What Is Black Pepper Good For?

Black Pepper: "King of Spices"
Botanical name: Piper nigrum

black pepper nutrition facts

From the Piperaceae family, the black pepper plant is a trailing, woody vine that grows in tropical climates. After three to four years, it bears tiny white blossoms that become berries known as peppercorns. To make black peppercorns, the berries are picked before full maturity and turn dark when dried. Variations of green and white peppercorns are obtained by choosing different stages at which to pick the berries.1

This is the same spice that, in centuries past, spawned battles, launched voyages and became one of the signs by which men judged other men’s wealth. Today, we get to simply buy it at the supermarket, imported from Vietnam, India and Indonesia, the world’s largest peppercorn producers.2 Peppercorns are available crushed or powdered, but many households use a handheld mill for grinding whole peppercorns, which have a shelf life of about three to four years,3 to get the freshest product.

Ground pepper retains its optimum freshness and flavor after about four months,4 but be careful when purchasing, as it is sometimes “adulterated” with other powders like papaya seed or chili powder.5 Freshly ground pepper turns vinegar and oil dressing — or any dressing for that matter — into a work of culinary art. When cooking, use it at the last moment to retain the full flavor of its essential oils.

Health Benefits of Black Pepper

An ounce of this spice offers 79 percent of the daily recommended value for manganese, 57 percent for vitamin K, 45 percent for iron and 30 percent for fiber. While one would never have that much pepper in a day, this amount helps calculate the nutrients you’d get in a teaspoon — 6 percent of the manganese needed for an entire day, for instance.6

Black pepper helps shore up the system with other minerals like potassium, which may help control heart rate and blood pressure,7 and calcium to strengthen your bones and teeth.8 Zinc, according to studies, can help promote cell growth9 and is a stealth antioxidant, helping protect against free radical damage.10

Iron carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of our bodies and helps muscles with oxygen use and storage.11 As for magnesium, scientists say more than 300 enzymes use it as a cofactor.12 It helps keep blood vessels pliable, builds bones and is an anti-inflammatory.13 Because black pepper is a carminative, it discourages intestinal gas from forming, and as a bonus, the outer layer of the peppercorn aids in the breakdown of fat cells. It promotes sweating as well, which can help rid the body of toxins.14

Black pepper contains essential oils like piperine, a naturally occurring alkaloid, which is the source of its bold character and heat,15 as well as the monoterpenes sabinene, pinene, terpenene, limonene, and mercene, which give this spice its aromatic qualities.16 All combined, these oils, when used in aromatherapy, can help ease aching muscles, chilblains and arthritis, and have curative properties for constipation and sluggish digestion.17

A study funded by the McCormick Science Institute revealed black pepper’s potential to enhance digestive tract function. Piperine was shown to not only hold promise in treating the pigmentary skin disorder called vitiligo, but may also be toxic to the parasite that causes malaria.18 Piperine increases the body’s ability to absorb betacarotenes,19 selenium and B-vitamins (which in black pepper means pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin), as well as other nutrients from food.20

Another study also showed that growths of E.coli and S. aureus bacteria were inhibited when black pepper was introduced.21 The researchers concluded that black pepper may contain not only anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and fever-reducing actions, but immune system-enhancing properties as well. For more nutrition facts about black pepper, check out the table below.22

Black Pepper Nutrition Facts


Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 251  
Calories from Fat 27  
Total Fat 1 g  
Saturated Fat 1 g  
Trans Fat  
Cholesterol 0 mg  
Sodium 20 mg  
Total Carbohydrates 64 g  
Dietary Fiber 25 g  
Sugar 0.64 g  
Protein 10 g  
Vitamin A 547 IU Vitamin E 1 mg
Calcium 443 mg Iron 10 mg

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Studies Done on Black Pepper

Sensory cues associated with cigarette smoking can suppress smoking withdrawal symptoms, including the craving part, according to one study. A vapor of black pepper essential oil was one of three conditions given to 48 cigarette-smoking participants in a three-hour session, conducted after the subjects were deprived of cigarettes overnight. A second group inhaled from a mint/menthol cartridge device, and a third group from an empty cartridge.

Cigarette craving was significantly reduced in the pepper condition relative to the other two, as well as alleviated symptoms of anxiety. But the intensity of sensations in the chest was significantly higher for the pepper condition, supporting the view that respiratory tract sensations are important in alleviating smoking withdrawal symptoms. The conclusion: Black pepper constituents may be useful in developing smoking cessation treatments.23

Black pepper and its active principles exhibit antioxidant, anticancer and anti-inflammatory activities. In studies, human cancer cell proliferation was inhibited when black pepper was present and, overall, results indicated that black pepper and its constituents do exhibit anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer activities.24

Black Pepper Healthy Recipes:
Pepper Steak

Black Pepper Healthy Recipes

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons salt

1 pound grass-fed beef or buffalo/bison strip loin

1/4 cup peppercorns, crushed roughly

1/4 cup butter

1 teaspoon tamari sauce (wheat-free)

2 tablespoons beef stock

2 tablespoons lemon juice

 

Procedures:

  1. Place peppercorns on a plate and press steak into peppercorns to cover both sides thickly. Work peppercorns into the meat using your hands.
  2. Sprinkle a skillet with the salt and over medium heat, cook until salt begins to brown. Add steak to the pan and brown over high heat. Reduce to medium heat and cook until it reaches the desired degree of doneness, approximately three to four minutes per side for medium-rare. Discard drippings. Note: As much as possible, avoid charring the meat to prevent the formation of carcinogenic chemicals.
  3. In a separate saucepan, combine butter, tamari, beef stock and lemon juice.
  4. Serve the steak with the sauce on the side.

This recipe makes 3 to 4 servings.
(From Dr. Mercola’s No-Grain Diet)

Black Pepper Fun Facts

Sometimes referred to as "black gold" in Greece,25 black pepper has been used by more than one ancient civilization as a form of currency.26 Black peppercorns were also found in the mummy of Ramses II, who died in 1213 B.C.27

Summary

One reason new lands around the world were discovered was in pursuit of certain spices, and black pepper was one of the most desired and revered of all. It’s been known for millennia that a tiny bit is all it takes to lend a spicy warmth to foods, along with just a touch of lively flavor.

But as tasty as it may be in many recipes, black pepper has important nutritional aspects, too. Its unique combination of vitamins, minerals and oils may provide benefits such as increased nutrient absorption, improved heart rate and blood pressure, healthy cell growth and digestion, and anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, fever-reducing and immune system-enhancing properties.

References: