Are There Any Health Benefits of Black Pepper?

Whole Black Pepper

Along with salt, ground black pepper is a staple at most dinner tables. A slight sprinkle of pepper gives most savory dishes a distinct woody, slightly spicy flavor. This popular spice is used for seasoning in almost all international cuisines. After the peppercorn fruit is dried and then ground, it is ready to be used as an everyday seasoning.

History

Black pepper is one of the most common spices cultivated in India and other tropical regions. They are native to the Indian subcontinent and are added to almost every spicy cuisine in India. The word “pepper” owes its origins to the Sanskrit/Tamil name pippali. The spice was used since 2000 BCE in India and was used in cooking and as an important medicinal herb in the traditional Indian medical system Ayurveda. Peppercorns were also known as “black gold” and were used as an important form of commodity money in trade between various regions centuries ago.

Health Benefits

1. Black pepper is rich in minerals and dietary fiber. It is a good source of potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper and iron. It contains no sodium or cholesterol.

Ground Black Pepper Powder

2. Historically, black pepper has been known to aid digestion. Several studies point out that the spice can help us digest foods easily. It increases gastric acid secretion, which improves digestion. The digestive fluids help to digest proteins and other foods in the stomach. It is very important that gastric acid is secreted in the stomach, else the food may sit for a long time and this will lead to indigestion and heartburn.

Black peppercorns are carminativum, which avoids the formation of intestinal gas and promotes proper digestive functioning.

3. One of the key health benefits of black pepper revolves around the substance piperene found in the spice. It absorbs key nutrients such as Vitamin B, beta-carotene, and selenium. This important component also increases the production of serotonin and beta-endorphin in your brain.

Adverse Effects

Controlled studies have found traces of safrole in black pepper. This mild carcinogenic compound is found in various other spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Safrole was once added in root beer, but was banned by the FDA. The International Fragrance Association has also banned the use of this mild carcinogenic compound on perfumes and soaps. Although not proven, safrole is believed to be one of the factors responsible for cancer threats around the world.

Although there are several health benefits to black pepper, it is known for its strong flavor, which may cause irritation to the intestines. This is the reason why the spice is not sprinkled on diets of patients who have undergone an abdominal surgery. Patients suffering from stomach ulcers are advised to stay away from diets containing this spice.

Selection and Storage

  • Black pepper is available as a dried, ground spice or whole dried peppercorns. To keep the flavor and freshness intact, buy the dried peppercorns and grind them in a pepper grinder as needed.
  • Black pepper is widely available at supermarkets, local grocery stores or online. It is also available in organic varieties, which means they are grown organically and are not irradiated, thereby keeping all nutrients intact.
  • Store black pepper in a tightly sealed jar that is devoid of moisture. Keep the jar in a cool, dry place to keep the freshness and taste intact. The ground spice stays fresh for 90 days.

References

Origin of the Word “Pepper”: Online Etymology Dictionary https://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=pepper

Nutritional Information: https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/spices-and-herbs/200/2

Health Benefits: https://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=74

Black Pepper Info, benefits and side effects: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_pepper

Image Credits:

Ground pepper powder: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spilled_Pepper.jpg (Public Domain Image)

Black Pepper Whole: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Black_pepper_whole.JPG (Public Domain Image)