Many health experts consider garlic to be a superfood due to its numerous health benefits. Garlic is rich in healthy compounds known as allicins that can help to protect against cancer and heart disease. Unfortunately, cooking garlic destroys the garlic's ability to make allicin and makes cooked garlic generally not as beneficial as raw garlic. Nonetheless, it still may be possible to get some health benefits from cooked garlic.
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Health Benefits of Garlic
Garlic has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Many different cultures have learned to use garlic for its benefits to the immune system and its ability to fight infections. In addition to helping the immune system, garlic has a number of positive effects on heart health. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that garlic can lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. Garlic also has some anti-cancer properties that can help to prevent cancer and also reduce cancer symptoms in cancer patients.
Allicin Is Made by Raw Garlic
Most of the health benefits of garlic are attributed to the compound allicin. This heart disease and cancer-fighting compound is formed from garlic when a compound called alliin in garlic comes into contact with the garlic enzyme alliinase when raw garlic is cut, crushed or chewed. When you heat or cook garlic, alliinase becomes inactivated, preventing the production of allicin. As a result, cooking garlic decreases many of its health benefits, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Raw and Cooked Garlic Fight Cancer
In addition to allicin, garlic also contains other compounds that can help fight cancer. Unlike allicin, these compounds might not be inactivated by cooking and can help to prevent some cancers even if garlic is cooked. This may explain why diets rich in either raw or cooked garlic can help to prevent stomach and colon cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
How to Best Cook Garlic
Cooking garlic destroys the ability of the garlic to make allicin, the main health-promoting component of garlic. Still, it may be possible to prepare cooked garlic with allicin levels similar to raw garlic. A report by Science Daily explains that if raw garlic is first chopped and then allowed to sit for 45 minutes, it can produce allicin. Once allicin is produced by this raw garlic preparaton, the garlic can be cooked with minimal loss of allicin. According to this report, cooked garlic prepared in this manner is similar in its anti-cancer effects to raw garlic.