Pepper is a whole lot more than salt's oft-neglected table companion, and we bet there's a whole lot you don't know about it. For one thing, pepper is the ground form of something called a peppercorn, which is the dried unripe fruit of the Piper nigrum plant.

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For another, it's the most widely used spice in the world! In fact, it got nicknamed the "king of spices" or "master spice" because of its dominant place in the world spice trade.

Pepper has been used in ancient traditions like Ayurvedic medicine to treat everything from toothaches to vision problems, and was once so sought after that people would use peppercorns as currency.

Nowadays, we know that many of pepper's health benefits come from an super-powerful antioxidant called piperine, which has actually been found to prevent a full 93 percent of free radical damage! Piperine is also the compound that gives pepper its unique spicy flavor, and the one that might cause you to sneeze if you happen to inhale any!

sneeze

Piperine also shows potent anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that piperine consumption was associated with reduced airway inflammation in asthmatic mice and reduced swelling and inflammatory markers in arthritic rats. Other evidence suggests that piperine may help relieve the pain caused by such conditions as well.

Piperine may also help protect us from Parkinson's diseaseand other devastating neurological conditions, including Alzheimer's disease. Rats who had Alzheimer's-like symptoms performed better on a maze test and developed fewer damaging amyloid plaques after taking piperine. Piperine's anticonvulsant effects means it also shows potential as an epilepsy treatment!

On the metabolic front, rats who consumed piperine were then seen to experience a less severe blood sugar spike after consuming glucose, and other research suggests that piperine may enhance insulin sensitivity in humans as well. Scientists believe that piperine achieves this effect by inhibiting two of the enzymes that we usually use to break down starch.

Piperine can also reduce bad cholesterol levels and may increase absorption of compounds, like curcumin and resveratol, that can have similar effects. This increased absorption also goes for vitamins and minerals, and pepper contains quite a few vitamins and minerals itself!

pepper

Black pepper has even been associated with reduced appetite and reduced nicotine cravings. Plus, though pepper is certainly not a nutritional get out of jail free card, it may help protect from the effects of a less-than-ideal diet. Research has found that rats experienced less free radical damage and gained less weight on a high fat diet when they were also consuming piperine!

Additionally, test tube studies done on prostrate, breast, and colon cancer cells have shown that piperine and similar chemicals may serve to combat cancer cells and to help reduce drug resistance in those cells. Another study that examined multiple spice extracts found that naringenin chalcone, another compound contained in black pepper, was the most effective at destroying cancer cells.

Adding pepper to food during cooking may also help present the formation of cancer-causing compounds in the first place, and pepper may be effective when used as a food preservative. It has also shown anti-bacterial effects when used against the bacteria that usually cause staph infections and E. coli.Pepper may also improve gut health by fostering the of growth of good bacteria and improve digestion by stimulating the release of pancreatic and intestinal enzymes. Interestingly, studies suggest that pepper may have a laxative effect at small doses and an anti-diarrheal effect at large ones.

Finally, topical piperine even shown potential as a vitiligo treatment and pepper plants may also act as safe home and garden insecticides.

pepper

On the downside, eating too much pepper can cause unpleasant burning sensations or could cause eaters to absorb too much of certain medications. Pepper may also increase our absorption of undesirable toxins as well as desirable nutrients, so be careful what you eat it with!

Though there's nothing wrong with store-bought pepper, you'll get the freshest and most nutritious pepper possible and have a lot more fun if you buy whole peppercorns and grind them up yourself!

You can use your pepper to spice up nearly any savory dish, or, if you're feeling more creative, you can add a pinch of it to your tea. The best place to start may be with one of the following three recipes, all of which feature pepper as a major player!

Pepper Crusted Steak

pepper crusted steak

Enjoy the benefits of black pepper and lean beef in this tasty meal! Estimated nutritional value of 157 calories, 6.2g fat, 89 mg cholesterol, .2g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 30.4g protein, and .1g sugar.

Prep Time
10 minutes
Cook time
5 minutes
Yield
Makes 1 serving (1 protein)

Ingredients

  • 100 grams lean beef
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt to taste

Directions
Manually tenderize the meat until flat. Rub meat with salt and coat liberally with black pepper. Cook on high heat for about 3-5 minutes or throw on the barbeque. Top with Worcestershire sauce if desired, and caramelized onion garnish. You can also cut the steak into strips and serve over a mixed green or arugula salad.

Phase 3 Modifications
Top with blue cheese, onions, or sautéed mushrooms in butter. Or, cut into thin strips and top with onions and provolone, and make a cheese steak salad.

Recipe provided by


Black Pepper Sautéed Shrimp

black pepper Sautéed shrimp

Have your seafood the peppery way for an extra health kick! Estimated nutritional value (with crumbs) of 226 calories, 2.8g fat, 211 mg cholesterol, 21.7g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 26.3g protein, and 0.9g sugar.

Prep Time
10 minutes
Cook time
10 minutes
Yield
Makes 1 serving (1 protein, 1 Melba toast)

Ingredients

  • 100 grams shrimp
  • 1 serving Melba toast crumbs (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon caper juice
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions
Mix Melba toast crumbs with salt and generous amount of black pepper. Coat shrimp with Melba toast pepper mixture and fry on high heat in a skillet in a little lemon juice until cooked well. Serve hot and garnish with lemon and additional freshly ground black pepper.

Recipe provided by

Sweet Orange Pepper Shrimp

sweet orange pepper shrimp

Enjoy your pepper the sweet way with this amazing recipe! Estimated nutritional value of 147 calories and 2.1g fat.

Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook time
10 minutes
Yield
Makes 1 serving (1 protein, 1 fruit)

Ingredients

  • 100 grams shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 serving of sweet orange marinade
  • Stevia to taste
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions
Marinate shrimp for 30 minutes in marinade. In small frying pan, add shrimp and rest of marinade along with a few chopped slices of orange. Add black pepper to taste. Deglaze the pan periodically with water, then sauté until shrimp are cooked and tender and the sauce is the right consistency.

Recipe provided by

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