February is Heart Month in many countries. The goal is to spotlight cardiovascular health and increase awareness of what we can do to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease. There are many steps we can take but I’d like to suggest one simple and delicious one. Eat more garlic!
So this month I’ve created a menu that is Gung Ho for Garlic. I chose garlic because it is a brilliant example of how food can directly impact your health. Garlic has numerous evidence-based healthful properties. As well as improving cardiovascular health, garlic can benefit physical and sexual vitality, cognition and resistance to infection. This last one is especially useful at the moment. Garlic also has anti-aging properties, which are always useful! For Heart Month, however, I’d like to highlight the heart-healthy aspects of garlic.
Why going gung ho for garlic is good for your heart
- consuming garlic lowers LDL-cholesterol in those with high cholesterol
- garlic also tends to reliably increase HDL cholesterol in people with cardiovascular disease risk
- garlic reduces blood pressure, with the magnitude of reduction generally greatest in those with hypertension
- there is also evidence that consuming garlic may reduce arterial stiffness, stabilize plaque and reduce the oxidization of LDL cholesterol that leads to plaque formation
These are all great reasons to go Gung Ho for Garlic. To enjoy these benefits, the minimum effective dose for raw garlic is a single clove of garlic, eaten with meals two or three times a day. So this menu is very garlic forward. It is also vegetarian since it is undisputed that eating more colourful, antioxidant-rich vegetables will benefit your heart as well as the rest of you. I have also included a recipe for a Lebanese garlic sauce. Both it and the chimichurri featured in the cauliflower recipe work wonderfully well with meat, poultry and seafood as well, should you wish to add a carnivorous component.
And what better time to go Gung Ho for Garlic than when you are hanging out with your family this Family Day long weekend. After all, if you’re eating the same meal, garlic breath won’t be an issue. But in case it is, here are a few ways to help neutralize garlic breath:
- chew fresh mint or parsley leaves,
- eat raw apple slices,
- drink water with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
To close, I can’t resist sharing a study I came across while writing this post. Because if there is one cohort for which you’d expect garlic to be detrimental, it would be vampires. But contrary to popular belief, this study shows that garlic may actually attract them.
Gung Ho for Garlic Menu
Portobello Mushroom Pizzas (so flavourful, you won’t miss the crust)
Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Avocado Chimichurri (chimichurri, made with or without the avocado, is a fantastic topper for just about anything; this time of year, it is easier to roast the cauliflower in which case you can also cut it into florets)
Lentil & Squash Stew (a simple yet hearty winter vegetarian stew; to kick it up a notch, try adding a spice blend to it, like Ras el Hanout, chili powder or garam masala or, for omnivores, a client of mine told me adding a few lardons of bacon took this to a new level)
To really go Gung Ho for Garlic: Lebanese Garlic Sauce (this is “garlic on crack”; serve it with just about anything – with grilled meats, on burgers, over falafels, in wraps, stirred into soups or stews, tossed with roasted veggies, you name it)
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A few tips about garlic …
Buy the best
I always advocate buying locally-grown produce. And local garlic is more likely to be a hardneck variety, as they grow best in northern climates. Hardneck garlic produces fewer cloves which are aligned in a concentric manner around a woody stem. They are closer to the original heirloom strains and tend to be more flavourful. They are also healthier for you, containing up to three times more allicin (one of the compounds responsible for many of garlic’s health benefits) than softneck varieties. And if you are thinking of growing your own garlic, note that only hardnecks produce scapes, scrumptious in pesto, as pickles or in other delicious foods.
Let it rest
When cooking garlic, it is very important to let it rest for ten or so minutes after crushing/mincing it before you cook it. Why? Because crushing/mincing releases an enzyme, alliinase, that catalyzes the formation of allicin, which then breaks down to form compounds responsible for garlic’s health-promoting benefits. About ten minutes is required for this. Heat will kill this enzyme. Cook it too soon and it cannot work its magic.
Cooking your own food is the single most impactful step you can take to improve your health and energy!
I hope you enjoy my Gung Ho for Garlic Menu. Sign up here to receive the download link for this latest Menu of the Month. And if you want to cook more of your own food but don’t know what to make or have the time to organize your own menus and shopping lists, The Nutritional Reset offers a meal planning service. It makes preparing tasty, nutritious meals a snap. Click here to find out more.