The vegetables that slash colorectal cancer risk 79 percent

Everything garlic touches is mind-blowingly delicious. Garlic bread. Garlic pasta. Garlic chicken. Garlic shrimp. Garlic mashed potatoes.

Plus, it’s antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory. So, you can eat any of these delicious dishes and know you’re getting health benefits.

In other words, garlic has a lot going for it. The only downside?

Garlic breath. There’ve been many times when I’ve passed on a tempting garlic dish to prevent myself from clearing out a room with my breath.

But I shouldn’t let the fear of bad breath keep me away from garlic too often. A new study shows garlic and other members of the allium family can cut colorectal cancer risk a whopping 79 percent!

Cancer-preventing powerhouses

A recent study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology found that eating lots of allium vegetables (like garlic, onions and leeks) reduces colorectal cancer risk quite a bit.

The study included data from 833 people with colorectal cancer and 833 people without it. Study participants were from Northeast China, and the data was collected between 2009 and 2011.

Researchers collected demographic and dietary information through face-to-face interviews and a food questionnaire. And they noticed a big difference in colorectal cancer risk between those who ate lots of allium vegetables and those who didn’t.

People who ate high amounts of allium vegetables were 79 percent less likely to get colorectal cancer than people who ate low amounts. Several individual allium vegetables were also tied to a decreased cancer risk on their own, like:

  • Garlic
  • Garlic stalks
  • Leek
  • Onion
  • Spring onion

Researchers concluded that allium vegetables could have a valuable service to offer: cancer protection. And the more you eat, the better job they do.

“It is worth noting that in our research, there seems to be a trend: the greater the amount of allium vegetables, the better the protection,” said senior author Dr. Zhi Li, of the First Hospital of China Medical University.

Go gaga for garlic… and other allium vegetables

Is a little bad breath worth a significantly lower colorectal cancer risk? Absolutely.

So, go gaga for garlic and enjoy as much as you (and your significant other) can handle. If you’re worried about bad breath, research shows that certain foods can help reduce garlic breath after a garlicky meal, like raw apple, raw mint leaves, raw lettuce, lemon juice and green tea.

Plus, like I said earlier, garlic isn’t the only allium packed with cancer-fighting compounds. If you want a dose of cancer protection, you could also turn to:

  • Onion
  • Leeks
  • Chives
  • Scallions
  • Shallots

If you think you might not be able to “stomach” a healthy dose of allium vegetables, add them to a smoothie. In his book, Surviving Cancer, Dr. Michael Cutler has a chapter on Juicing to Fight Cancer. You can find some tasty ideas, as well as other cancer-fighting nuggets there.


  1. Consuming garlic and onions may lower colorectal cancer risk — MedicalXpress
  2. Allium vegetables are associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer: A hospital‐based matched case‐control study in ChinaAsia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology
  3. Allium vegetables in cancer prevention: an overviewAsia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology
  4. 3 Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Rid of Garlic Breath — Food & Wine
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and