Black pepper, also known as the “king of spices,” is very popular. You would be hard-pressed to find a dish that does not benefit from a few dashes of the spice that imparts a subtle heat and smokiness to dishes. Often paired with salt, it cuts through the richness of thick, cream-based sauces such as béchamel and alfredo, and enhances the acidity of tomato-based dishes. It also kicks up the spiciness a notch in curries and chutneys, and transforms a humble slab of steak into a meal fit for royalty. It can be used whole, cracked, or finely ground, depending on the desired effect. Apart from its use in savory recipes, black pepper can also be used to enhance desserts, such as chai cupcakes, Icelandic pepper cookies, and sugar-and-spice cookies, to name a few.
Black pepper comes from the fruit of a pepper plant from the Piperaceae family and is native in Kerala, a southern state of India. Three to four years after being planted, the black pepper plant bears clustered, small, and white flowers. After a while, these flowers develop into small berries called peppercorns. The peppercorn is grounded into a fine powder called black pepper. Peppercorn and black pepper are widely available year-round, as it is not a seasonal plant. It was one of the most valuable and highly-traded spices in earlier times.
Is Black Pepper Nutritious?
Aside from being widely used for culinary purposes, black pepper is also used as medicine. This is because it is a rich source of minerals such as manganese, copper, magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, and phosphorous. It is also rich in vitamins such as vitamins C, K, and B6, as well as riboflavin. It has a moderate amount of protein and carbohydrates and has a high content of dietary fiber. Meals that have black pepper are not just flavorful, they are usually healthy too.
Regular consumption of healthy foods that use black pepper may aid in weight loss and the treatment of asthma. It can also clear nasal congestion and treat sinusitis. On a broader scale, it helps reduce the risk of cancer, heart diseases, and liver ailments.
Below is a rundown of its health benefits:
1. It helps give you better skin.
Pepper is one of the most effective known cures for vitiligo, a skin disease that causes areas of the skin to lose its normal pigmentation and turn white over time. The piperine content of pepper stimulates the skin to produce melanocytes pigment, which prevents the skin from turning white in splotchy areas. While there are numerous treatment options for vitiligo, most of them are harsh and chemical-based, which in the long run can pose serious health concerns. Topical treatment of piperine, along with ultraviolet therapy, is a gentler and more effective way to treat vitiligo.
Black pepper also helps limit your exposure to the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays, which then reduces the chances of getting skin cancer.
2. It has natural antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
Black pepper is a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent or repair cell damage caused by free radicals – harmful byproducts of cell metabolism that attack the healthy cells and cause their DNA to mutate into cancer cells. Black pepper and other antioxidants help neutralize these free radicals, thus protecting your system from numerous conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and liver problems, among others. Antioxidants are also known to help reverse and prevent premature aging symptoms such as wrinkles, age spots and sun spots, and memory loss.
Aside from being a powerful antioxidant, black pepper also has natural antibacterial properties that help fight infections and insect bites. A diet that is rich in black pepper helps keep the arteries clear, scraping the walls free of excess cholesterol. It acts like fiber in that it helps fight atherosclerosis, which causes heart attack and stroke.
3. Black pepper aids in digestion and weight loss.
When you consume pepper, your stomach secretes hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which facilitates digestion. Digestion is extremely important to prevent common stomach problems such as colic, constipation, and diarrhea. It also prevents the formation of intestinal gas and promotes sweating and urination – two processes that are vital in helping the body detoxify. Sweating rids the pores of foreign bodies and toxins, and removes excess water that contributes to bloating. Pepper helps you excrete uric acid, excess water, and fat when you urinate, therefore keeping your urinary tract healthy and free of infection.
When your body can digest food properly and efficiently, your body can function better, and you are at a much lower risk of getting gastrointestinal conditions. Furthermore, it aids in weight loss, as it prevents the buildup of harmful toxins inside the body.
Consuming foods that are rich in pepper also helps you shed weight naturally, as it assists in the breakdown of fat cells. Black pepper is also known to be rich in fiber, which aids in ridding the body of fat and excess weight.
4. It helps you absorb nutrients better.
When black pepper is added to food, it maximizes the overall effect of the other nutritious ingredients, which makes the substances readily accessed and absorbed by the body. It helps transport the nutrients present in the herbs, protein, and vegetables consumed to other parts of the body faster and more efficiently.
5. It strengthens your memory.
One of the key components of black pepper is piperine, which has been proven to reduce memory impairment and cognitive malfunction. Adding pepper to the diet of patients with Alzheimer’s and those who have dementia and other age-related or free radical-related cognitive breakdowns can help prevent memory loss. This doesn’t just apply to individuals suffering from these conditions – consuming a diet that is high in black pepper can help you remember things easier.
Black pepper, the king of spice, does not just make your food taste better – it also helps your body turn into a healthy, well-oiled machine that is able to withstand everyday stress. Never take your pepper shaker for granted again!