In the world of spices, black pepper is considered royalty. Often referred to as the “King of Spices” a pinch of black pepper is added to just about every savory dish. Like salt, black pepper is a flavor enhancer, adding a depth of flavor and providing a multitude of health benefits.
Black pepper is the fruit of the black pepper plant from the Piperaceae family and is used as a spice and medicine. The chemical piperine, present in black pepper, causes the spiciness. It is native to India. Since ancient times, black pepper is one of the most widely-traded spices in the world. It is not a seasonal plant and is, therefore, available throughout the year. When dried, this plant-derived spice is referred to as a peppercorn. Because of its antibacterial properties, pepper is used to preserve food. Black pepper is also a very good anti-inflammatory agent.
Black pepper is a rich source of minerals like manganese, copper, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, and vitamins like riboflavin, vitamin C, K, and B6. Black pepper has a high content of dietary fiber and has a moderate amount of protein and carbohydrates.
Black Pepper is a Healthy Ingredient
Black pepper stimulates the taste buds and stimulates the stomach to increase hydrochloric acid secretion. Hydrochloric acid is necessary for the digestion of proteins and other food components in the stomach. When the body’s production of hydrochloric acid is insufficient, food may sit in the stomach for an extended period of time, leading to heartburn or indigestion, or it may pass into the intestines, where it can be used as a food source for unfriendly gut bacteria, whose activities produce gas, irritation, and/or diarrhea or constipation. Pepper also helps prevent the formation of intestinal gas.
Black pepper improves weight loss by assisting with the breakdown of fat cells.
Black pepper provides relief from sinusitis and nasal congestion. It has an expectorant property that helps break up mucus and phlegm in the respiratory tract.
Because it is antibacterial, black pepper helps fight against infections and insect bites.
Black pepper helps keep your arteries clean by acting in a similar way to fiber and scraping excess cholesterol from the walls, helping reduce atherosclerosis, the condition highly responsible for heart attack and stroke.
Antioxidants in black pepper can prevent or repair the damage caused by free radicals and thus help prevent cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and liver problems. Free radicals are by-products of cellular metabolism that attack healthy cells and cause their DNA to mutate into cancerous cells. Antioxidants neutralize these harmful compounds and protect your system from many conditions and even symptoms of premature aging like wrinkles, age spots, macular degeneration, and memory loss.
Using Black Pepper
For cooking and for adding at the table, it’s better to buy whole peppercorns, not the powdered black pepper. Look for peppercorns that are compact, round, heavy, and wholesome. Peppercorns can be stored for months in a dry air-tight container at room temperature, in a dry and dark place. And you can keep the ground black pepper in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.
For the best flavor, add pepper that you have freshly ground in a mill at the end of the cooking process. Since it loses its flavor and aroma if cooked for too long, adding it near the end will help to preserve its flavor. Here are a few more ideas:
- Coat beef and pork with crushed peppercorns before cooking. For two of our favorite peppercorn recipes (and they actually go together), please read my blog posts: “Peppercorn Crusted Pork Loin Roast” and “Zesty Peppery Parmesan Aioli.”
- As the pungent taste of black pepper is a natural complement to the deep, berry-like flavor of venison, use it to flavor this meat when preparing venison steaks or venison stews.
- Keep a pepper mill on your dining table so that you can add its intense spark to all the food on your plate.
- Olive oil, lemon juice, salt and cracked pepper make a simple, quick and delicious salad dressing.
Adding a pinch of black pepper to every meal helps to improve both taste and digestion. It also improves your overall health and well-being. So, use more black pepper in your cooking and at the picnic table!
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