11/14/2012 05:14 EST | Updated 01/14/2013 05:12 EST

How to Handle Garlic

Itching to know the best ways of preserving garlic's anti-cancer properties?

Here's a primer, based on an interview with Dr. Suhasini Modem, a PhD in plant physiology at Michigan's Wayne State University who studies the potent species.


Best Practices for Using Garlic

1. Smash, crush or cut it, and then let it sit for 15 minutes or so before using it. That will allow the enzyme allinase to convert the compound allin to its active form, allicin, which fights cancer, Modem says. "Finely sliced garlic should be stable for a few ( four to six) hours at room temperature," she adds, and two to three days in the fridge. Don't waste your money on pre-chopped versions; they've lost their potential.

2. Eat garlic raw. By adding garlic raw at the end of your recipe, instead of cooking with it, you'll preserve all the anti-cancer properties, says Modem. Sauteeing garlic at medium temperatures for two minutes completely destroys its ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, Modem says (and yes, she let the garlic sit before cooking it.)

Boiling garlic also destroys its anti-cancer benefits. On the other hand, other researchers have found that cooking garlic (microwaving for 60 seconds, cooking it 45 minutes in the oven) partially -- but not totally -- destroyed its anti-cancer properties, again assuming you let the garlic percolate.

My take on the conflict? Your decision, but in this case -- albeit not always -- raw's the safer bet.

3. And combine your fresh, raw garlic with other healthy foods-perhaps with olive oil, Modem suggests. Or, according to an Italian study, perhaps with onions. Studies from India indicate tomatoes. Or according to another study, even with selenium, found in Brazil nuts and selenium-rich soils.

Hmmm. Anybody itching to sample a recipe for green beans with Brazil nut-garlic paste?