The benefits of black pepper

The benefits of black pepper

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For a long time, black pepper has been the main ingredient in food worldwide.

Often referred to as the “king of spices”, it is the dried, immature fruit of the Piper nigrum Native American plant  . Both black peppercorns and ground black peppers are often used in cooking.

In addition to adding flavor to foods, black pepper can act as an antioxidant and offer various health benefits.

This article discusses black pepper, including its beneficial properties, side effects, contraindications, and culinary uses.

Health Benefits of Black Pepper

Compounds of black pepper, especially its active ingredient piperine, can protect cells from damage, improve the absorption of nutrients and promote digestion ( 2 ,  3 ).

Powerful antioxidant

Several studies show that black pepper acts as an antioxidant in your body ( 4 ).

Antioxidants are compounds that fight cell damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. These molecules are formed as a result of malnutrition, exposure to the sun, smoking, pollutants, etc.

One in vitro study showed that black pepper extracts are able to withstand more than 93% free radical damage ( 6 ).

Another study in rats that ate high-fat foods showed that black pepper and piperine treatment reduced free radical levels to levels similar to those found in rats fed a normal diet ( 7 ).

Finally, in vitro studies on human cancer cells have shown that black pepper extracts can stop up to 85% of cell damage associated with the development of cancer ( 8 ).

Along with piperine, black pepper contains other anti-inflammatory compounds, including essential oils limonene and beta-karyofillen, which can protect against inflammation, cell damage and disease ( 9 ,  10 ).

Although the antioxidant effect of black pepper is promising, research is currently limited to in vitro and animal experiments.

Increases nutrient absorption

Black pepper can improve the absorption and function of certain nutrients and beneficial compounds.

In particular, it can improve the absorption of curcumin, the active ingredient in the popular anti-inflammatory turmeric spice ( 11 ,  12 ).

One study showed that taking 20 mg of piperine with 2 grams of curcumin improved the availability of curcumin in human blood by 2000% ( 13 ).

Studies also show that black pepper can improve the absorption of beta-carotene, a compound found in vegetables and fruits that is converted by the body into vitamin A ( 14 ,  15 ).

Beta-carotene acts as a powerful antioxidant that can fight cell damage by preventing diseases such as heart disease ( 16 ,  17 ).

A 14-day study in healthy adults showed that taking 15 mg of beta-carotene with 5 mg of piperine significantly increased the level of beta-carotene in the blood compared to taking only beta-carotene ( 15 ).

 

Varieties of pepper (black, white, red)

 

May promote digestion and prevent diarrhea

Black pepper may contribute to normal stomach function.

In particular, the use of ground black pepper can stimulate the release of enzymes in the pancreas and intestines, which help digest fat and carbohydrates ( 18 ,  19 ).

Animal studies show that black peppercorns can also prevent diarrhea by suppressing muscle cramps in the digestive tract and slowing the absorption of food ( 20 ,  21 ).

Experiments on animal intestinal cells showed that piperine at doses of 10 mg per kg of body weight was comparable to the usual antidiarrheal drug loperamide in preventing spontaneous intestinal contractions ( 20 ,  22 ).

Due to its positive effect on gastric function, black pepper may be beneficial for people with poor digestion and diarrhea. However, additional human studies are needed.

Black pepper and its active compound piperine can have powerful antioxidant activity, improve the absorption of certain nutrients and beneficial compounds, and improve digestion. However, more research is needed.

Possible harm, contraindications and side effects

Black pepper is considered safe for human consumption in small quantities used in food and cooking.

Supplements containing 5–20 mg piperine per dose are also safe, but research in this area is limited ( 13 ,  15 ).

However, eating large amounts of black pepper or taking high-dose supplements can lead to adverse side effects, such as a burning sensation in the throat or stomach ( 23 ).

Moreover, black pepper may help the absorption and accessibility of certain medications, including antihistamines, used to relieve allergy symptoms ( 24 ,  25 ,  26 ).

Although it may be useful for drugs that are poorly absorbed, it can also lead to dangerously high absorption of others.

If you are interested in increasing black pepper intake or taking piperine supplements, be sure to consult your healthcare provider about possible drug interactions.

A small amount of black pepper used in cooking and supplements containing up to 20 mg of piperine are safe. However, black pepper may improve drug absorption and should be used with caution in combination with certain medicines.

Culinary use

You can add black pepper to your diet in several ways.

Use black peppercorns or ground black pepper depending on the dish.

Use black pepper as an ingredient in recipes to add flavor and spice to meat, fish, vegetables, salad dressings, soups, french fries, pasta and more.

You can also add some black pepper to your scrambled eggs, toast with avocado, fruits and sauces for a savory flavor.

To make marinade using spices, mix 1/4 cup (60 ml) of olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few other your favorite seasonings. Use this marinade for fish, meat or vegetables before preparing a fragrant dish.

When stored in a cool, dry place, the shelf life of black pepper is 2-3 years.

Black pepper is a versatile ingredient that can be added to various recipes, including meat, fish, eggs, salads and soups. It is available at most grocery stores.

Final thoughts

Black pepper is one of the most popular spices in the world and can bring impressive health benefits.

Piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper, can fight free radicals and improve digestion and absorption of beneficial compounds.

Black pepper is generally considered safe in cooking and as an additive. But it can significantly increase the absorption of certain drugs and should be used with caution in these cases.

However, for most people, seasoning their diet with black pepper is an easy way to add flavor to food and benefit from their health.

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