1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email

Garlic Reduces Your Cancer Risk

Anticancer Alliums Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer

By

Updated July 28, 2010

Garlic Knobs

Garlic Knobs

Photo © Pam Stephan
Garlic and onions have been a part of cooking since the Garden of Eden, or at least since the days of ancient Greece and Rome. The fragrant garlic plant has been called by many names, including "the bulb of the tree of life" (for its anti-aging properties) and "the stinking rose" (even though it is related to lilies, not roses). Garlic has been credited with power to enhance your sex life, give endurance to athletes, and ward off vampires. Health benefits of garlic include its natural antibiotic and antioxidant properties, both of which may help prevent cancer.

Fragrant Garlic Has Great Health Benefits

Garlic is a vegetable in the Allium family of bulb-shaped plants. It grows in several sizes and colors, and it can be planted alongside other vegetables as a natural pesticide. You'll know where the garlic is planted long before you see it, as its strong, sulfuric fragrance will declare its location very distinctly. Although dining on garlic-flavored foods may give you "garlic breath," doing so can improve your health by lowering high blood pressure and bad cholesterol. One fresh clove of garlic a day may lower your risk of breast, esophageal, stomach, bowel and prostate cancer.

Combine garlic in your diet with cruciferous vegetables, fruits, dietary fiber, and regular exercise, and your risk for breast cancer could drop even lower.

Garlic Contains Natural Anticancer Compounds

Garlic has natural antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antiviral. The knobs and cloves of garlic contain high levels of sulphur, flavonoids, and selenium. When it is crushed, chopped or bruised, garlic produces the compound allicin. Garlic may help to prevent cancer by its antibacterial properties, its ability to enhance genetic repair, slow down cell proliferation, or prevent the formation of carcinogenic substances in your body.
  • Allicin: A powerful plant compound that is antibiotic and anti-fungal. This substance is strong enough to cause blisters if you get too much on your skin, but allicin fades quickly after it is produced. Cooking speeds the breakdown of allicin, and microwave cooking appears to kill it and destroy the health benefits.

  • Flavonoids: Aromatic plant compounds that are considered to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds fight cancer by preventing cell damage.

  • Selenium and Allyl Sulfides: Both of these plant chemicals may be anti-mutagens, or substances that prevent cancer by blocking damage to cells DNA or stimulating the body to repair damaged DNA.

Using Garlic for Good Health

You can use garlic in several ways to boost your health, but the greatest benefit will come from fresh uncooked garlic. If you prefer to try other forms of garlic, there's garlic essential oil, garlic oil macerate, garlic powder, and garlic extract.

Garlic supplements are also available, if you want to avoid "garlic breath." However, be warned that the allicin contained in these supplements varies greatly and will be less powerful than that which is released from a fresh garlic clove.

You don't have to chew on one clove of garlic a day by itself to get the anticancer benefits from this fragrant bulb. Just chop or finely dice garlic and sprinkle it on a salad, a thick slice of bread, over a fish fillet, or on your cooked vegetables. And if you notice that vampires avoid you, your daily jog gets easier and your sex life improves, well, that's good too.

Sources:
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 84, No. 5, 1027-1032, November 2006. Onion and garlic use and human cancer. Carlotta Galeone, Claudio Pelucchi, Fabio Levi, Eva Negri, Silvia Franceschi, Renato Talamini, Attilio Giacosa and Carlo La Vecchia.

National Cancer Institute. Fact Sheet. Garlic and Cancer Prevention: Questions and Answers. Reviewed: 01/22/2008.

Buying Fresh Garlic

Good Garlic Bad Garlic
Solid, firm heads Hollow or soft heads
Even color of outer skins Mottled outer skins (mold)
Head has weight Head is light-weight
Cloves are plump Cloves are shriveled
No green sprouts or leaves Green sprouts or leaves

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.