Black garlic (BG) - scientific name: Allium sativum - is a species of bulbous flowering plants that offers a unique flavor profile and, more importantly, a range of incredible health benefits.
This type of garlic forms after traditional, raw garlic undergoes a long fermentation period in a high-heat, high-humidity environment that turns its cloves black, mellows and sweetens its flavor, gives it a sticky, chewy consistency and infuses it with several health-boosting properties.
While BG only recently gained popularity in much of the West, its use stretches back centuries to the cuisine of Asian countries like Korea, which prize Allium sativum for its tastiness, versatility and vitality-boosting characteristics.
As countries like the US look to Asian medicine and dietary practices for healthful inspiration, it’s little surprise that this oft-underappreciated garlic is now more popular than ever among health-conscious Americans.
On that note, let’s dive into the many benefits of this delicious, nutritious plant in our Living Proof Guide to Black Garlic:
1. Antioxidant Content
According to in-depth research from sources like Science Direct and the National Library of Medicine, black garlic has a high concentration of antioxidants, which defend your body against free radicals that can lead to cancer and diseases like asthma, diabetes and dementia.
Black garlic is so rich in antioxidants due to its lengthy fermentation. This process enhances the plant’s sweetness and acidity, in addition to heightening or reducing some of its other physicochemical characteristics.
In the National Library of Medicine’s detailed 2014 report - published by a trio of researchers from Korea, where BG is extremely popular - data shows that antioxidant components of this garlic increase substantially over three weeks of fermentation.
After 21 days of fermenting, BG demonstrates a remarkably high count of antioxidant components, including phenols, flavonoids and polyphenols, and a far higher rate of antioxidant activity.
All told, properly-fermented BG is an excellent source of health-boosting antioxidants, even demonstrating a phenolic content 4 to 10 fold higher than traditional raw garlic.
2. Blood Sugar Regulation
Another fantastic benefit of black garlic is that it can help you regulate your blood sugar.
According to 2017 and 2019 findings from National Library of Medicine studies and an oft-cited 2010 report from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, BG repeatedly shows an ability to help patients lower dangerously-high levels of blood glucose.
Compared to those in control groups, patients in experimental groups who consume black garlic usually have an easier time maintaining a healthier blood glucose homeostasis in the short and long term.
These results represent fantastic news for anyone trying to maintain ideal blood sugar levels, but they are particularly important for those at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes mellitus, a common precursor to type 2 diabetes.
In conjunction with its remarkable antioxidant properties, BG’s abilities to potentially help lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity can help at-risk patients stave off type 2 diabetes and its many adverse side effects.
3. Promising Anti-Cancer Effects
Arguably, the most promising benefit of black garlic consumption is its ability to lower cancer incidence.
As documented in 2012 and 2015 findings from National Library of Medicine studies of mice and a report on the development of cancer in rats released by Science Direct, black garlic can inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and fight the formation of tumors.
On top of these benefits, BG also shows an ability to fight tumors already in existence, slowing their growth and making them easier to treat.
While your likelihood of developing cancer depends on many factors, scientific findings repeatedly show that black garlic can somewhat reduce your risk through its antioxidant effects and general immunomodulatory influence.
Further study, particularly on human subjects, is certainly needed, but these developments in mice/rat experiments are undoubtedly promising for those with cancer and those at high risk of developing it.
4. Neuroprotective Properties
A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Fortunately, black garlic helps protect your brain as you age, promoting sharp thinking and optimal cognition even into your later years.
First, it fights neuroinflammation - pathological evidence of Alzheimer’s that can lead to significant neuron damage and even death. Rats given black garlic in controlled experiments show lower rates of inflammation in their brains, leading to enhanced short-term memory and generally-improved neurological function.
Similarly, BG fights neurotoxicity, multiple forms of non-Alzheimer’s-related amnesia and neuronal degeneration, further serving as a neuroprotective barrier against the unwanted wear of aging on the brain.
As with cancer, black garlic is by no means a “cure-all” for brain damage, but it can be a powerful ally in promoting a healthy, happy and productive mind for decades to come.
Last but not least, black garlic is also an immunomodulator that can help your immune system establish healthy homeostasis and regulate itself in times of crisis.
The rich supply of antioxidants in black garlic help boost immunity by fighting against harmful free radicals, reducing inflammation throughout the body and minimizing oxidative stress on healthy cells.
One benefit of traditional garlic is its high level of allicin, a compound that directly boosts the immune system and can even reduce the length and severity of the common cold, flu and particular viral diseases.
The fermentation process required to make black garlic reduces its level of allicin but does not eliminate it. Fortunately, this means you can also enjoy some of the compound’s immune benefits in a serving of BG.
In tandem, these benefits make black garlic a reliable partner in your pursuit of a healthy, thriving immune system.
If you need help and professional guidance, get in touch with our licensed nutritionist at Living Proof NYC.