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This Is Exactly Why You Should Be Eating More Garlic (Plus 5 Great Garlic Recipes)

By Summer Rylander
November 29, 2021
Image credit: Foodiecrush

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as “too much” garlic. It’s fragrant, flavorful, and has a multitude of health benefits — all of which far outweigh the minor inconveniences of the way it may scent your breath. In fact, as the days get colder, eating more garlic is legitimately a good idea.

Read next: Your Guide to Preserving Garlic This Winter (Plus An Original Garlic Soup Recipe)

“Raw garlic is full of vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, calcium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C,” says Cara Harbstreet, MS RD LD. “It’s a natural immune-booster and may help prevent sickness, especially during cold and flu season.” 

Garlic has antioxidant, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory properties

Garlic actually has a long history of medicinal use around the world. It’s a versatile supplement for the prevention and treatment of everything from digestive issues to cholesterol concerns to respiratory ailments. And it hasn’t fallen to the wayside with modern medicine — garlic has been shown in medical studies to be a valuable tool in fighting against lung and other cancers, osteoarthritis, high cholesterol, and fighting viruses and bacterial infections.

Those of us who love garlic hardly need prodding to incorporate more of it into our diet, but it turns out that how we eat garlic may influence its nutritional prowess. “Research suggests that garlic is most potent in its raw form,” says Harbstreet. This makes sense, because the application of heat impacts the nutritional value of most vegetables — be it for better or worse. 

Raw garlic contains the highest levels of allicin, which is the compound responsible for garlic’s aforementioned pungency and, more importantly, is the catalyst for so many of those incredible health benefits. Though crunching down on a clove or two of raw garlic may not sound appealing, you can add it to dips, salad dressings, and sauces to maximize your healthy garlic intake without the full-frontal intensity. (And don’t worry, cooked garlic still has tons of benefits.)

Can there be too much of a good thing? 

To enjoy the numerous benefits of garlic, the recommended dosage for adults is generally four grams per day. Depending on clove size, that’s probably just one or two cloves — and yes, I can hear my fellow garlic gluttons laughing from here — but remember, we’re talking about raw garlic. To ingest the same levels of allicin, you’d need to consume about three times as much roasted garlic, so that probably puts most of us back on track with our clove quantity when cooking. 

However, something to consider: garlic can be a common allergy or food sensitivity since it is high in FODMAPs, Harbstreet says. FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that can be tricky for the small intestine to digest. Some people may experience bloating, flatulence, and other digestive discomforts if they consume too much garlic. “Too much” is subjective here, so listening to your body is key. If you’re allergic, of course garlic should be avoided. If you don’t have an allergy but find that raw garlic irritates your innards, it’s okay to stick to cooked or even dried garlic. 

Dried vs. fresh garlic

“Is there a nutritional difference between fresh and dried garlic? Yes. Is it significant enough to be of concern? No, not in my opinion,” says Harbstreet. “I always advocate for the most approachable and convenient way to enjoy the flavor and health benefits of foods, and garlic is no different.” 

Dried garlic — usually sold in the form of flakes or tiny granules — keeps longer than fresh garlic, and is easy to use since there’s no chopping involved.

“Depending on a person’s cooking ability and mobility, dried garlic may be a more accessible option,” Harbstreet says. “Adjustments may be warranted for certain recipes as dried granules may have a less-potent flavor than fresh garlic; but, for me, that’s a more significant difference than comparing the nutrition of fresh versus dried.”

For fuller flavor — and to potentially reclaim some of the benefits of allicin — you can rehydrate dried garlic before putting it to use. 

What about garlic skins? And chopping versus pressing?

Those papery peels on your garlic bulbs and cloves are not a nutritional must. If you’re making a stock or a sauce that you’re going to strain anyway, sure, throw in the skins. (Although be forewarned: they’ll make your broth cloudy-looking). Otherwise, don’t sweat it.

“For practical purposes, it’s probably more beneficial to remove the skins prior to cooking, as they may shed into the dish and make for an unpleasant bite,” says Harbstreet, who adds that the nutritional differences between peeled and unpeeled garlic are negligible in the amounts most of us typically consume.

What you can do to amp up the health benefits of your garlic, however, is chop or slice it early on in your dinner prep.

“The cutting and slicing breaks the cell walls, which can activate some of the antifungal and antibacterial properties of allicin,” explains Harbstreet. “It takes about 10 minutes for this process to start, so when I’m cooking, I usually start with my garlic first and then move on to prepping other ingredients. By the time I’m ready to begin cooking, I feel confident that enough time has passed.”

As for the age-old debate over whether garlic presses are a disgrace or a must-have tool? You’re not losing nutrients by pressing garlic; you’re merely changing its form. In the same way that a fine dice will cook differently than a rough chop, pressed garlic will cook more quickly and incorporate more thoroughly into other ingredients. If it saves you time, hassle, and lets you avoid garlicky fingers — well, it’s your kitchen, so feel free to use that garlic press all you want. 

Great garlic recipes

Here are a few simple, flavor-packed ways to add more garlic to your diet:

1. Garlicky Baked Fish

Garlicky Baked Fish

Image credit: The Mediterranean Dish

What do you get when you take flaky white fish and combine it with 10 cloves of garlic, lots of basil, lemon juice, and spices? A healthy, delicious, garlic-forward dinner that comes together in minutes. Whether you use halibut, cod, tilapia, grouper, or another fish entirely, this Mediterranean-inspired recipe is perfect for busy weeknights and boosting immune systems.  

2. Raw Garlic Salad Dressing

raw garlic salad dressing

There’s no such thing as a boring salad when your dressing is on point, and this one hits all the marks for flavor, speed, and ease. You’ll get a healthy punch of raw garlic, along with a pop of freshness from lemon juice and big pinches of your favorite dried herbs.

3. 40 Clove Garlic Chicken

40 Cloves of Garlic Roast Chicken

Image credit: Foodiecrush

It’s hard to go wrong with roast chicken, and it’s also hard to go wrong with 40 cloves of garlic. Personally, I love the low-and-slow method for roasting a chicken, so I’ll usually set my oven to 330°F (165°C) and leave the bird to do its thing for about two hours, but feel free to expedite the process with a higher temperature like this recipe calls for. No celery on hand? Skip it. Out of carrots but have parsnips? Toss ‘em in. You can also swap the butter for olive oil, the tarragon for thyme, pour a glass of wine for yourself as well as for the dish — roast chicken is a journey. Make it your own. 

4. Toum Sauce

Tuom Sauce

Image credit: Feel Good Foodie

Toum is a glorious, cloud-like emulsification of raw garlic, a neutral oil of your choosing, and lemon juice. Enjoy it as a sauce with meats, fish, roasted or raw vegetables… anything you can imagine. 

5. Sopa de Ajo

 Sopa de Ajo

Image credit: Abra’s Kitchen

Who doesn’t love tucking into a comforting bowl of soup on a chilly evening? This recipe uses eight cloves of garlic, smoked paprika, and a splash of white wine to jazz up chicken stock before drizzling in protein-packed eggs. You can skip the homemade croutons if you’re carb-conscious (or sub them out for crunchy roasted chickpeas or keto croutons). 

Summer Rylander is a freelance food and travel writer based in Germany. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram

Read next: 20 Easy Chicken Recipes to Make Tonight

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