Everyone knows that incorporating spices into your diet can expand your palate and make your food delicious. But what most people don’t know is how potentially beneficial seasonings can be for your overall health. Black pepper is an excellent example of a spice that tastes great on your food and can be helpful for your body.
We’ll go over the benefits of black pepper and suggest ways to use it to reach your optimal wellness level.
What Is Black Pepper?
Worldwide, black peppercorns are one of the most frequently used spices. Although it can be found worldwide, it (like turmeric) is native to India and has a rich, complex history.
What may surprise you is that black pepper’s raw form, the peppercorn, is considered the fruit of a flowering vine (Piper nigrum). There are also other colors of peppercorn, like white, red, and green, that have their own distinct flavor profile.
Once the peppercorns have been harvested, they are dried and sold either as-is or ground into the black pepper regularly found in many kitchen cabinets. Adding it to any homemade dishes lends a sharp, earthy, slightly spicy flavor. You can even substitute black pepper for salt in some dishes, giving them flavor without increasing sodium.
But the benefits of black pepper don’t stop there. Labeled the “king of spices,” black pepper has also been an essential part of ancient Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. The spice’s medicinal potential can be directly traced to its high concentration of beneficial plant compounds, specifically a compound known as piperine.
What Are the Benefits of Black Pepper?
The benefits that you can receive from black pepper are incredibly diverse, and many of them have been backed by scientific research. However, the vast of these studies have been performed on animal subjects and have only minimally extended into human-based trials. The potential shown is intriguing, though; we very much look forward to seeing how those results can translate into proven benefits.
The health benefits of black pepper mostly all stem from how incredibly antioxidant-rich the spice is. Antioxidants are highly sought for their ability to counteract much of the damage from free radicals. This unstable molecule can wreak havoc in the body, stealing electrons from other cells to replace the one it is missing.
Unfortunately, this leaves the cells it comes into contact with missing their own electron, making them unstable and potentially hazardous to the rest of the body. This unstable molecule can wreak havoc in the body, stealing electrons from other cells to replace the one it is missing.
The potential for free radicals in the body is constant, as they can be created naturally or happen due to environmental exposure to excessive ultraviolet radiation, pollution, and tobacco or cigarette smoke.
Antioxidants like piperine work to help either prevent or delay the potential damage free radicals can do. They can do this by offering one of their electrons to the free radical, balancing it out without causing damage to the body.
May Help Support Brain Function
Although the studies have been limited to animal subjects, the piperine found in ground black pepper has shown potential in helping support healthy brain function. Specifically, research is beginning to reveal the potential benefits of using piperine to help improve the symptoms associated with degenerative brain conditions.
Multiple rat studies have shown that piperine can potentially help improve memory impairment and decrease amyloid plaque formation (clumps of protein fragments frequently seen in Alzheimer’s patients). If human trials can substantiate these claims, the potential would be life-changing.
Can Potentially Help With Blood Sugar Control
In animal studies, piperine showed potential in helping to improve the metabolism of blood glucose. Increased metabolism also comes with greater blood sugar control, as the spikes caused by sugar consumption are smaller when using piperine.
Although the studies did involve other active plant compounds and piperine, the boost to insulin sensitivity and resulting control over blood sugar levels warrants more direct research and human-based research.
May Help With Digestive Issues
Although “spicy” foods are not often thought of as helpful for digestive issues, some early research has shown the potential for black pepper to help influence the delicate microbiome present in the gut. The natural flora present in the stomach and intestines is essential to how well the gut can function.
When the balance is off, you can experience a wide variety of different health issues. Also, because the whole body is connected, those issues can extend to other parts of the body and even your mental and emotional health and wellness.
Black pepper may help increase the number of good bacteria present in your gut, helping to create a better sense of balance and improve your overall state of health. This action method can also help improve the actual digestion process and may aid in weight loss, as well.
Works Well With Other Nutrients and Compounds
Although the benefits of black pepper can be excellent on their own, it is also a great compliment to other vitamins, minerals, and compounds.
For instance, when used with turmeric, piperine can significantly boost the absorption of its active component, curcumin. This power duo may be able to help manage cholesterol levels in the body. Piperine can also provide similar benefits for the absorption of calcium, a crucial nutrient for bone health.
Black pepper is also a fantastic source of phytonutrients on its own, as it has at least small amounts of vitamin A, Vitamin B1 (thiamine), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin E, vitamin K, potassium, manganese, and zinc (among others).
Adding a pinch of pepper to things like soups or stews can help supplement the rest of your healthy diet and give your body what it needs to thrive at an optimal level.
The benefits of black pepper are numerous, although we are excitedly awaiting human-based studies. The spice is more than just an exciting flavor to add to sauces or salads; it may also help with people’s most common health challenges.
Research done on animals also shows great potential for helping to fend off free radical damage, control blood sugar and cravings, improve brain function, and much more.
For more easy ways to incorporate healthy lifestyle tips, Healthy Directions is here to help! Our health experts use science-backed research to bring you only information you can rely on.
We’re here for you, no matter what your unique path toward wellness may be.
Black pepper and health claims: a comprehensive treatise | PubMed (nih.gov)
Methanolic extract of Piper nigrum fruits improves memory impairment by decreasing brain oxidative stress in amyloid-beta(1-42) rat model of Alzheimer's disease | PubMed (nih.gov)
Piperine lowers the serum concentrations of thyroid hormones, glucose and hepatic 5'D activity in adult male mice | PubMed (nih.gov)
Prebiotic Potential and Chemical Composition of Seven Culinary Spice Extracts | PubMed (nih.gov)