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Hot is healthy – especially when we talk about black pepper. This one Indian spice can fix your multiple health issues on regular usage. No, I am not making it up. Being a native of southeast Asia, black pepper (Piper nigrum) has been a part of Indian cooking since 2000 BCE. Apart from seasoning, it has always been a part of traditional medicine too. Black pepper used to referred to as “black gold” and considered extremely expensive probably because of it’s unusual pungent flavor and limited supply. It’s pricey indeed. You will realize the value once you check the amazing health benefits of black pepper with scientific evidence.

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The special compound behind maximum health benefits of black pepper –

You must be thinking about why black pepper. Actually, all the goodness of black pepper hide in its phytochemicals. Piperine is one of the most powerful phytochemical presents in black pepper. Piperine act as an antioxidant and anti-cancer agent. It has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, analgesic (pain killer) properties. Therefore it’s piperine which gives most of the health benefits.
Note that the spicy heat of black pepper also mostly comes from piperine. So, piperine is important.

Health benefits of black pepper –

Benefits of black pepper 1. Weight loss

Weight loss – one of the most desired thing in this decade for many of us. Yes, black pepper can help to fix this. Piperine inhibits the formation of fat cells at various biological level. Sounds amazing right? Start looking for black pepper now. Or wait, check the other benefits.

Benefits of black pepper 2: Improve digestion

If you suffer from chronic indigestion, flatulence or acidity, Black pepper can save you. Black pepper helps to stimulate the digestive enzymes especially the pancreatic and intestinal enzymes and promote better digestion of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Black pepper also has carminative properties. Confused? Actually, it helps to prevent gas formation in the intestinal tract and /or facilitate expulsion of gas.

Benefits of black pepper 3: Prevent diarrhea

Black pepper can prevent diarrhea by reducing muscle spasm in the gastrointestinal tract. In fact, animal study suggests that in higher dosage (10mg per kg) black pepper can act as good as any common antidiarrhoeal medicine.

Benefits of black pepper 4: helps to cure and prevent type 2 diabetes

Yes, you read it right. Black pepper helps in treatment as well as in preventing diabetes. A study has proved that black pepper oil can inhibit two enzymes which help to break starch into glucose and helps to keep lower the blood sugar level. Piperine along with diabetic medicine actually helps to lower the dosage of medicine.

Benefits of black pepper 4: Lower blood pressure

Animal studies have proved that piperine present in black pepper helps to lower the blood pressure level. Thus black pepper may be effective for patients suffering from hypertension.

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Benefits of black pepper 5: Beneficial for brain health

Black pepper can be used for treating diseases like depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer.

Depression causes multiple imbalances in the brain and body. Having a lower serotonin level- the neurotransmitter gives the calming effect (the happy hormone)- is one of the crucial factors among many. Beside this, depression patients often suffer from insomnia. It’s piperine which inhibits the enzyme that breakdown serotonin and melatonin- the hormone which controls sleep/wake cycle. Therefore black pepper can be beneficial for those who are struggling with depression.
Patients, suffering from Parkinson’s have generally found to have low dopamine level – the feel-good hormone. Piperine helps to inhibit the enzyme which disrupts the production of dopamine.

Black pepper also helps in delaying the brain aging process. It helps to keep the nerves active and found to be beneficial for Alzheimer’s patient.

Benefits of black pepper 6: Treat cough and cold

Black is pepper has been used in traditional medicine for treating common cough and cold for centuries. It helps to stimulate circulation and clear mucous in the respiratory tract. It also gives a soothing effect in the throat during cough and cold.

Benefits of black pepper 7: Fight infection

Piperine has antibacterial properties. It can help to fight against E coli bacteria and can prevent infection and spreading diseases.

Benefits of black pepper 8: Boost nutrition absorption

Black pepper enhances the absorption and utilization of curcumin. Curcumin is the active ingredient found in turmeric. One study shows 20 mg of piperine with 2 gm of curcumin improve the curcumin absorption up to 2000% in the human body. So to get the benefits of turmeric, you have to add black pepper too.

Beta carotene, a compound mostly found in orange and green vegetables, gets converted into vitamin A after intake in our body. A study suggests that the absorption of beta carotene also improves in the presence of black pepper.

Besides these, piperine also enhances the absorption of selenium and vitamin B complex in our intestine.

Benefits of black pepper 9: Act as antioxidant

Poor diet (with all processed and packaged junk foods), pollution, etc. generate free radicals in our body. These free radicals once released in the bloodstream starts poking cell wall and create cellular damage and finally various diseases. Antioxidants are required to fight against such free radicals.
Black pepper act as a powerful antioxidant. It has many anti-inflammatory compounds along with piperine and also helps to boost immunity. The study shows that black pepper extract helps to control free radical damage to a larger extent.

