Garlic itself is a key component of modern diets and it is also often viewed as a superfood because of its nutrients and impacts on health. At the same time, garlic can be a key way to add flavor to meals and is used in many types of dishes.
But, what about black garlic? This is an obscure superfood – one that many people haven’t even heard about and certainly don’t rely on.
In fact, black garlic is a little like a super-powered version of regular garlic. So, it stands to reason that there are many black garlic benefits. Plus, black garlic is an interesting inclusion in your diet, regardless of how you feel about regular garlic.
What is Black Garlic?
Black garlic isn’t actually a different type of garlic at all. Instead, it is most commonly referred to as fermented garlic, where the process results in the garlic cloves changing color.
The garlic is created through heat treatment. In particular, garlic bulbs are exposed to high temperature and high humidity for several days. This process dramatically changes the appearance of the garlic and also the compounds that it contains (1).
Black garlic is often prized for its flavor profile alone, as it ends up being sweeter and more mellow than garlic itself. This alone may make it more attractive for people who don’t like the taste of regular garlic. Indeed, black garlic can be especially relevant for cooking, creating a sweeter and more unique taste.
At the same time, there are considerable implications for health.
However, despite all of the marketing, black garlic isn’t actually fermented. As such, it won’t offer the same set of health benefits that you find with fermented foods.
Instead, it is produced through a process of sugar conversion, where the sugars break down over time (2). That process is sometimes called a Maillard reaction and has different implications for health (3,4).
Nevertheless, fermented or not, black garlic is considered a superfood and I’m going to show you exactly why it is so significant for health.
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Regular Garlic and Health
Before we look into the specific benefits of black garlic, it’s worth taking a moment to consider what regular garlic offers. After all, black garlic is created from this and will retain many of the characteristics and health implications.
Garlic is an herb with the scientific name Allium sativum. It has a long history of being used in cooking and also in traditional medicine. Indeed, the use of garlic for medicine goes all the way back to ancient Greece and to the beginning of recorded history (5).
As is always the case, some traditional views of garlic have proven to be inaccurate and garlic is unlikely to be effective for every condition that it has been used to treat. Nevertheless, scientists have found support for many potential benefits and garlic continues to be widely used (6).
However, other research indicates that some benefits may come from a combination of components of garlic. In particular, products like aged garlic extract can have significant impacts on treating cardiovascular disease and boosting the immune system, even without containing any allicin (9).
Now, garlic itself is typically consumed in one of two forms. The first is simply fresh garlic, which is easy to include in the diet.
However, there are also many garlic supplements on the market. Researchers suggest that if you use supplements, you should look for those that have not been heated much during their manufacture.
This is because short-term heating can reduce the anti-inflammatory properties of garlic (10).
Garlic supplements can be relevant for people who don’t like the taste of garlic.
At the same time, they may provide a higher dose versus consuming garlic in food and have been specifically linked with some benefits. These included lowering blood pressure (11,12,13,14) and improving cholesterol levels (15,16,17).
Nevertheless, the allicin in garlic tends to break down quickly. As a result, you may get little to none of that compound if you are taking garlic in supplement form (18).
With this in mind, getting garlic in the diet is likely to be the best approach in many situations, especially if you are also consuming other powerful fruits and vegetables, such as those that fight inflammation.
Black Garlic and Health
Like many superfoods, black garlic is high in antioxidants. This is a result of how it is produced (19,20,21). Furthermore, the antioxidant content is higher for black garlic than for regular garlic (22).
The term antioxidants has become fairly commonplace and is often used in marketing for various products. Basically, antioxidants are thought to help protect the body and may reduce disease risk (23,24,25). Getting enough antioxidants through your diet may be critical to health and is a key reason for making fruit and vegetables a regular part of your diet (26).
Now, there is still much debate surrounding antioxidants and their exact implications for health. However, it is clear that getting enough of these compounds in your diet is important.
Additionally, many people may not be consuming enough antioxidants, especially if they tend to rely on processed foods. For that matter, people often get most of their antioxidants from coffee, simply because they consume so much coffee and not enough fruit and vegetables.
As a result, it’s important to find ways to reduce inflammation and natural ingredients are the most powerful way of doing this. Because inflammation is associated with disease, relying on anti-inflammatory foods could help to lower disease risk overall and promote health.
Because of the benefits associated with garlic, black garlic is also likely to be significant in improving cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure. Likewise, research suggests that black garlic may be relevant in reducing complications from type 2 diabetes (35).
Variations in Black Garlic
The method of production for black garlic is consistent regardless of what product you buy. However, the precise temperature involved can vary. Research suggests that different temperatures can have significant implications for the flavor of the garlic and also its quality (38).
This pattern occurs because the temperature affects the reactions that occur and the specific compounds that are produced. As a result, the temperature would also impact the health benefits from black garlic.
Research into this area has not been extensive but one group of authors suggests that a temperature of around 70°C (around 160°F) promote the best outcomes (39).
You may be able to find information about the temperature used from the websites of manufacturers but many are unlikely to specify this data. Still, black garlic will offer most of the same benefits, regardless of the temperature that was used.
It’s also worth noting that black garlic can be purchased in a few forms. Like garlic itself, you can get black garlic supplements, the whole bulb or just black garlic cloves. Which you choose mostly comes down to personal preference – as there hasn’t been enough research to know which is the healthiest option.
As a general rule, going with whole foods tends to be the best option for health. After all, a healthy diet and lifestyle rely on eating healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, along with herbs and spices.
There are certainly some supplements that are critical to health (like vitamin D). But, it’s typically best to turn to whole food first and only rely on supplements in cases where there are no other options.
Implications for Health
So, what does all of this mean?
For one thing, black garlic truly is a superfood and it offers significant implications for health. In fact, it’s worth including in the diet for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties alone.
At the same time, it is a valuable ingredient for cooking, especially as black garlic has such an unusual and appealing flavor profile. It is even used in desserts. If nothing else, black garlic is easier to include in the diet, especially as it doesn’t have the overwhelming taste typically associated with garlic.
Like other superfoods, black garlic isn’t likely to revolutionize your health or dramatically change your disease risk.
However, it does represent a useful component to the diet, one that can contribute to better outcomes overall. Furthermore, black garlic can be a valuable addition to any anti-inflammatory diet or healthy eating regimen.
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