Super Food: Black Pepper

Black pepper is to spice what squats are to weight training: the king of all. The peppercorn plant is native to tropical evergreen rain forest of South Indian state, Kerala, where it spread to rest of the world. The pepper fruit, or the peppercorn, is actually a berry obtained from this plant.

Peppercorn belongs to the family of Piperaceae of the genus of piper. This perennial vine and climber requires a supporting tree to grow in height making it similar in its growth characteristics to that of the beetle leaf plant. It begins to bear small round berries after about three to four years.

Several differnet color peppercorns found in the markets are nothing but the
 same fruit, but picked from the plant at different stages of maturity and subjected to different methods of processing. Generally, the peppercorns are harvested when they are half-matured and are going to turn red. They are left to dry under the sun light which causes them to shrivel and turn black. Green pepper corns are picked while the berries still unripe and green. The white peppercorns are derived when fully ripe berries soaked in brine to remove their dark outer coat, leaving the inner white-color pepper seed.

Black peppers have a strong spicy taste that comes to them from oils such as peperine. In ground peppers, these oils may evaporate if kept open in the air for longer periods.

Cubeb, or tailed pepper berries are dried unripe fruits of the Piper cubeba vine that is grown mainly Indonesian rain forest. They appear similar to black peppercorns, but have a characteristic stalk which looks similar to a tail. Cubeb berries have a distinctive flavor rich in monoterpene essential oil, cubebene.

Peppercorns contain an impressive list of plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have disease preventing, and health promoting properties. Peppers have been in use since ancient times for its anti-inflammatory, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties.

Peppercorns are composed of health benefiting essential oils such as peperine, an amine alkaloid, which gives strong spicy pungent character to the pepper. It also contains numerous monoterpenes hydrocarbons such as sabinene, pinene, terpenene, limoneneand mercene, which gives aromatic property to the pepper.

These active principles in the pepper may increase the gut motility, as well as the digestion power by increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions. It has also been found that piperine can increase absorption of selenium, B-complex vitamins, beta-carotene, as well as other nutrients from food.

Black peppercorns contain minerals like potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide-dismutase. Iron is essential for cellular respiration, as well as blood cell production.

There is also an excellent source of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins such as Pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin in peppercorns. Peppercorns are also a good source of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C and vitamin-A. They are also rich in flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidants like carotenes, cryptoxanthin, zea-xanthin and lycopene. These compounds help the body remove harmful free radicals and help protect from cancers and diseases.

Happy Lifting!

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