Sure, garlic possesses the irritating ability to sabotage date nights, but the compound responsible for keeping your love interest at arm’s length all night is the same compound responsible for garlic’s numerous health benefits: allicin.
This bioactive component has been linked to garlic’s ability to improve cholesterol profiles, protect against high blood pressure, and improve immunity, according to studies in the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis and Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.
Here’s the thing, though: if you’re throwing whole cloves in with roast veggies or burning your garlic to a crisp, you’re going to miss out on this important phytonutrient.
So how exactly do you have to prepare garlic to reap its health benefits? Simple. All you have to do is crush, chop, smash, or press it before use.
You have to crush, chop, smash, or press garlic before use to form the the bioactive compound responsible for its cardio-protective health benefits.
By crushing the garlic, you start the chemical reaction that makes allicin. You see, this nutrient doesn’t exist in whole cloves. It’s only formed when two components—the molecule alliin and the enzyme alliinase—combine. Since they’re stored separately in garlic cells, they need help getting together to make their magic. When you break down cellular tissue standing in their way by crushing the garlic, you allow the enzyme to work wonders and create the beneficial compound allicin.
Once your garlic is smashed, leave it! Let it sit for 10 minutes while you prep your other ingredients. It’s important to allow enough time for allicin to form before the garlic makes contact with heat, as a Journal of Nutrition study found the alliinase enzyme loses its properties within a minute of cooking.
While allicin is more heat-resistant than the enzyme, Brazilian researchers found that exposing garlic to high temperatures (like burning the garlic) can destroy it, so it’s best to add your crushed garlic to your dish right before it’s done cooking. Alternatively, enjoy crushed garlic raw in salad dressings, salsas, pesto, or one of these guacamole recipes.
If you add garlic to each night’s dinner, doing this simple step means you’ll be able to reap more health-promoting compounds! Just make sure you grab a mint when you’re done chowing down.