A pinch of black pepper added to any recipe works as more than just a flavor enhancer. Often called the king of spices, black pepper is known to offer a number of health benefits while providing an excellent depth of flavor to any dish. The use of black pepper in the diet helps promote weight loss, improve digestion, relieve cold and cough, boost metabolism, and treat skin problems.
What is Black Pepper?
Black pepper is the fruit of the black pepper plant from the Piperaceae family and is used as both, spice and a medicine. The chemical piperine, present in black pepper, causes the spiciness. It is native to Kerala, the southern state of India. Since ancient times, black pepper is one of the most widely-traded spices in the world. It is not a seasonal plant making it available throughout the year. When dried, this plant-derived spice is referred to as a peppercorn. Due to its antibacterial properties, pepper is used to preserve food. Black pepper is also a very good anti-inflammatory agent.
Black Pepper Nutrition Facts
Black pepper contains minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, as well as vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. Other nutrients include vitamin E, folate, and vitamin K.
Large amounts of black pepper also have dietary fiber and a moderate amount of carbohydrate and protein.
Health Benefits of Black Pepper
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 help prevent many diseases. According to a review study conducted by lead researcher Jie Zheng, that compared various spices, pepperine found in black pepper exhibits antitumor activity for a few types of cancer – they include breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer.
However, more research studies and clinical trials are required to confirm the antitumor potential.
Consumption of pepper increases the hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach, thereby facilitating digestion. Proper digestion is essential to avoid intestinal issues including diarrhea, constipation, and colic. Pepper also helps prevent the formation of intestinal gas, and when added to a person’s diet, it can promote sweating and urination.
Sweating helps remove toxins and foreign bodies from pores which have lodged there. It can also remove excess water. Urination removes uric acid, urea, excess water, and fat (fun fact: 4% of urine is 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, 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. According to researchers in Oregon Health & Science University, 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 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. Research published in the journal Phytomedicine showed that the 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.
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.
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.
Gives Relief from Peptic Ulcers
A number of studies have shown that black pepper may have beneficial effects on gastric mucosal 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 help improve your overall health and well-being.