If you love the pungent flavor and scent of garlic, you are on trend. Cultures have long used garlic both for cooking and medicine. Here in the US, garlic popularity has soared over the years. That’s potentially good news for health, and lower cancer risk.
Whether you already enjoy garlic or are wary of its intense scent, here are four reasons to regularly spice up your meals with this root veggie.
1. Garlic lowers the risk of colorectal cancer
After a review of the global research, AICR’s reports found that eating garlic frequently lowers the risk of colorectal cancers. There are many ways in which garlic and its compounds may do this: Lab studies show that garlic compounds help with DNA repair, slow the growth of cancer cells and decrease inflammation.
2. You’ll be packing in numerous phytochemicals, many studied for their role in lowering risk of many cancers
It’s the sulfur compounds that give garlic its distinctive scent, along with many of its health benefits. But each clove of garlic is crammed with a variety of phytochemicals, many showing cancer-fighting properties in the lab.
- Flavonoids: compounds well studied for their anti-cancer properties.
- Inulin and saponins
When you crush or chop garlic, that releases the compound allicin. Allicin forms several oil soluble allyl sulfur compounds.
- S-allyl cysteine: A water-soluble sulfur compound found in high doses in aged garlic extract.
While the evidence that garlic lowers colorectal risk is the strongest, this pungent veggie is also being studied for its role in reducing risk for other cancers as well.
3. You can add garlic to punch up your plant-based dishes - and eat more of them
Tired of the same veggie goulash? Bored with that whole-grain pasta? It's a rare dish that doesn't benefit from a few garlic cloves.
Classified as a vegetable, garlic is used mainly as a flavoring. This vegetable is a staple seasoning in many Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines that incorporate many other spices and herbs for flavor.
If you're new to using garlic in cooking, start with sliced or whole garlic cloves in soups or stews for a milder garlic flavor. For convenience try jarred, chopped garlic in oil. The more you chop or crush fresh garlic before adding to a dish, the more flavor will be released.
4. Garlic is part of a good family
Garlic belongs to the Allium family of vegetables, which includes onions, scallions, shallots, leeks and chives. Each has its own unique combination of phytochemicals, vitamins and other health-promoting compounds.
As always, there's no one food that reduces cancer risk. It's your pattern of eating that counts – choosing mostly plant foods that fill up two-thirds or more of your plate, with smaller amounts of meat.