In response to my Care2 post #1 Anticancer Vegetable, there was a great question about whether it’s better to eat garlic raw or cooked. It appears the secret to maintaining the anti-cancer effects of garlic is either to eat it raw (think salsa, homemade dressings, pesto, etc), or to crush the garlic first, wait ten minutes, and then cook it.
Let me explain: you know those chemical flares? You bend them, two chemicals mix, and a light-emitting reaction takes place? The same kind of thing happens in garlic. Floating around in the cytoplasm of garlic cells is a compound called alliin, and packed away in tiny intracellular storage compartments (called vacuoles) is an enzyme called alliinase. When the garlic tissues are crushed, the two mix and the alliinase enzyme turns alliin into allicin, the phytonutrient thought to be responsible for many of garlic’s health benefits.
Cooking destroys the enzyme, though, so if you crush your garlic and immediately throw it into the pan, little allicin may be produced. But since allicin is relatively heat stable, you can chop your garlic, wait 10 minutes for the allicin to be formed, and then cook it (the enzyme has already done its work), presumably maintaining many of the benefits.
But what about other vegetables? Which are the gentlest cooking methods for preserving nutrients and which vegetables have more antioxidants cooked than raw? Find out in my NutritionFacts.org video pick featured above.
How can certain vegetables become more nutritious when cooked? Because it’s not what we eat, it’s what we absorb, and there are certain phytonutrients that are absorbed better from cooked foods. For more on this, see my videos Raw Food Nutrient Absorption and Raw Food Diet Myths. And thank you, everyone, for welcoming me so kindly into the Care2 community.
Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: foreverdigital / Flickr