Black pepper is more than just a kitchen staple. It has been deemed the “king of spices” and used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years due to its high concentration of potent, beneficial plant compounds.
Black pepper, and its alkaloid component piperine, have associations with many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory effects and potential cancer-fighting properties.
Adding hot peppers, hot sauces and hot powders to food continues to protect us from food poisoning even though we now refrigerate food. To maximise these health benefits, eating the hottest pepper would magnify these effects.
High in antioxidants
Piperine, the plant compound in black pepper, has strong antioxidant properties.
The body creates free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cells, both naturally and in response to environmental stresses. Excess free radical damage can lead to serious health problems, including inflammatory diseases, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Research has shown that diets high in antioxidants could lessen free radical damage.
Has anti-inflammatory properties
Chronic inflammation may be an underlying factor in many conditions, such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Many laboratory studies suggest that piperine — the main active compound in black pepper — may effectively fight inflammation.For example, in studies in rats with arthritis, treatment with piperine resulted in less joint swelling and fewer blood markers of inflammation. In mouse studies, piperine suppressed inflammation in the airways caused by asthma and seasonal allergies.
However, the anti-inflammatory effects of black pepper and piperine have not yet been studied extensively in people.
We know that the piperine compound also helps with absorbing nutrients like iron and beta-carotene. It’s especially powerful when combined with turmeric because it helps your body absorb that spice’s curcumin compound which also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
A salt substitute
One of the biggest benefits of black pepper, though, is what it keeps you from eating. It’s a great salt substitute when you’re looking for something to spice up your meal.Too much salt in your diet can be bad for your heart, raising your blood pressure which increases your risk for heart disease, stroke and heart failure. You’re getting a great flavour for your foods while making it healthier by cutting out salt.
May benefit your brain
Piperine has been shown to improve brain function in animal studies.
In particular, it has demonstrated potential benefits for symptoms related to degenerative brain conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
For example, a study in rats with Alzheimer’s disease found that piperine improved memory, as the distribution of piperine enabled the rats to repeatedly run a maze more efficiently than rats not given the compound.In another rodent study, piperine extract seemed to decrease the formation of amyloid plaques, which are dense clumps of damaging protein fragments in the brain that have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.Yet, studies in humans are needed to confirm whether these effects are also seen outside animal studies.
Helping blood sugar control
A small 2013 study on humans on the effects of a supplement containing several bioactive food ingredients — including piperine — on insulin resistance found an improvement in insulin sensitivity. This means the hormone insulin was better able to regulate the uptake of glucose.
However, because the supplement contained multiple food ingredients, it is not clear if piperine alone would have produced the same results.
Increasing “good cholesterol”
Researchers conducted a study of piglets randomly assigned a diet supplemented with or without black pepper and noted changes during their growing and fattening periods.
They found the piglets that consumed a diet supplemented with black pepper experienced a significant increase in high-density lipoprotein — which people call the “good cholesterol” — compared to other piglets.
The researchers believe these results might warrant further studies to explore the potential beneficial effects on lipid metabolism in humans.
Improves Metabolism / Promotes Weight Loss
Spicy peppers rev up the metabolic rate by generating the thermogenic processes in our body that generate heat.
That process utilises energy, and thereby, burns additional calories. In addition, if hot peppers are consumed at breakfast, the appetite is suppressed the rest of the day which ultimately helps in weight loss.
It may even alter proteins in your body to combat fat accumulation.
Capsaicin also has been studied as a holistic method for weight loss. It will selectively destroy nerve fibres that send messages from the stomach to the brain.
However, consuming too much black pepper can lead to gastrointestinal side effects, so people need to be careful not to use too much.
How much black pepper you eat is, ultimately, up to you.
When using it as an additive to food, especially as a replacement for salt, you want it to meet your tastes. You just don’t want to overdo it. Besides the potential to upset your stomach, too much black pepper will also drastically affect the taste of what you’re eating.
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