If you think black pepper works only as a flavor enhancer, think again. Sprinkling this humble spice over your dishes can boost not just its taste quality but nutritional power as well.
Often added to a dish along with salt for taste, black pepper boasts a number of health perks, from enhancing digestion to relieving a cold to promoting weight loss.
If you want to know how else black pepper can improve your health, read on. Discover how it can also fight cancer, promote skin health, and enhance your immunity in this ultimate health guide.
What is Black Pepper?
The black pepper plant is a climbing vine that belongs to the Piperaceae family. Its fruit, known as peppercorn, is commonly dried and used as a seasoning and spice in many dishes.
Grown mostly in tropical climates, pepper is native to India’s Malabar coast. Today, it is widely used all over the world with India and Indonesia as the largest producers.
Black pepper comes in various forms: whole, crushed and powdered. And since it is not a seasonal plant, black pepper can be bought in markets all throughout the year.
Black Pepper: Nutrition Facts
There’s apparently more to black pepper than being just a flavor booster. Its dietary importance has been noted in recent years with the recognition of black pepper’s link to health rewards.
It is found to contain antimicrobial and antibacterial properties and other powerful ingredients that provide fantastic health perks including a reduced risk of cancer.
Aside from these essential properties, black pepper also boasts a rich nutritional value.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Nutrient Database, black pepper is a good source of minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc.
That’s not all:
Black pepper also contains significant amounts of vitamins such as vitamins A, K and E, folate, niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin. It is also a good source of carbohydrate, dietary fiber, water, and protein.
What are the Health Benefits of Black Pepper?
Aside from helping treat a cold, assisting in weight loss, and improving digestion, black pepper boasts other important health rewards. Let’s explore in detail these impressive black pepper health benefits:
Black pepper enhances digestion
People with digestive problems may find black pepper consumption beneficial for their condition. Black pepper’s active ingredient, piperine, aids in digestion by stimulating the pancreas’ digestive enzymes.
Piperine has also been found to increase the secretion of gastric acid, allowing the body to break down food much easier and absorb nutrients better.
Due to its positive effects on digestion, black pepper also helps to prevent constipation and diarrhea, and promote good gut health.
Black pepper helps treat colds and cough
Suffering from a stuffy nose? Pepper also acts as a natural decongestant, providing relief for colds, nasal congestion, and sinusitis.
It contains an irritant that makes mucus waterier, helping to eliminate these loosened materials through a runny nose. As a result, the nasal passages are cleared out.
So, the next time you’re down with a cold, sprinkle a pinch of pepper to your chicken soup. It’ll make you breathe much easier.
Here’s more: Black pepper not only helps to cure a cold but a cough as well. Its expectorant properties are linked to improved symptoms of respiratory issues such as a cough.
To help relieve cough, mix a quarter teaspoon of black pepper with a tablespoon of honey. Consume this mixture and watch your condition improve.
Black pepper combats infections
Black pepper also possesses antibacterial properties that help combat infections and insect bites.
A study found that the piperine in black pepper exhibits potential as a larvicide, an insecticide that targets the larval stage life of a harmful insect.
Black pepper was also found to prevent the spread of various diseases, and keep the arteries clean by eliminating excess cholesterol from its walls.
Black pepper fights cancer
Black pepper is also linked to a decreased risk of cancer due to its antitumor activities.
Several studies found that the piperine found in black pepper helps to prevent the risk of various types of cancer including prostate, breast, and colorectal cancer.
One study found that piperine inhibited the growth and motility of breast cancer cells.
Another study discovered that piperine enhanced the therapeutic efficacy of docetaxel, a chemotherapy medication used in treating a number of cancer types including prostate cancer.
Separate research also found evidence that piperine may be used as a treatment for colon cancer. While these studies show black pepper’s potential in preventing and treating cancers, more studies are still needed to solidify such claims.
Black pepper aids in weight loss
Spices are known to provide assistance in weight loss efforts. The positive effects of black pepper in weight management are also attributed to its active ingredient, piperine.
