The many benefits of black pepper
Many people are unaware of the many healthful benefits of black pepper. Unlike salt, which can be harmful when added to food, black pepper actually seems to impart healthful benefits on those who use it in recipes and at the table.
Black pepper through the ages
In ancient times, black pepper was so valuable that it was often used as currency, and it was not unusual to see black pepper offered as a sacrifice to the gods. These days, we are fortunate that black pepper is plentiful, inexpensive and available year round.
Black pepper is derived from the pepper plant, a large woody vine which can grow to heights of more than 30 feet in the hot and humid climates of the tropics. These vines start to bear their traditional small white flowers after about three or four years. It is these bunches of small white flowers which develop the berries known as peppercorns. It is the ground peppercorns that produce the spice we know as black pepper.
The benefits of black pepper go far beyond its ability to add great taste to a wide variety of dishes. Recent studies suggest that black pepper may have a number of important health benefits. One of the most important of these health benefits is the abilty to improve digestion and improve the health of the digestive system and intestines.
Digestion and black pepper
Problems with digestion are increasing in frequency, and black pepper seems to be effective in improving the digestion of food, probably due to the way in which black pepper stimulates the taste buds. This stimulation of the taste buds notifies the stomach to increase its secretion of hydrochloric acid, thus improving the digestion of the food once it reaches the stomach. Insufficient production of stomach acid can lead to heartburn, indigestion and other problems, and black pepper may help to alleviate this problem.
In addition, black pepper is known to reduce the formation of intestinal gas, thus providing a natural solution to an embarrassing problem. This ability is most likely also the result of the stimulation of hydrochloric acid production.
Black pepper has also been shown to have significant antioxidant and antibacterial properties, important for fighting disease and maintaining overall good health. With all this to recommend it, there is no reason not to add a pinch of black pepper to every meal.
Delicious black pepper
Many professional chefs, and home cooks, swear by the value of grinding their own peppercorns, and fresh peppercorns are available from a variety of sources, including supermarkets, organic markets and even the internet. Grinding peppercorns at home certainly provides increased freshness, and there is some thought that the skin of the peppercorn is good at stimulating the metabolism, leading possibly to a slimmer figure and healthier body.
If you do decide to buy your black pepper already ground, however, it is important to buy a quality brand. There are many brands of black pepper in the local supermarket, from the lowest price generic brands to the highest priced gourmet variety. While it is not necessary to pay top price for black pepper, it is important to buy your black pepper form a company with a strong reputation for top quality foods.