Garlic is antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antithrombotic and anticarcinogenic. Quite an impressive list for a small vegetable!
Dr John A. Milner, chief of the Nutrition Science Research Group in the Division of Cancer Prevention at the National Cancer Institute in the US, who spoke in New Zealand recently, told us that the evidence supporting the benefits of garlic in the diet just keeps growing.
One of the interesting things about the research on cancers is that it doesn't seem that garlic's function is restricted to specific tissues. So while there is currently evidence to support its role in the prevention of stomach cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer, it seems that it may have a role in the prevention of many other cancers as well.
Even relatively small amounts of garlic have been shown to reduce disease risk. A large study in the US found that women who had on average 0.6g of garlic each week (that's just 1/5th of a clove) had a 50% lower risk of colon cancer.
Studies on garlic's cholesterol-lowering ability have shown that 3g per day (that's about one clove) lowers LDL-cholesterol (the bad one) by up to 15%; the important thing to note is that the effect starts after about three months. This reduction is similar to what can be achieved by going on a low-fat diet, so possibly doing both will have an even greater effect.
Tomatoes and garlic are a great combo as they appear to work in synergy, so that together their beneficial properties (tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene) are greater than the sum of the two separately. Another good reason to eat Italian, and to choose the tomato-based dishes.
Get the best out of your garlic
Always allow chopped garlic to 'stand' before it's added to cooking. The chopping activates the enzyme, which releases some of the beneficial compounds in the garlic. If you leave it for 10-15 minutes after chopping, then cooking the garlic won't remove or harm those compounds, but if you cook it too soon, the enzyme won't have had time to do its thing.