These surprising benefits make eating this pungent veggie totally worth the garlic breath.

By Abigail Wise
Updated April 14, 2015
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Garlic is good for more than adding zing to Italian bread and mashed potatoes. It turns out the classic vegetable comes with some serious health benefits, too. Here are six reasons to consume more garlic—according to science.

1. Garlic may help prevent cancer. Several studies show a link between eating garlic and a lower risk of certain types of cancer. The vegetable may help prevent stomach and colon cancer, according to a paper published in the Journal of Nutrition. Another study found middle-aged women were 35 percent less likely to develop colon cancer when they ate fruit, vegetables, and garlic as part of a well-balanced diet.

2. Garlic may keep colds away. One small study tracked 146 healthy adults through cold and flu season to see if garlic could help ward off the sniffles. The participants were divided into two groups—half of the group received a garlic supplement and half were given a placebo pill. The group that took the placebo pill contracted 65 colds throughout the study, while the group taking the garlic supplements only came down with 24. While promising, further research is needed before we can deem garlic the cure-all for colds, reports The New York Times.

3. The vegetable may have anti-inflammatory properties. Garlic offers four compounds that help fight inflammation, according to research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food. Some of garlic's compounds may naturally reduce pain and irritation by mimicking the way pain medications work (at least in animal and test tube studies), reports

4. Garlic might help fight certain types of fungus and bacteria. If you fall into the 15 to 25 percent of Americans who suffer from athlete's foot, soaking your feet in a bath with crushed garlic cloves may help get rid of it, The New York Times reports.

5. A compound in garlic may help fight food poisoning. One study found a garlic compound to be 100 times more effective than common antibiotics when it came to fighting Campylobacter, a bacteria commonly found in raw chicken, that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. While eating garlic may not stop you from getting sick, the compound could be used to clean food prep areas and help preserve packaged foods, like potato and pasta salads, deli meats, and coleslaw.

True garlic-lovers can follow these simple steps to transform a bulb of garlic into a delicious spread.