A few years back, my sister made a homemade pizza with a white garlic sauce. As she was cooking, she realized she accidentally more than doubled the garlic amount in the recipe. Oops. The flavor of garlic dominated that meal. Those unfamiliar with the intake of garlic, it’s similar to a swimmer, where it is nearly impossible to get the stench of chlorine out of your skin. Garlic loves to linger, creating a little fragrance cloud around you. I am pretty sure for the rest of that week no one wanted to be in a one-mile radius of me at the gym. The aroma of garlic was quite pungent as I sweated up a storm on the treadmill. Because of this one instance, I backed off the garlic for a while, concerned about what others would think. However, I was reintroduced to garlic in all its glory when I initiated clean eating into my life last month. I didn’t give garlic a chance years ago. Turns out I should have, because it is an amazing cooking tool. I surprisingly learned a few things from cooking with garlic…lots and lots and lots of garlic. So here are 5 things I learned from incorporating garlic into my eating habits.
- There are a ton of health benefits to cooking with garlic.
Garlic not only wards off the vampires, werewolves, and evil spirits, but it also wards of several health risks. Garlic is abundant in organosulfur compounds that benefit in reducing the risk of certain diseases (1). Consuming garlic can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, infection, and stroke. It can also reduce or prevent diabetes and high blood pressure (2)(3). Along with prevention of disease and infection, garlic is linked to anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial tendencies (1). For someone who is gluten, grain, and dairy sensitive, this is necessary to help keep my health where it should be. Along with these sensitivities, every single one of these risks runs in my family on both sides. Trying to live medication free, it only makes sense to incorporate something like garlic into my meals regularly, so I don’t have to be put on medications for those conditions later in life.
- Garlic is considered a “power food” for my Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Trying to live medication free, I challenged myself to incorporate more of the foods that assist my thyroid function. Since Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder, my body attacks my healthy cells by mistake. Garlic can decrease and suppress certain protein complexes and cytokines that are connected to autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s (4). Due to the suppressing capabilities, incorporating “power foods” like garlic into my daily life are going to help the thyroid function at an optimal level.
- There are a lot of ways to prepare and eat garlic.
Minced. Chopped. Roasted. Raw. It’s personal preference on how you want to eat it and prepare it in meals. If you want more flavor throughout the whole dish, minced—although preparation of minced tends to be stickier—is the way to go. I personally enjoy chopped garlic. Chopped will be a little more flavorful than whole because of the partial release and breakdown of an enzyme, (1). This release is what gives garlic it’s flavor. The best part about chopping garlic, is there are a variety of levels of how finely you chop it. This allows for creative freedom and experimenting in your cooking.
- Garlic comes in a variety of packaging, but I find fresh garlic bulbs are the best.
While shopping at Aldi, I discovered a new product in the produce section: Prepackaged, already peeled, fresh garlic cloves. It was like angels singing Hallelujahs. No longer would I have to take the time to complete the mundane, tedious task of peeling off the skin (which sometimes does not come off so easily). However, after a few meals, I realized the garlic wasn’t as flavorful in meals being pre-peeled and prepackaged. As mentioned earlier, mincing fresh garlic can be quite sticky, so one might be tempted to get the jarred minced garlic. However, with jarred garlic usually comes preservatives to make the garlic’s freshness last longer. Preservatives usually don’t go hand in hand with trying to eat cleanly. So that leaves garlic bulbs. Fresh bulbs are so readily accessible to us and are inexpensive to purchase. Fresh bulbs will also guarantee stronger, longer lasting flavor. In my opinion, this outweighs the extra minute (if even a minute) it will take me to mince or peel the garlic.
- I should desire my “needs” over my “wants” in life.
You all knew the reflective part was coming. Cooking with garlic this past month helped me become more in tune with the needs of my body. I learned to appreciate knowing that garlic is something my body needs, and I can see the benefits. This made me realize I should desire what I need over what I want. What I want is a Marvin’s garlic cheeseburger (All my DePauw people understand), but what I need is my garlic butternut squash. What I want is to not push people away with my new garlic “perfume”, but what I need is to consume garlic to benefit my health. What I want is a job that comes with financial stability and set schedules, but what I need is a career that allows me to follow my passion and thrive. What I want is to always fill my schedule to feel like I belong, but what I need sometimes is to rest. What I want is a guy who isn’t ashamed to show me off and vice versa, but what I need is someone content with most of our moments staying our moments, not feeling it necessary to show the whole world. I’ve started a journal process, making a table examining my “wants” for any situation in my life and then reexamining the same situation looking at my needs. I could choose to focus on my “wants” in this world and choose to ignore my true needs, but that won’t benefit a fit, healthy, happy life.
You see, focusing on our wants—the ones that tend to not be the best, wisest options for us—eventually tend to leave us feeling empty, rejected, unappreciated, used. Whereas, focusing on our needs will leave us feeling fulfilled, satisfied, renewed. All it takes is discipline and determination to choose our garlic.