In the previous three newsletters, we have sung the praises of the veggies containing bright and vibrant colors – from the greens to the reds and the yellows. None of these groups included our white vegetables like onions, garlic and mushrooms, while many of us are aware of the health benefits they possess. These wide range benefits are found in garlic, onion, chive, leek, broccoli, cabbage, radish, asparagus, mushroom, mustard, truffle, coffee, and pineapple. So, they are not an exclusively white, but nevertheless, they are noteworthy as a group,.
What these foods have in common, is the sulfur containing compounds called allicin which was first described by Cavallito and Bailey in 1944. It occurs in the bodies of all living creatures in the form of sulfur containing amino acids as well as other regulating proteins such as hormones and enzymes as well as vitamins. Allicin is the key ingredient responsible for the broad-spectrum of anti-bacterial activity. It is also considered to have lipid-lowering, anti-blood coagulation, anti-hypertension, anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-fungal effects. So apart from its general household function in the body, it is also useful to combat many modern diseases.
- In garlic it’s medicinal potency relates to the allicin content of the plant. This depends on a complex chemistry where two other enzymes only form allicin after the plant has been threatened mechanically (like biting into it) or by pathogens. Even then, as a protection, the allicin only stays active for about ten seconds after which it converts to rich organosulfur compounds. These compounds are the same as the beneficial compounds as in cruciferous vegetables. Allicin is responsible for the typical odor of freshly crushed garlic.
-Mushrooms too are known to have sulfur containing amino acids. Research show that it is helpful in the management of immunity, cancer prevention and treatment, blood sugar and lipids, cognitive function as well as pain management.
-Onions possess similar properties and have been studied extensively in relation to cancer, especially esophageal, stomach and colorectal cancers. It also is a rich source of vitamin C, which as an anti-oxidant, further help in the prevention and cure of cancer, help with mood disorders and even hair growth.
Solid research has shown that the plants with these compounds are helpful in combating the following diseases:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Immune function
- Lowering of cholesterol as well as lipids in the blood
- Pain management
- Mood disorders
Although all of these foods are common in our diets, it is tricky to preserve these disease fighting compounds during preparation. Some of the following tips were obtained from ‘Mark’s Daily Apple’
- Onions and garlic: Eating them raw is the best way to preserve the goodness. However, cooking them slowly (like in soups or sauteing) or chopping them first, releases another substance which again protects the alliums from the heat.
- Broccoli: Steaming until "tough-tender" and still bright green is the best way.
- Cabbage: Raw, chopped cabbage in a salad with nuts, raisins and a healthy oil dressing will deliver all the goodness to your body. However, steamed and served with butter or some healthy oil, salt and pepper would be more delightful in the winter
- Cauliflower: Cut into small florets, let sit for ten minutes to activate the protective mechanisms, and steam or bake. Cauli mash is very popular these days with the ketogenic diets too.
- Brussels Sprouts: Although, according to the above-mentioned website, the "best" way to cook sprouts is to quarter and steam them for five minutes, Mark will, every once in a while, finish them off in the oven on high. This caramelizes the sugar giving a sweet taste to the otherwise pungent tasting vegetable.
So, in general, teach your taste buds to enjoy the bitterness of these vegetables because biting into the raw vegetable releases most of nature’s goodness. But if you prefer to cook – let it sit after cutting for ten minutes before cooking or simply steam it. And then you could toss it with your favorite oils and condiments so that you can consume as much of this goodness as you could handle…..