According to studies, piperine also exhibits anti-obesity effects as it helps reduce fats, regulate metabolism, and prevent body weight gain.
These findings suggest that black pepper can be a great addition to a weight loss diet.
So, instead of using a calorie-loaded dressing in your salad, sprinkle a few pinches of black pepper and dash it with lemon juice for that flavor and nutritional boost sans the extra calories.
Black pepper boosts cognitive function
Another impressive health benefit of black pepper is its ability to enhance brain power. Piperine has also been linked to a reduced risk of cognitive malfunction and memory impairment.
The pepper’s active compound has been found to delay brain aging, preventing the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia, especially among the elderly.
Black pepper promotes oral health
Thanks to the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of piperine, black peppers also help promote oral health. Black pepper consumption may allow you to enjoy a lower risk of gum inflammation and dental issues.
To provide relief for your dental problems, simply create a mixture made of water and equal amounts of salt and pepper, then rub this mixture on your gums.
If you’re suffering from a toothache, mix black pepper and clove oil and apply this mixture directly to the affected area to ease the pain. The eugenol in clove oil is also found to be effective in fighting oral bacteria.
Black pepper improves bioavailability
Black pepper also aids in transporting the beneficial properties of other herbs throughout the body, allowing us to enjoy the maximum potential of the foods we eat.
Adding black pepper to our dishes will not only enhance its flavor value but will also help our system to absorb the nutrients they contain.
Black pepper prevents free radical damage
Black pepper also boasts impressive antioxidant effects that help fight free radical damage, which often leads to health problems.
These antioxidant properties contained in black pepper were found to combat oxidative stress and boost immunity, preventing the risk of serious ailments such as cancer.
Black pepper improves skin health
If you want to boost your skin health, you may want to consider adding black pepper to your skin care routine, too!
Researchers found that black pepper extract has exhibited potential in treating vitiligo, a skin condition that causes white patches on the skin. The potent antioxidant activities of black pepper were also linked to anti-aging benefits.
These antioxidant properties were also beneficial in fighting free radical damage that premature aging, fighting the signs of aging such as wrinkles, dark spots, and fine lines.
Black pepper can also help you achieve a smoother, more supple skin as it can also act as a skin exfoliant.
To exfoliate your skin and remove dead skin cells using pepper, simply mix ½ teaspoon of black pepper with 1 teaspoon of yogurt. Apply this mixture on your face and rinse after 20 minutes.
Black pepper solves hair issues
Not only can black pepper give you smoother skin but healthier hair, too! This spice is also known to be beneficial in treating dandruff.
Simply mix 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper with a bowl of curd, and apply the mixture to your scalp.
Leave it for about 30 minutes before rinsing with water. Avoid using shampoo, though, for best results. You can do this the following day instead.
How to Choose and Store Black Pepper?
Home-made ground pepper is still considered the better option than ready-made variants. If you’re buying whole peppercorns to be grounded, pick the ones that don’t have blemishes, and are heavy and small.
For storage, make sure that you keep your black pepper in an airtight jar and store it in a cool, dry place. Powdered peppers can keep its freshness for up to three months.
Whole peppercorns, on the other hand, can retain their freshness for an indefinite time.
What are the Potential Risks of Consuming Black Pepper?
Since peppers contain an irritant, it may cause sneezing. Also, if you have just undergone surgery, avoid consuming black pepper as it can cause an irritating effect on your intestines.
As in all things, moderation is key. Be careful not to overconsume black pepper as too much can lead to adverse effects. Also, if you notice an allergic consumption, immediately stop intake and see your doctor.
Black pepper can give a flavor boost to dishes, but apparently, they do more than just improve a dish’s yummy meter. Dashing a few pinches of black pepper to your dishes can offer numerous health perks, too.
And since they are available all throughout the year, there’s no excuse not to try them in your diet. Just make sure you are consuming them in the right amounts to savor its maximum potential to your health.