Black Garlic…if you please!

Black garlic is a 4,000 year old Korean recipe for curing garlic in order to preserve it and now their latest health trend product.  It went mainstream in the U.S. in 2008 and is growing in popularity.

BG is made by a fermentation-type process of exposing garlic to high heat and high humidity for more than a month (usually 35 days). The high heat causes what is known as a Maillard reaction* a caramelization reaction that causes the garlic to turn black.

*The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between an amino acid and sugar brought on by the addition of heat.  This process results in the browning or caramelization of food.  

Although this type of fermentation process does not produce “live bacteria” like probiotics, it does produce a significant amount of disease-fighting anti-oxidants. The most common one being S-allylcysteine; a water-soluble component easily absorbed by the body.

S-allylcysteine is known to naturally lower cholesterol levels, prevent strokes, work as an anti-inflammatory or immune booster and may help reduce diabetic complications.

Black garlic produces as much as 3 times the amount of anti-oxidants as regular garlic, plus it doesn’t exude the strong, “off-putting” odor!

The optimal fermentation time for BG is 21 days as that is when anti-oxidants are at their peak.  After that time, they decline a little every day up to the 35 day fermentation period.

Chefs like to use black garlic to make sauces, purees and salad dressings.  They also use it as a sandwich spread, in deviled eggs and even to make ice cream. Check out their recipes at http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/09/what-to-do-with-black-garlic.html.

Picture courtesy of restaurantgirl.com 

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Fermented Vegetables

 

In sticking with our theme of gut microbe trends, I thought I would highlight a couple of probiotic powerhouses. One of the best – “fermented” vegetables.

Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. It is high in fiber and provides a good source of iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin K. It is also considered a “cruciferous” vegetable, which have been shown to lower your risk of cancer.

Kimchi is also made from fermented cabbage. It also includes radishes, scallions and cucumbers and seasonings.  Kimchi is an excellent source of Vitamin K (64% of the daily recommended amount in a cup), iron (25% of the daily rec amt) and folate.  It also provides Vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and zinc. And since it’s a cabbage, it is also a “cruciferous” vegetable.

Pickled cucumbers, beets, onions, carrots, etc. – You get many of the vegetable benefits from these including Vitamins A and C. Plus, they have been shown to lower blood sugar, are excellent sources of anti-oxidants, help relieve muscle cramps and may treat restless leg syndrome. Just make sure it is the live, raw, fermented kind to help keep sodium levels low.

One final note:

The Vitamin C in cabbage becomes more bioavailable (more able to be digested and absorbed) when it’s fermented to become sauerkraut and kimchi. The process also creates beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and various strains of probiotics such as Bifidobacterium and lactobacillus that improve digestion and gut health.

“Live Active Cultures”

Gut Microbes (con’t) – So, I’m asked all the time, how can you tell  which is the best probiotic supplement to take?  First of all you want one that contains “live cultures.” It should state it somewhere on the package label.  Secondly, choose a refrigerated kind, because the cultures in an unrefrigerated kind tend to die off fairly quickly making them ineffective. And lastly consume at a supplement with at least 1 billion live bacterial cultures – 250 billion would be at the top of the range.

But what if you don’t want to spend the hefty price-tag that goes along with these supplements? Try getting them from whole, “real” foods.

Most people have heard of consuming yogurt as a way to get probiotics. If you are buying yogurt, the same is true as in supplements.  Make sure that you look for the words “contains active cultures” or “living cultures” on the carton. The probiotics in yogurt that have been treated with heat will most probably be killed off and therefore ineffective.

*Live and active cultures refer to the living organisms Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which convert pasteurized milk to yogurt during fermentation. All yogurts are required to be made with these two cultures. In heat-treated yogurt, these cultures are killed during post-fermentation heating. Source: http://aboutyogurt.com/index.asp?bid=28#Q3

Some studies have suggested that you will need to consume several cartons of live active yogurt to have any effect, so eating fermented vegetables may be a better option. If you can; purchase them from a local food source. Heating bacteria (as in commercially produced fermented vegetables) kills it in the manufacturing process, so even though it keeps them shelf stable – it has no probiotic effect.  Pasteurizing also kills bacteria. So those yummy dill pickles you find on your store shelf, may certainly taste good, but offer little or no ‘good’ bacterium value.

For best probiotic results, choose raw, uncooked, unpasteurized fermented vegetables.

More to come on probiotics later this week….