We all know about the popular garlic bulb that adds extra taste to our dishes and leaves us with an unattractive garlic breath afterwards, but have you heard about black garlic? Black garlic is becoming increasingly popular and is a sought-after ingredient that is being used in high-end cuisine around the world. As new as it may sound, it has been used to add flavor and for medicinal purposes by Asian cultures for centuries and can be made right in the comfort of your own home. This article will offer more insight into black garlic health benefits – and all you need to know about the herb.
What is black garlic?
Garlic is a species in the onion genus known as Allium Sativum. The underground bulb is native to Central Asia and north-eastern Iran. It is used as a seasoning all over the world and has been used by humans for a variety of health reasons for many centuries. Black garlic is still the regular garlic bulb that we commonly use, however, this type of garlic has been aged through the process of fermentation.
Black garlic is thought to be attributed to the process of caramelization, but this is incorrect. Its browning is actually the result of the Maillard reaction (the chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinct flavors). The product of this reaction is a garlic bulb that has a sweet and syrupy taste, with just a hint of balsamic vinegar or tamarind. The color is black and looks like coal. Black garlic also has a softer texture compared to that of raw garlic.
How is black garlic made?
When the heads of raw, white garlic are aged under very specific conditions that detail the right combination of heat and humidity, then black garlic is produced. The wonderful focus point about producing this type of garlic is that no additives or preservatives are needed and there is no burning which means the bulb keeps its nutrients. To produce black garlic, the heads of raw garlic will undergo a process of fermentation. The bulbs are kept in an environment that is humidity controlled (from 80% – 90%) and at temperatures that typically range from 140 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 40 days. The enzymes that give garlic its characteristic sharpness break down during the process of fermentation. During fermentation, simple polyphenols form polyphenols complex (a higher antioxidant). The cloves will turn from white to black and the texture will change into a sticky date-like quality.
Studies are still ongoing, but it is thought that the bacterial endophytes (capable of fermentation and have a strong ability to resist high temperatures) that are present in white and black garlic are relevant to the production of black garlic.
The process may seem complicated, but it is not difficult at all, it is just a lengthy process. There are few DIY methods than you can use to make black garlic at home. One method is to ferment the bulbs in a slow cooker or rice cooker. You will need 6 to 7 whole, unpeeled heads of garlic that have been dry-cleaned and wiped down to remove all dirt from their exterior. You cannot wash or wet the bulbs, otherwise, the aging process will be disrupted. The warm setting on your slow cooker will provide the perfect temperature and humidity for the aging process without cooking the bulbs. Space the bulbs in the slow cooker so that they do not touch each other and cover. The bulbs need to be in the slow cooker, uninterrupted, until they are soft and black: this normally takes 2-3 weeks.
Once the black garlic has been made, the bulbs need to be stored whole in an airtight container and are suitable to use for up to 3 months.
Health benefits of black garlic
The health benefits of black garlic are similar to those benefits of raw garlic, however, there are a few differences. To explore the health benefits of raw garlic, have a look at this article for more information. Black garlic is an excellent source of calories, iron, fiber, protein, calcium, and Vitamin C, this is also because no nutrients are lost through the fermentation process, making them a great natural food source for health benefits. Below is why black garlic is a great addition to your diet:
- Antioxidants and Diabetes
Aged garlic contains a higher number of antioxidants and biological activity compared to raw garlic. The sulfur compound, S-allyl cysteine (SAC), is responsible for the high antioxidant activity of garlic. Black garlic produces 2 to 3 times more antioxidants than regular garlic. Antioxidants help reduce the harmful free radicals in the body. Because black garlic is so rich in antioxidants, it makes it an ideal food to be consumed by those who suffer from diabetes because antioxidants help reduce inflammation and prevent diabetes complications. Black garlic has been linked to balancing blood sugar levels which also helps those suffering from diabetes.
The high antioxidant levels in black garlic also make this bulb beneficial for fighting cancer. Research has shown that the consumption of black garlic extracts helps reduce the growth of HT29 colon cancer cell growth and the growth of leukemia cells because of its antioxidant compounds. Antioxidants inhibit the proliferation of various tumor cell lines by altering the cell cycle and inducing apoptosis. The high selenium content in black garlic, higher than the levels found in regular garlic, makes it more effective to inhibit and kill cancer cells.
- Improved Heart Function
In comparison to raw garlic, black garlic contains approximately five times more polyphenols, this means that it is more effective at protecting the heart from damage. Black garlic can also reduce “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides in the body which helps keep the cholesterol levels in balance and reduces high cholesterol, this makes it equally effective in reducing the risk of heart disease that is caused by high cholesterol levels.
- Improved Brain Health
The high levels of antioxidants in black garlic also attribute to the benefit of improved overall health of the brain and helps maintain good memory. Because antioxidants reduce free radical damage and oxidative stress, it helps reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. The high antioxidant level in black garlic means that the little bulb also helps reduce inflammation in the brain and blocks cognitive conditions such as Dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
- Weight Management
Obesity is a growing problem worldwide, and as a result, more people are looking for better ways to help manage their weight naturally. A recent study has shown that including black garlic in your diet may help burn more fat and help the body lose weight faster. Just like regular garlic, black garlic is responsible for boosting energy levels which help burn away calories, the boost in metabolism is a win for losing weight. Black garlic is also an appetite suppressant and keeps you feeling fuller for a lot longer. Compared to regular garlic, black garlic is the more prominent lipid and weight-lowering ingredient. Recent studies have shown that the anti-obesity effect of methanol extract of black garlic could be linked with the regulation of adipokine biosynthesis, fatty acid oxidation, fatty acid and glucose transport, and lipogenesis in the adipose tissue and liver. Simply put, black garlic has anti-obesity and cholesterol-lowering effects which contributes to weight-loss.
- Hair Growth
Garlic works wonders for the hair. Its anti-microbial properties help kill bacteria which cause damage to the scalp and inhibit hair growth. The selenium content in garlic also helps improve blood circulation which improves the nourishment of the hair and cleanses hair follicles for the prevention of hair loss. Black garlic has a slightly higher content of selenium which makes it ideal for promoting new hair growth and preventing hair loss. The extracts of black garlic can be used to produce a natural oil when mixed with a carrier oil such as coconut oil. Black garlic oil is nourishing for the scalp and is a highly effective compound for hair, remember to keep it at room temperature and to avoid direct sunlight.
Black garlic oil can be made at home by leaving minced black garlic bulbs in a carrier oil (olive oil or coconut oil) for at least a week in a mason jar. Store your mixture in a cool, dry place.
Black garlic or regular garlic?
Without a doubt, black garlic has a softer, molasses-like flavor that is a lot more delicate than the raw garlic option, just remember you may need to add a lot more of this garlic to your foods to achieve a strong flavor. Fresh garlic releases a strong offensive flavor because of the higher allicin content, and it leaves behind the strong garlic breath that no one loves. If you want to avoid garlic breath, then definitely opt for black garlic. Black garlic is aged or fermented regular garlic bulbs but it comes with a lot more benefits because its enhanced bioactivity, compared to that of raw garlic, is attributed to its changes in physiochemical properties, this means it has a lot more antioxidants to offer, together with valuable nutrients and vitamins. Because black garlic is lower in moisture content, its amino acids and other nutritional characteristics are a lot more concentrated compared to raw garlic. The powerful herb is considered a super-food in several Asian countries and I can understand why it is making its way onto more menus worldwide, I suggest trying black garlic for its natural benefits that surpass its raw form, and to avoid strong garlic breath!
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