For thousands of years, black pepper has been a staple ingredient all over the world.
Often referred to as the “king of spices,” it comes from the dried, unripe fruit of the native Indian plant Piper Nigrum. Both whole black peppercorns and ground black pepper are commonly used in cooking. In addition to adding flavor to the food, black pepper may act as an antioxidant and offers a variety of health benefits.
Black pepper is the most ubiquitous of all spices. There is hardly any dish that cannot be enhanced by its smoky, spicy overtones and it is one of those spices that is used universally across cuisines.
This article takes a look at black pepper, its benefits, side effects and culinary uses.
Black pepper grows on climber vines that cling to tall trees. Pepper vines can grow up to ten meters high and produce fruit all year round. The berries can be picked in three cycles to produce three kinds of pepper: green, black and white.
- Green pepper is immature, unripe pepper, used whole for its sharp, mildly spicy and fruity notes.
- Black pepper is produced when the berries are more mature, but still green and shiny. They are harvested by hand, and dried, at which point they become the characteristic black, crinkled spice we are familiar with. Pepper is at its strongest when processed this way.
- White pepper is produced by picking pepper when it is fully ripe and red, and stripping away its fleshy outer layer, and then dried. White pepper is milder, due to this ripening process.
Serving size: 100 g
1 tsp, ground (2.3 g), 1 tbsp, ground (6.9 g), 1 tsp, whole (2.9 g), 1 dash (0.1 g)
Water – 12.46 g , Energy – 251 kcal, Protein – 10.39 g, Total lipid (fat) – 3.26 g, Carbohydrate – 63.95 g, Fiber – 25.3 g, Sugars – 0.64 g, Calcium – 443 mg, Iron – 9.71 mg, Magnesium – 171 mg, Phosphorus -158 mg, Potassium – 1329 mg, Sodium – 20 mg.
Black pepper aids in weight loss, and helps in relieving sinus, asthma, and nasal congestion. It also reduces the risk of cancer, and heart and liver ailments. Let us discuss the health benefits of black pepper in detail.
Antioxidants in pepper can prevent or repair the damage caused by free radicals and helps to prevent many diseases. Compared to various spices, piperine found in black pepper exhibits antitumor activity for a few types of cancer which include breast cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer.
Consumption of pepper increases the hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach, thereby facilitating digestion. Proper digestion is essential to avoid intestinal issues including diarrhoea, constipation and colic. Pepper also helps in preventing the formation of intestinal gas and when added to a person’s diet, it can promote sweating and urination.
Sweating helps to remove toxins and foreign bodies from pores which are lodged. It can also remove excess water. Urination removes uric acid, urea, excess water and fat.
Good digestion helps in weight loss, makes your overall body function better and prevents severe gastrointestinal conditions. As black pepper is carminative in nature and it easily expels the gas out of the body in a healthy downward motion; upward moving gas can be dangerous as it can strain the upper chest cavity and other vital organs.
The outer layer of peppercorn assists in the breakdown of fat cells. Therefore, peppery foods are a good way to help you shed weight naturally. When fat cells are broken down into their component parts, they are easily processed by the body and applied to other processes and enzymatic reactions, rather than settling in your body and making you overweight. Ayurvedic tea made with black pepper is one of the teas recommended for weight loss.
Pepper may help to provide relief from vitiligo, which is a skin disease that causes some areas of skin to lose its normal pigmentation and turn white. The piperine content of pepper can stimulate the skin to produce melanocytes pigment. Topical treatment of piperine combined with ultraviolet light therapy is much better than other harsher, more chemical-based treatments for vitiligo. It also reduces the chances of skin cancer due to excessive ultraviolet radiation.
The results from this animal study are promising; however, more research is required to prove the effectiveness in humans.
Provides Respiratory Relief
In Ayurvedic practices, pepper is added to tonics for treating cold and cough. Pepper also provides relief from sinusitis and nasal congestion. It has an expectorant property that helps break up the mucus and phlegm depositions in the respiratory tract. Its natural irritant quality helps you expel these loosened materials through the act of sneezing or coughing, which eliminates the material from the body and helps you recover from infection or illness that caused the deposition in the first place. Soups and stews made with black pepper and other aromatic spices are often used to treat colds and coughs.
The antibacterial property of black pepper helps to fight against infections and insect bites. Pepper added to the diet helps keep your arteries clean by acting in a similar way to fiber such as scraping excess cholesterol from the walls, thereby helping reduce atherosclerosis, the condition highly responsible for heart attack and stroke. Compounds present in black pepper were active against Bacillus Subtilis, Bacillus Sphaericus, Staphylococcus Aureus among gram-positive bacteria, and against among certain gram-negative bacterial strains.
Improves Cognitive Function
Piperine, one of the key components of black pepper, has been shown in numerous studies to reduce memory impairment and cognitive malfunction. The chemical pathways in the brain appear to be stimulated by this organic compound, so early research demonstrates the possibility of pepper to benefit Alzheimer’s patients and those suffering other age-related or free radical-related malfunctions in cognition.
Research suggests that black pepper helps in transporting the benefits of other herbs and compounds to different parts of the body, thus maximizing the efficiency of the other foods we consume. That is why adding it to food not only makes it delicious but also helps to make the nutrients more available and accessible to our system.
Research also shows that black pepper may improve the absorption of beta-carotene — a compound found in vegetables and fruits that your body converts to vitamin A. Beta-carotene functions as a powerful antioxidant that may combat cellular damage, thus preventing conditions like heart disease.
Gives Relief from Peptic Ulcers
A number of studies have shown that black pepper may have beneficial effects on gastric mucousal damage and peptic ulcers due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
In some cases, pepper may be a good treatment for respiratory conditions due to its properties as an expectorant, as well as its strong anti-inflammatory properties.
- Preparing grounded pepper powder at home is better than buying it ready-made. However, even homemade powder retains its freshness for only 3 months, while whole peppercorns can keep their freshness indefinitely.
- Adding a pinch of black pepper to every meal helps to improve both taste and digestion. It can also improve your overall health and well-being. 🙂
Harini. N. B, M.Sc (Clinical Nutrition), RD., Certified Diabetes Educator.