When I hear of anti-aging foods what comes to mind for me are foods that have stood the test of time, offer a variety of health benefits, and are common across cultures.
Two foods I think you can find in almost any culture are garlic and onions.
Garlic is particularly interesting because it is used in virtually all cuisines worldwide. In some form or fashion, it makes its way into a variety dishes, often unnoticed visually but distinct in taste.
Personally, I find it absolutely delicious and useful in almost any cooking situation. But as ubiquitous as garlic is, do you know about it amazing health benefits?
Garlic contains two substances, known as allicin and alliin. Both of these are sulfur-containing compounds that have anti-biotic properties. In addition to this, other studies have shown garlic has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-yeast properties as well.
To get the most of these effects, its best to consume your garlic raw.
Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “raw garlic is gross, how can someone eat that?!” Well, there’s a few ways you can do this fairly easily.
First off, you can add fresh garlic to dressings and marinades. Simply chopping up a clove or two into your homemade salad dressing is an easy way to add garlic to what you are eating.
In a similar fashion, you can blend garlic up with other ingredients when you prepare your favorite sauces or marinades.
Removing the skin from garlic can sometimes be tricky. One easy trick is to blanch the garlic in hot water for 30 seconds, then drain and let cool. You can then slice of the end with the root, and the skin will come off.
If you are trying to get the covering off each individual clove, you can use the flat side of a knife and mash each clove slightly, the skin will come off easily.
Garlic can be chopped, mashed (to release its oils), or minced. When you chop garlic, it releases enzymes that convert the sulfur-containing compounds to diallyl disulfide, ammonia, and pyruvic acid. If you were to cook garlic, the diallyl disulfide is destroyed, giving cooked garlic a much milder taste.
Some studies suggest garlic can be protective against certain forms of cancer.
Alliin and allicin are thought to prevent the formation of carcinogens in the body or by blocking carcinogens from reaching sensitive areas of the body.
Another proposed mechanism is that these two substances inhibit the transformation of healthy cells into cancerous cells. Garlic has also shown the ability to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, while raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels.
LDL particles cholesterol bring fats into your arteries to transport for storage in the body, while HDL particles ship them out.
One year-long study on aged garlic (or garlic that has been fermented) showed it can reduce plaque buildup in arteries and also lower levels of homocysteine, which, according to the American Heart Association, is an independent risk factor for heart disease.
Garlic is great-tasting and provides a plethora of health benefits for a variety of different people. It can be especially for helpful for those with heart problems or people who have trouble losing weight.
Like garlic, some form of onion is seen in every type of cuisine. They come in so many different varieties it is virtually impossible to find a cuisine that does not include some form of onion.
Members of the onion family include white onions, yellow onions, red onions, leeks, chives, scallions, and shallots.
All onions are very rich in dietary fiber, folate, and vitamin C. Immature onions (scallions), that are picked before the fully mature, contain moderate amounts of vitamin A in the green tops. This is due to their deep yellow carotenes, which are camouflaged by the green chlorophyll pigments.
Onions would be avoided on a low-fiber diet. Low-fiber diets are not very common these days because the majority of Americans do not eat enough fiber to begin with. So go out and grab some onions!
When buying onions, look for crisp, smooth, dry skin free of any black mold spots. Avoid onions that are soft, sprouting, or have wet skin. These are all signs of internal decay.
You may have noticed when you cut into an onion, you begin to tear up occasionally. This is due to tearing the onion’s cell walls, which sulfur compound called propanethial-S-oxide that floats up into the air.
This compound turns into sulfuric acid when it comes into contact with water, which is why your eyes well up. One way to inactivate this combine is to chill the onion at least one hour prior to chopping the onion. This can also be prevented by rinsing fresh onions under running water prior to cutting.
One way to avoid this bad breath scenario is to cook your onions. Raw onions can be harsh to taste, and cooking them actually changes their flavor profile.
Depending on the dish, you may decide to cook your onions or leave them raw. Just remember to take their taste into account.
When cooking onions, you may have noticed they tend to taste sweet and begin to brown the longer you cook them. This is due to the onion’s sugars caramelizing the long you let them cook. When caramelizing onions, the surface begins to brown and their sweet flavors intensify.
Furthermore, if you place red onions in an acidic solution (when pickling, for instance), they will behind to turn read as well. Pickled onions bring about fragrant colors and tastes to many different dishes.
Overall, adding more onions to your diet will add flavor, fiber, and variety to your cooking. Feel free to experiment with different kinds of onions and see what you can come up with!
We recently discussed these foods and others on a podcast episode I can link below:
Why not try it for yourself and add it to your home cooking?
Hope this helps!