There has been much press recently about probiotics, and whether consuming quantities of these 'good' bacteria in bio-yoghurts or drink supplements improves the digestive health of everyone who take them. Prebiotics are less well-known, and their nutritional benefits even more under-appreciated, but with the spotlight starting to shine on gut health, prebiotics is the newest nutritional buzzword.
For those unfamiliar with them, prebiotics are undigestible dietary fibres that act as food for intestinal (gut) bacteria, promoting the growth of beneficial microorganisms. Prebiotics also aid digestion, enhance the body's own production of vitamins, and help the absorption of minerals like calcium and magnesium. Unlike live probiotics, prebiotics are non-living organisms, but their presence helps gut bacteria colonies to flourish. Science is now recognising that the health of our guts can influence everything from our immune systems to our hormones, as well as inflammatory reactions to allergy triggers.
The good news is that garlic is a natural prebiotic - though like all of garlic's nutrients, you will access maximum benefit the less it is cooked. When cooking a dish, we often add garlic in two stages: once early on to let its sweetness infuse the food with flavour, then again just before serving to harvest its valuable health benefits.
Fermented foods are another rich source of prebiotics, and pickled garlic is a great way to up your intake. Or try making a garlic-rich Kimchi paste to serve with fermented vegetables for a spicy side dish that is as delicious as it is nutritious. To enjoy garlic raw, mix it with mashed avocado, lime juice and chopped tomatoes for a health-packed guacamole dip. Alternatively slice it into salads, rub onto toasted bread (bruschetta) or as a garnish on soups and stews.