What Is Black Garlic? Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts
Garlic is a bulbous root closely related to the onion, mentioned in historical documents dating back 5,000 years—before its fame wafted into the rest of the known world.
Black garlic is an ancient ingredient — it was apparently first made in Korea, as much as 4,000 years ago — that is back in style with food-lovers and nutritionists alike.
While black garlic certainly doesn’t sound all that appetizing – in fact, you might envision it to simply be burned garlic, it’s actually made by “fermenting” whole bulbs of fresh garlic in a humidity-controlled environment in temperatures that range from 140 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit for 14 to 40 days. There are no additives, preservatives, or burning for that matter, of any kind.
Once it’s removed from the heat, the garlic bulbs are placed in a dry area at room temperature to oxidize for 10 to 14 days. The process results in garlic that is matte-black and gooey soft with a somewhat chewy texture and a flavor similar to balsamic vinegar – the normal pungency taste of garlic disappears, which means that even those that can’t stand garlic may like black garlic.
Although the process is consistently described as “fermentation,” it really isn’t that in the strictest sense, as the transformation does not involve microbial processes—specifically, enzymatic breakdown and the Maillard Reaction are responsible for the caramelization of the sugars, dark color and deep, complex flavor profile. As the pearly white cloves slowly transition into their final black appearance, compounds in the fresh garlic transform into a whole new range of compounds. Compared to fresh garlic, black garlic is low in alliin but it is astonishingly high in other antioxidants!
Black garlic is also credited with lowering cholesterol levels (due to its s-allylcysteine content) and blood pressure and fighting cancer. It should be noted that studies of black garlic have been done mostly in lab animals or in cell lines so scientific evidence to support human health benefits is yet to come. However, there are anecdotal reports of the positive impact of black garlic on cholesterol, triglycerides, and even psoriasis. In addition, the heart-related benefits associated with white garlic and one of its main ingredients, allicin, suggest the same or greater advantages are present in black garlic. Preliminary research in the lab and in animals also suggests the antioxidant powers of black garlic may have a role in improving cognitive abilities in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
It Is High in Antioxidants. A 2009 study, titled “Antioxidant effect of garlic and aged black garlic in animal model of type 2 diabetes mellitus,” found that black garlic had higher levels of antioxidants than its white counterpart, and that it could be used to prevent diabetic complications. Antioxidants protect the integrity of cells and have been linked to delaying signs of aging.
Treat type 2 diabetes.Those who suffer from type 2 diabetes know that the condition can wreak havoc on your health due to the effects of oxidative stress. Uncontrolled diabetes may lead to serious complications like kidney disease, heart disease, nerve damage and vision problems – sometimes even blindness.
The potent antioxidants in black garlic specifically can lessen oxidative stress caused by increased blood sugar levels. Multiple studies have found that its high level of antioxidants exert an even stronger effect than regular garlic and could be even more helpful in preventing complications of diabetes.
Help heal the liver from alcohol damage.The liver is one of the only organs that can heal itself from damage – if good habits are developed before it’s too late. Alcoholic liver disease occurs as a result of damage from oxidative stress, due to trying to break down the alcohol. That damages liver cells, which can lead to inflammation and scarring over time.
Scientists have found that black garlic can help reduce inflammation and even help reverse the damage of alcohol on the liver, as well as to remove fat that’s accumulated on the liver, thanks to its potent antioxidant properties, once again.
Why is black garlic healthier than regular garlic?
Black garlic has twice more cancer-fighting and heart-protecting compounds than regular white garlic. It also fights infections faster since its bacteria- and fungi-killing compounds are faster acting.
Korean researchers found that fermenting garlic reduces its acidity and sugar content. This means that black garlic contains less carbs and helps you lose weight better than regular white garlic! Also, alkaline foods are associated with many holistic cleanses and healthy diets, so black garlic’s decreased acidity can be beneficial as well.
For these reasons, black garlic is also taken as a health supplement in Korea to treat arthritis, boost energy levels, and treat diarrhea.
How to enjoy black garlic
Here’s a real bonus when it comes to black garlic: no bad breath. That means you can add black garlic to any dish and still end the meal smelling like a rose, even if you eat it raw. Be prepared for a different culinary experience, however. Black garlic is jelly-like in texture with a hint of balsamic vinegar and is sweeter than white garlic. Feel free to use it as you would white garlic in your recipes, and revel in the different taste experience.
Researchers also found that black garlic won’t make your sweat smell like garlic – so there’s that upside too! This means you can enjoy a nice, heavily-garlicked Italian dinner without worrying about smelling like garlic afterward.
Switch to black garlic today. It’s healthier and tastes better! Remember to ferment your own black garlic to maximize its health benefits – it’s also cheaper than buying from retailers. But keep in mind you should only ferment for no more and no less than 21 days.
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This article is not intended to take the place of a competent nutritionist or doctor. It is solely intended to educate people on the vital and perhaps underestimated importance of this nutritional element.
The information in this site is presented for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or prescribe.
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