Great reasons to cook with more pepper

When seasoning food, common salt and pepper are perhaps the least controversial seasoning options that we have. They seem good to go on everything, lifting the flavour and making every meal a bit more enjoyable. Pepper is arguably the more interesting of the two. While just about everyone uses salt, the use of pepper is more restrained, and that’s a great shame.

Pepper is truly one of the great cooking ingredients, and has just as many, if not more, types and styles than salt does, from common white and black cooking peppers to special kampot black pepper, and many more. While professionals easily get the most out of pepper, ordinary home cooks are typically far too timid. Here are some of the best reasons we should cook with more pepper.

1. Helps Digestion and Blood Pressure

First of all, pepper has more health benefits than you know. Black pepper in particular has a marked effect on stimulating the body’s digestion process, making it more able to digest food by boosting the enzymes in your pancreas. Its assistance with the digestion process is also a key way that we can relieve ourselves of trapped gas, if we’re prone to it.

On top of digestion, the piperine in pepper has been reported to show similar effects on blood pressure as common blood pressure-lowering medications. One Dr Guy Mintz from Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, New York, points to trials done in animals where the substance was effective in reopening blood vessels.

2. Can Contribute to Better Brain Health

We mentioned already that pepper, and in particular its most active ingredient piperine, can boost the actions of enzymes in the body. One enzyme in particular where it is known to work well is the enzyme responsible for breaking down the hormones serotonin and melatonin. In doing so, it aids us in remaining calm and keeping a regular and healthy sleep cycle. Other experts also believe that piperine can help to preserve our levels of dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone.

3. Pepper Contains Many Beneficial Nutrients

If one were to break down and more closely analyse their pepper, they’d find it packed with Vitamins C and A, as well as flavonoids that carry natural anti-inflammatory effects. There are other antioxidants besides flavonoids, too, including carotenes. These antioxidants are important for removing free radicals from the body, protecting it from the effects of ageing, as well as reducing risk from cancer and other diseases.

4. Pepper Can Help Treat a Cold

Among its many unique health benefits, pepper also has antibacterial properties and can therefore work effectively as part of a treatment for coughs and colds. This is often far from people’s minds since most people associate pepper with causing people to sneeze. In fact, if you take some freshly crushed pepper and put it onto a teaspoon of honey, it can really help to fight against chest congestion, especially when it’s brought on by allergies or pollution.

5. It’s Durable and Goes with Everything

Okay, perhaps it doesn’t go with absolutely everything. You’d not likely expect to find pepper on your chocolate cake, or in a bread and butter pudding with creme Anglaise. But in the world of savoury cooking, pepper is truly a be-all and end-all spice. Whole peppercorns can sit on your kitchen counter or in your spice rack almost indefinitely without losing their freshness. Grind them up and even the powder can retain its quality for up to 3 months.

So, next time you’re looking for something to brighten up your appetisers and main courses, consider trying a pinch of pepper.

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