iron metabolism. And that’s not all! With this list of health benefits I, for one, make sure to include garlic all the time! Whether you’re a fitness trainer in Sandy or not, you really can’t afford not to!!

With it’s unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients this allium vegetable belongs in your diet on a regular basis. There’s mounds and mounds of research evidence for including at least one serving of garlic in your meal plan every day…but how many of you do?? A lot of people don’t include it in the right amount, thereby limiting the health benefit garlic provides. To make it a little easier for all of you, make sure that you include AT LEAST 1/2 clove in your daily intake. If you’re incorporating it into a recipe, make sure to use at least half a clove for each serving.

Garlic is one of my absolute favorite seasonings to add, and I do to almost all of my recipes. It adds aroma, taste, and and extra serving of nutrition to your dishes. Using raw, chopped or pressed garlic in your dishes allows you to take advantage of the many, many, many benefits garlic has to offer. However, if you cannot tolerate raw garlic, you can add chopped garlic to foods while they are cooking, but be sure to add it towards the end of the cooking process to retain the maximum amount of flavor and nutrition. Cooking it at too high a heat destroys the compounds in the garlic that provide the health benefits. It is recommended that the heat used to cook garlic not exceed 250 degrees.  However, a lot of websites and cookbooks suggest roasting garlic at 350 degrees…don’t do it!! It will take a little longer at 250, but it will be worth it!


The first step to using fresh garlic is to separate the individual cloves. A really easy way to do this, is to place the entire bulb on a cutting board and  firmly apply pressure with the palm of your hand, at an angle. This will help the layers of skin that hold the bulb together separate.

Next, each clove  must  be peeled, I use a  small  paring knife. Chopping or crushing the clove stimulates the enzymatic process that converts the alliin in the garlic into allicin, (a compound to which many of garlic’s health benefits are attributed). In order to allow for maximal allicin production, make sure to wait AT LEAST 5 minutes (10 is better) before eating or cooking the garlic.  Make sure to let the garlic sit alone, without adding any other ingredients during this period as foods too high, or tow low in acidity can negatively impact the health benefits of the garlic. Many of garlic’s health benefits (including its anti-cancer properties) are preserved if the whole cloves are crushed and allowed to sit for 10 minutes prior to cooking.

Serving Ideas

  • Puree fresh garlic, canned garbanzo beans, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice to make quick and easy hummus dip. YUM!!
  • Saute steamed spinach, garlic, and fresh lemon juice.
  • Add garlic to sauces and soups.

Roasted Garlic

Seriously people, I love this stuff!! It’s awesome as a spread for wraps and sandwiches and WAY better for you than mayo!! It’s good thrown in soups and stews, scrambled eggs and even in cottage cheese (with a little Mrs. Dash sprinkled on top). I try to keep some on hand all the time, which reminds’s time to roast more garlic today!
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Cut the tops off of each garlic bulb so that each clove is visible. Place them in a pan and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven for an hour and a half. It makes your house smells yummy and the end result is delish! When the garlic is done roasting, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool. Voila! There you have it, roasted garlic! YUMMY!! For more fitness trainer in Sandy food tips and spotlights, stay tuned!



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