Garlic is the alternative health cure-all for all sorts of ailments of the viral, bacterial, fungal, and infectious kind. Teeming with phytochemicals and sulfurous compounds, garlic has been shown to fight inflammation (slashing your risk for inflammation-related conditions like osteoarthritis) and to strengthen cardiovascular health (protecting against clotting and plaque, and lowering blood pressure and improving lipids). Studies suggest that garlic even fortifies against cancer! Traditionally, the fresher the garlic, the healthier its nutritional profile. Recent studies, however, are shedding new light on the health benefits of black garlic and sprouted garlic, which seem to have even higher antioxidant capacity than fresher varieties of the pungent herb!
Black Garlic On the Rise
Black garlic undergoes a lengthy “fermentation” process to achieve its dark hue, soft chewy texture, and balsamic vinegar type taste. For 30 days, whole bulbs of fresh garlic ferment in a humidity-controlled environment set to 140-170 degrees Farenheit. They then go through a 45-day period of oxidation, at the end of which they’ve turned black and chewy. Doesn’t sound very appetizing, but research suggests that the unique compounds created during fermentation are rich in antioxidants.
Researchers recently found that black garlic surpasses the antioxidant capacity of fresh garlic by a factor of two. A separate 2009 animal study showed that black garlic decreased tumor size more effectively than fresh garlic! Black garlic contains an abundant amount of the sulfurous compound S-allylcyctene (SAC), which is similar in effect to the allicin compound found in fresh garlic, but is more stable and 100 percent bioavailable—which means SAC is readily absorbed by the body.
Don’t Throw Away Your Sprouted Garlic
Ever throw away your garlic as soon as green sprouts start shooting out of the bulb? A recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry indicates that sprouted garlic possesses off-the-chart antioxidant capacity. Researchers found that garlic allowed to sprout for five days had higher levels of antioxidants than fresh, young garlic. The sprouted garlic also protected cells in the laboratory dish from various damage. Researchers weren’t surprised by sprouted garlic’s antioxidant capacity. After all, in the plant world, when a seedling transforms into a plant, it grows compounds and phytochemicals to protect the plant against pathogens.
White, Green, Black—Take Your Pick!
If you like to stick with what you know, then by all means, stay true to the white, fresh garlic. It’s loaded with essential minerals like calcium, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium…and packed with vitamins like B6 and C, along with more than 100 other phytonutrients. Fresh garlic also features the sulfurous compound allicin, which is a potent natural antibiotic that is formed whenever a garlic clove is injured…like when you smash a clove to bits or chop it up. Allicine loses its potency quickly, however, so you only have an hour to benefit from its anti-infectious properties—eat quickly!