Black pepper comes from ground peppercorns, which are dried berries from the vine Piper nigrum. The spice has a sharp and mildly spicy flavor that complements various dishes. Black pepper is known as the "king of spices." It is used in Ayurvedic medicine and contains powerful and beneficial plant compounds.
Since black pepper has a subtle heat and bold flavor, it is often used to enhance the flavor of many dishes, such as:
The spice also complements other healthy seasonings like cardamom, cumin, garlic, lemon zest, and turmeric.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause cell damage. Your body naturally produces some free radicals when you digest food or work out.
But excessive free radicals can also form when you're exposed to cigarette smoke or pollution. Free radical damage can cause major health problems, such as some types of cancer, heart disease, inflammation, and premature aging.
Piperine is the main active compound present in black pepper. Test-tube studies reveal that piperine has powerful antioxidant properties. Following a balanced diet full of antioxidant-rich foods can help prevent free radical damage.
Chronic inflammation is an underlying factor for several conditions, like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Fortunately, several animal studies confirm that piperine can help fight inflammation.
Scientists believe that piperine may possess anti-cancer properties. In fact, test-tube studies suggest that piperine can slow the proliferation of breast, colon, and prostate cancer cells.
The plant compound also showed promising effects in laboratory studies, reversing multidrug resistance in cancer cells which often interferes with the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment.
Research shows that piperine can boost blood sugar metabolism.
In a study published in the journal Endocrine, 86 overweight participants who were given a supplement with piperine and other compounds for eight weeks experienced significant improvements in insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity is a measure of how well the hormone removes glucose from your bloodstream. (Related: Black pepper could help fight obesity: Research shows it lowers body fat and blood sugar.)
In a small study, researchers found that consumption of a black-pepper-based beverage reduced the appetite of 16 adult participants. Consumption of flavored water did not produce the same result.
High blood cholesterol is linked to a greater risk of developing heart disease, the leading cause of death around the globe.
Researchers found that black pepper can lower cholesterol levels in animal subjects. The spice can also help improve the absorption of potential cholesterol-lowering supplements.
Animal studies show that piperine can help boost brain function.
In one study, scientists noted that piperine benefited individuals with symptoms linked to degenerative brain conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
In a separate study, researchers observed that piperine extract helped minimize the formation of amyloid plaques in rat models.
Amyloid plaques are dense clumps of harmful protein fragments associated with Alzheimer's disease.
An imbalance in the composition of good and bad gut bacteria is associated with chronic diseases, impaired immune function, and more. Preliminary research has found that black pepper can help increase the good bacteria in your gut.
Black pepper can increase the absorption of essential nutrients (e.g., calcium and selenium) and beneficial plant compounds like those found in green tea and turmeric.
Animal studies have shown that piperine can function as a natural pain reliever.
To enjoy these scientifically-proven health benefits, cook with black pepper and boost your gut health.