You’re ready to cook up a favorite healthful, high-flavor dish, so you grab your ingredients, including that garlic bulb you bought a few weeks ago. But to your dismay, you see green shoots emerging from the garlic. Do you assume that it’s no longer fresh and toss the sprouted bulb away? Don’t! Not only is that sprouted garlic still OK, it’s even better for you than an unsprouted bulb would be, according to a recent study.
Garlic truly is a super-food—it lowers blood pressure and triglycerides…enhances the immune system…and has potent antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, anticancer and antioxidant properties. Researchers decided to see whether “old” garlic that has sprouted would show any changes in its nutritional powers, so they allowed ordinary garlic to sprout. Then the garlic and sprouts were minced, ground and turned into an extract. For comparison, a similar extract was prepared using unsprouted garlic.
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Next, the researchers did a nutritional analysis of both extracts. They discovered that the extracts were nearly the same in terms of their phenolic content (phenols are bio-active, beneficial aromatic compounds), with the sprouted garlic extract coming out slightly ahead. Then they tested how well the extracts’ antioxidants were able to scavenge free radicals, a process that prevents damaging oxidative reactions from harming cells.
Startling discovery: The scavenging ability of the sprouted garlic was much higher! For instance, garlic that had been sprouting for five days had nearly twice as much scavenging activity as unsprouted garlic.
To determine whether sprouted garlic could be more protective than unsprouted garlic, the researchers added some of each extract to petri dishes that contained nerve cells from mice. They also added glutamate, a chemical messenger that we naturally produce but that is toxic to nerve cells after sustained exposure…and then they measured the percentage of nerve cells that survived the glutamate exposure.
Results: As expected, glutamate reduced the viability of the nerve cells. Adding unsprouted garlic extract did little to protect the cells from damage. However, adding extract of sprouted garlic helped restore the cells’ viability. This restorative effect was seen even with extract made from garlic that had been sprouting for just one day, which suggests that protective compounds in garlic sprouts are made early during the sprouting process.
NATURAL DEFENSE MECHANISM
The researchers aren’t sure which of the compounds in sprouted garlic are responsible for the increased antioxidant activity. However, they did find that sprouted garlic contains compounds that don’t exist in unsprouted garlic. This makes sense when you think about the fact that nature is meticulously protective of its species. By amping up antioxidant activity and creating protective new compounds, the immature plant—meaning the sprout—may be better able to protect itself from harmful pathogens.
Bottom line: Let your garlic sprout! Then have fun in the kitchen, using sprouted garlic in the same way that you would use unsprouted bulbs—just expect it to have a somewhat stronger taste. Ideas: You can chop up your sprouted garlic and combine it with diced fresh tomatoes, olive oil and basil to make a bruschetta…stir diced sprouted garlic into guacamole…add it to sautéed spinach or kale…and use it in countless other ways to make your food more delicious and nutritious.
Source: Study titled “Garlic Sprouting Is Associated with Increased Antioxidant Activity and Concomitant Changes in the Metabolite Profile,” published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.