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Benefits of black pepper 10: Prevent cancer

Studies show that piperine is a potential component to prevent colon cancer. It improves the absorption of selenium, beta carotene- which has a big role to control the oxidative stress. It helps to absorb vitamin B in the intestine and ensure better gut health. It’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties boost immunity and help in preventing cancer through various biochemical mechanisms.

Benefits of black pepper 11: Improve oral health

Anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of black pepper make it beneficial for maintaining oral health. In folk medicine, black pepper has been used to cure gum inflammation or any bacterial infestation in the mouth.

Benefits of black pepper 12: Helps quitting smoking

A study showed that smelling black pepper oil for 2 minutes helped to reduce nicotine craving among smokers. So if you are struggling to quit smoking. Try this out.

Why pepper comes in different colors – black/white/green/red?

Black pepper is actually the fruit which looks like berries known as a peppercorn. Peppercorn is generally dried and used as a spice. It’s Kerala, in India where black pepper is cultivated extensively along with other places mainly in the western ghat region.

Black/white/red or green all peppercorns come from the same plant. It is just the plucking time and posts plucking treatment which make all the difference in color.

Black pepper

• Plucked when pepper berries are unripe- still green in color.
• Then cooked in boiled water and dried.
• During drying the skin around seed get a shrink to become dark in color
• Once dried up, the spice called black peppercorn.

White pepper

• Plucked when pepper berries are fully ripe -red in color
• Then soaked in water for a week.
• The flesh of the peppercorn get softer and then rubbing remove the thin dark skin.
• So white pepper is only the seed without the thin dark outer skin.

Green pepper

• Plucked early when still green in color
• Dried and treated specially to retain the green color using brine/ vinegar or other chemicals

Red pepper

• Plucked when ripe -red in color
• Dried and treated specially to retain the red color using brine/ vinegar or other chemicals

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What about the nutrition of black pepper?

Black pepper functions best when taken with some other spices -turmeric, cinnamon, cumin or fenugreek. One spoon of black pepper provides a considerable amount of vitamin K, iron, manganese, and other nutrients.

Nutrients Value (per 100 g of edible portion)
Energy 304 kcal
Carbohydrate 49.2 g
Protein 11.5 g
Fat 6.8 g
Crude fiber 14.9 g
Calcium 460 mg
Phosphorus 198 mg
Iron 12.4 mg
Carotene 1080 mg
Magnesium 171 mg
Manganese 4.14 mg
Copper 1.42 mg
Zinc 1.31 mg

Take pure black pepper – avoid adulteration

Quality matters. Black pepper is great for all it’s health benefits if the quality is good. Try to buy black peppercorn and grind at home to get the powder. Buying powder may not be a good idea as there is a considerable chance of getting an adulterated product. Unfortunately, black pepper powder often mixed with papaya seed powder to enhance the profit margin.

Black pepper and turmeric – best friends

Black pepper and turmeric, both are super spices – promote numerous health benefits. Black pepper contains piperine and turmeric contain curcumin. Both this phytochemicals act wonder when consumed together. Remember, it’s 20 mg of piperine with 2 gm of curcumin improve the curcumin absorption up to 2000% in the human body.

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How to use black pepper for availing the health benefits?

In Ayurveda, black pepper is used as a part of “Trikatu”. It is the combination of an equal portion of ginger, black pepper, and long pepper. Trikatu is used to support normal gastric function, better circulation, detoxification, boosting metabolism, clear excess mucous, etc.

Start using black pepper generously in cooking. Taking spice tea , spice milk once or at least 3-4 times a week is a great way to incorporate all it’s health benefits. You can even try to have Indian masala chai.

Also read – 

9 health benefits of cardamom – The queen spice

Cinnamon: the super spice in your kitchen

Time to take turmeric benefits seriously 

How much of black pepper is extra?

Generally, black pepper is safe to use on a daily basis. One tablespoon of black pepper powder is good to add while cooking. As I always mention, everything is good when taken in moderation. You must not kill the goodness by over consuming it. Thus the word “balance” is so much important in the daily diet.

Bottom Line

Hot is healthy. Black pepper is the super spice with numerous health benefits. Add this to your daily diet in moderation. Be careful about the quality. Remember it’s best to grind it on your own to ensure all the health benefits of black pepper. Please note, a spoon full of black pepper cannot save if you regularly eat a poor diet loaded with processed and junk food. So eat clean, eat natural and allow to get the benefits of this spice. Don’t wait. Start making your spice tea.

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Dr. Soma Chakrabarty is based in Hyderabad. She has 15 yrs of working experience in nutrition. She guides people to modify eating behavior and achieve goals for wellness. She believes in a practical diet that helps people to live rather than survive.

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