Garlic: Chop First, Heat Later
I ran across this a while back. I figure this forum is best for it since some use garlic for medicinal/health purposes.
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have been studying garlic’s potential health benefits for more than a decade. “And whenever I make presentations on garlic compounds, people invariably ask about home preparation techniques,” observes John A. Milner, the Penn State team’s leader. “Everyone wants to know what happens to those compounds when they cook garlic?”
At last year’s FASEB meeting, his group reported data from a trio of studies showing garlic’s promise against various cancers (Cancers do not savor garlic). Though the active agents-a pair of sulfur-based allicin derivatives known as SAC (S-allyl cysteine) and DADS (diallyl disulfide)-tend to withstand cooking, Milner wasn’t sure about whether cooking garlic would short-circuit their production. So, he and Kun Song, a graduate student, decided to put raw cloves of garlic into a microwave oven and irradiate them on high for 1 minute.
The heated cloves looked no different than when they went into the oven: Neither their color nor firmness had changed. However, Milner says that microwaving inactivated allicinase, the allicin-producing enzyme. “We’re not talking about a 10 percent reduction in the enzyme’s activity,” he told SCIENCE NEWS ONLINE. “It’s no longer effective. Period.”
Nor is there reason to believe that other types of heating would prove any kinder to the enzyme, Milner says. This means his family’s garlic-rich recipes may need some tinkering. “I’m married to an Italian,” he explains. “When my wife begins crushing that garlic, it goes right into hot oil”-well before the allicin has time to launch the chemical cascade that ultimately produces SAC and DADS. “And when we make garlic butter,” he says, “we put the whole bulb [of garlic] into the oven. We don’t crush it first. So I’m 99.9 percent sure that the enzyme activity will be destroyed here too.”
Because it doesn’t take long-perhaps 10 or 15 minutes-“to get maximum formation of these anticancer agents [SAC and DADS],” he now suggests that cooks consider employing a little patience when recipes call for garlic. “Crush, nick or chop the cloves as you normally do-then let them sit for a few minutes,” he recommends.
These studies are part of a new wave demonstrating the extent to which preparation techniques can make all the difference in whether comestibles qualify as nutraceuticals-therapeutic foods.
For example, he notes, tomatoes’ pharmacological advantages appear to improve with heating, which renders lycopene-a pigment with anticancer properties-more biologically available. With garlic’s value for fighting pulmonary hypertension and cancer, immediate cooking can have the opposite effect.
The lesson in both findings: Take your time in the kitchen. Your mental and physical health may both stand to benefit. For asthma and other ailments, though, the recipe may be different.