Find out all about black garlic, including what it does, the benefits of taking it and how much you might need
What is black garlic?
You may know about the benefits of normal garlic, but what about black garlic? Black garlic is simply an aged version of our favourite superfood, which may contain even more of the good stuff regular garlic does.
To make black garlic, fresh garlic is taken and fermented. This process gives their cloves their dark, black colour and also makes them taste sweet and tangy – kind of like balsamic vinegar. Some people love this as they want to enjoy all the benefits of garlic, but don’t enjoy that strong garlicky flavour its famous for. The cloves also have a texture-change and feel jelly-like and chewy.
Although black garlic may seem like the new kid on the block, only really being seen in trendy restaurants and bragged about by foodies, it’s been around for much longer. Asian countries like Japan, Thailand and South Korea have been using it for centuries – with each country having their own take on the fermentation process.
Most fermentation takes place in a warm, humidity-controlled environment where garlic is left for several weeks. How it is fermented has an impact on its health benefits, which can include:
- Supports your immunity
- Keeps your heart ticking
- Benefits your brain health
- Helps stabilise blood sugar
Is black garlic better than white garlic?
We all know a garlic lover or two in our lives – you know, the ones who double the necessary cloves for every recipe! And you’ll be pleased to know its benefits go much further than tantalising our taste buds.
Fresh garlic is hailed a superfood thanks to its many health benefits. Each little clove is packed with nutritious goodies like oligosaccharides, flavonoids, amino acids, and allicin – a sulphur compound which both gives fresh garlic its distinct smell and has been well researched for its health benefits.
Allicin is one of garlic’s most significant active compounds. The fermentation process of black garlic actually reduces the allicin content – which is why its not so smelly. To compensate, the process also creates a high concentration of an antioxidant called S-Allycysteine (SAC), which makes the remaining allicin more bioavailable.
In addition to this, the reduced allicin is converted into other antioxidants like bioflavonoids and alkaloids, which help to reduce the damage oxidative stress poses to our cells. It’s official, black garlic is even more antioxidant-rich than white garlic!
Black garlic benefits: what does black garlic do in the body
Now you know all about black garlic and how it differs to the fresh garlic we know and love, lets get into the benefits it can have for your health.
There is evidence from a large number of studies that both black and fresh garlic can have the following health benefits:
Supports your immunity
Black garlic is packed full of various antioxidants that help to fight free radicals, reduce inflammation and prevent oxidative damage to our cells. In 2012, a study on the effects of black and raw garlic on the immune system was performed with 21 volunteers. Black garlic had more beneficial antioxidant properties and an increased effect on the immune system.
Considering that plain old normal garlic is used to try and reduce the length of the common cold, makes black garlic’s increased antioxidant content even more promising.1
Helps your heart health
Animal tests have shown that black garlic can help to repair damage to muscles in the heart caused by lack of blood flow, aka, ischemia.
Another animal test was taken out in Korea which showed that black garlic can also reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering high levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.
Fresh garlic has also been seen to help prevent the hardening of the arteries by reducing the amount of fat in the blood and helping to curb cholesterol’s tendency to deposit fat in the arteries.2
Keeps your brain healthy
The high antioxidant levels in black garlic mean that it can help to alleviate inflammation, which is partly responsible for some brain diseases. Animal tests have also shown that is can help improve memory in cognition-impaired brains.3
Helps keep blood sugars stable
Several studies have looking to the effect black garlic has on blood sugar levels, especially when obesity and diabetes are present. Evidence from animal studies suggest that it may be useful in preventing complications from diabetes and improving vascular and metabolic issues cause by a diet high in sucrose.4
Is black garlic for everybody?
Just like normal garlic, black garlic is seen as generally safe to eat and take for most people. In fact, when consumed in large amount, black garlic is usually better tolerated
However, garlic consumption can produce the following side effects in some people:
- body odour
Some people may also be allergic, so watch out for asthma, skin problems or a runny nose after you’ve eaten it. If you’re concerned, stop consuming it and seek the advice of your GP.
How much garlic is safe to take?
Garlic is pretty safe to consume at normal levels found in your food – as even the biggest garlic fans amongst us would struggle to consume unsafe levels of garlic.
However, some groups should be careful when taking black garlic products:
- under 18s
- pregnant or breast-feeding women
- people taking anti-coagulation or anti-platelet medication as garlic can affect how quickly your blood clots, so consult your doctor before taking
- people who will be having surgery within seven days as there is a risk of bleeding more after the operation
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
Last updated: 10 August 2020
1 Josling P. Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey
2 Mikaili P, et al. Therapeutic Uses and Pharmacological Properties of Garlic, Shallot and Their Biologically Active Compounds