Allium sativum, or more commonly known as garlic, is now mostly used for seasoning foods, but for a long time has been a key ingredient in traditional medicine for many cultures, including Indian, Chinese, and Egyptian. It might not have given original Olympic athletes the performance boost they were hoping for, but it definitely helped them keep healthy.
Like some of its closest relatives (onions, shallots, leeks, chives), garlic has a unique and somewhat pungent taste. It packs a lot of vitamins, including B1, B5, B6, C, and also a wide variety of healthy minerals: calcium, manganese, phosphorus, iron, zinc etc. The plant contains antioxidants which have been linked with eliminating free radicals from the body.
While garlic has been used with considerable success in treating colds, high cholesterol, digestive problems, and even cardiovascular diseases, the most notable health claim is in regards to cancer.
Several studies have examined its antitumor properties and concluded that there are “protective associations against cancers, particularly cancers of the gastrointestinal tract”. This seems to be in great part thanks to allicin, an enzyme which is both antibiotic and anti-fungal.
“Allicin, the major component present in freshly crushed garlic, is one of the most biologically active compounds of garlic. We found that allicin inhibited the growth of cancer cells of murine and human origin”, explains one paper. It induced caspase-mediated apoptosis in cancer cells and shown “antiproliferative effects”, as well as “chemopreventive action”.
In addition to containing sulfur, which can improve hair condition, garlic also contains significant amounts of selenium and flavonoids. Flavonoids are organic plant compounds which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and fight cancer by preventing cell damage. On the other hand, selenium prevents cancer by blocking damage to cells’ DNA and stimulating the body to repair damaged DNA through a series of complex reactions.
It’s undeniable that garlic offers many health benefits, so maybe think about adding it more often in your diet.