Garlic – An Important Addition to Your Healthy Diet
There are many reasons to include garlic in your diet daily – not the least of which is its potential to prevent cancer.
Garlic is a vegetable within the Allium family which also includes onions, chives, leeks and scallions. It is native to central Asia, but is also a seasoning staple in other regions including Europe and Africa. It has also been used in traditional medicine for its many health benefits.
Just some of the many nutrients found in garlic include sulfur, arginine, flavonoids and selenium. Sulfur, for example, is an essential element for all life as it makes up some of the most important nutrients for the body – including several amino acids and vitamins.
Garlic and Cancer Prevention
Several population studies show an association between increased intake of garlic and reduced risk of several types of cancer, including those of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and breast. For example, the Iowa Women’s Study found that women who consumed the highest amount of garlic had a 50% lower risk of cancer in the distal colon compared with women who had the lowest level of garlic consumption.
In addition to providing protective nutrients, lab studies show that garlic may help prevent cancer by helping with DNA repair, slowing the growth of cancer cells, and decreasing inflammation. Garlic also has antibacterial properties.
How much garlic may be useful for cancer prevention?
While there are plenty of choices of garlic dietary supplements, they are not recommended for cancer prevention. Garlic as a whole food is suggested because of the many nutrients which may synergistically work together for human health.
The World Health Organization suggests a daily dose of 2 to 5 grams – or approximately one clove per day of fresh garlic.
If you're new to using garlic in cooking, start with sliced or whole cloves in soups or stews for a mild garlic flavor (using pre-cut jarred garlic is also convenient way to get more into your diet). You could also try adding roasted garlic to mashed potatoes or sauteeing garlic cloves with greens such as spinach.
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By Francesco Perito - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons