Quick tip: garlic and the "10 minute rule"

It's flu season, and we all know that garlic is nature's answer to almost everything that ails us. 

The most active ingredient in garlic, allicin, can perform miracles. Three cloves of garlic  has enough allicin to provide the body with the same antibacterial activity as the standard penicillin dose (without the side effects of taking an antibiotic). It is therefore not a surprise that garlic is known to be "nature's penicillin" (actually, it's was apparently also referred to  as "Russian penicillin," as Russian medics used it so widely during the second World War).

However, I was surprised to discover that the way we typically prep and cook garlic might actually be destroying it's medicinal value, and here is why: garlic contains two proteins called alliin and alliinase, and when garlic is crushed and chopped, they are brought together to react and  create allicin. Unfortunately, alliinase is heat-sensitive, so if you throw your garlic into a hot pan right after chopping it up, alliinase is destroyed and the two proteins do not have enough time to "mingle" and react to create allicin. Without allicin, much of garlic's medicinal properties are absent. 

Thankfully, there is a very easy way to address this issue: prep your garlic and set it aside before cooking for ten minutes. This is plenty of time to allow alliin and alliinase to react. I try to remind myself to chop up the garlic first as I am preparing my ingredients for a meal, which will allow it plenty of time for it to rest before I dump it into a hot pan.

If you are eating garlic raw (in a salad, dip, etc.), you do not have to worry about this, as alliinase is only sensitive to heat.