ALL IN FOR ALLICIN
Whoever thought that such a beautiful plant could smell so badly, yet do a darn good job of supporting good health? In fact, this garlic plant is a member of the genus Allium in the lilly family. Garlic, as are onions, shallots, chives and leeks, are all members of this family and because of their, um, fragrance, are dubbed as stinking lilies.
Allicin is one of the active chemicals found in plants of the Allium family. Garlic is by far the most concentrated source of this valuable nutrient, with lesser quantities found in onions, leeks, chives, and shallots.
Here is how Allicin is formed:
Alliin is an amino acid that is the precursor to allicin and other sulfur-containing compounds formed in garlic.
Alliinase is an enzyme, or a protein that speeds up a chemical reaction. Alliinase aids in the transformation of alliin to allicin. Alliinase is inactive when exposed to heat or acid, so it will not develop after cooking or entering an acidic environment such as the stomach or being sprinkled with vinegar.
When you damage a clove of garlic by smashing, chopping, or chewing it, allinin and allinase work together to create allicin. As mentioned, garlic has the most concentrated amounts of these two components and that comes through in its sulfuric fragrance.
This chemical reaction occurs quickly, usually within a minute or two, however, this in a somewhat unstable reaction, so allowing your garlic (or other allium family members) to sit for about 10 minutes is preferable in hopes that some of the allicin will remain stable enough for light cooking and of course then, consumption.
You might have gathered from this that raw is the best way to ingest allium produced foods for their great health benefits, but not everyone can eat raw garlic.
How to get your alliicin:
Minced raw garlic contains about 2.5-4.5 mg of allicin per gram. A medium sized garlic clove weighs about 4.5g, or about 12-18 mg of allicin per clove.
Sauteed or roasted garlic has about 1/3 of the amount allicin than that of raw, because remember, alliinase doesn’t like heat. Cooking mellows out the sharpness of the pungent little clove, so taking in 3X the amount of cooked garlic is usually very easy to do (if you like garlic)
Prefer garlic powder? You’re in luck! Spice companies have simply dehydrated garlic, just enough to inactivate the alliinase, not to destroy it. With the reintroduction of water, alliinase “wakes back up” and when it is then in contact with alliin, that yummy garlic fragrance and health promoting properties also come to life.
Though quite convenient, those little jars of minced garlic will not usually offer much in the way of active allicin as the shelf stabilizer is usually an acid that deactivates the alliinase.
How this little clove can help you.
Allicin’s antioxidant effect is somewhat similar to exercise, in that, after an initial increase in oxidative stress, cells respond by boosting metabolic function that actually increases cellular antioxidant activity, reducing inflammation and oxidative damage overall. Whether you enjoy it raw, roasted, powdered, or aged, garlic is a delicious way to boost your body’s innate antioxidant potential.
To date the studies on dosing garlic in its food form (as opposed to supplemental) is not impressive, there are data and more coming. Here’s some findings on how allicin may be able to enhance the function of your immune system and offer some protection against heart disease and even cancer. It’s a VERY good thing to have in your arsenal of strong food fighters.
Wrap it up.
There is no official recommended dosage for garlic. Most people eat it cooked in some way which lowers the allicin concentration, so if you really like the little veg, you should be ok to eat to any desired amounts. However, if you are scheduling a surgery, think about reducing your intake 7-10 days beforehand.
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