I never really thought much about pepper. Using pepper just about every day is a habit for my husband and I. In every meal that we cook we use pepper. We also put some on our eggs and on our avo. Pepper was also a spice that I grew up with back home, it was used on our salads too. I never paid much attention to the actual flavour it added, it just seemed like adding pepper to my meals was the thing to do.
I also have some interesting memories attached like the nights I was on salt and pepper duty at the restaurant I worked at as a teenager. I would have to refill the salt and pepper shakers and make sure they were clean. The salt was fine, but if I wasn’t careful and poured the pepper out a little too quickly I would end up needing to sneeze. It was definitely not my favourite job.
Honestly, I was surprised to see that pepper is another spice that’s used in chai latte and chai tea. When I brewed the tea for the full five minutes recommended on the box and started trying to differentiate between all the flavours, I finally came to recognise pepper as that slightly warm spice.
If you use pepper you will probably have noticed that you get white pepper and black pepper. They differ slightly in taste since white pepper is a little hotter than the black, but the black is more flavourful. They’re actually made from the same peppercorn. Black pepper is made from the outer part of the peppercorn and white pepper is the inner part where the outer layer has been removed and the peppercorn used is unripe. Both have amazing health benefits and I have decided to just list them jointly. So let’s get to it.
Pepper can help with:
- Digestive issues- it get’s your juices flowing so to speak so that you can digest your food easier. It also helps with getting rid of trapped gas and preventing more gas from forming which is awesome!
- Breaking down fat! I was pleasantly surprised to find out that pepper actually helps your body to break down fat and it causes less fat to be processed by your body after you’ve eaten. Naturally, I still recommend portion control and eating healthily as well as exercising regularly, but a little extra help, especially from food, is always great.
- Lowering cholesterol- it lowers the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increases your good choleterol (HDL).
- Antioxidants! Pepper is full of antioxidants which help to get rid of the free radicals (or waste) produced by your body as it functions every day. This means aging gracefully and less illness.
- Nutrient absorption- Vitamins A and C and beta-carotene are all absorbed better by your body when you’ve consumed pepper.
- Fighting colds and flu- it has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and can help you get over a bout of cold or flu quicker.
- Getting rid of headaches- white pepper relieves headaches by preventing the pain signals from your body from reaching your brain.
- Lowering your cancer risk- because it’s full of antioxidants and it prevents cells from increasing abnormally.
- Boosting your mood- pepper increases endorphins. Endorphins play an important roll in boosting your mood. It also produces serotonin which is important for preventing and treating depression.
Looking at the health benefits of pepper (and there are even more that I didn’t mention, do a quick Google search) can make you just want to pile a whole lot of it on your food or just eat it straight up. BUT everything in moderation. That’s key here. It’s safe when taken in food form because when you use it on or in your food the amount is too small to cause any issues even for pregnant or breastfeeding women. If you want to take it more medicinally in bigger quantities there are a few things that you need to be aware of.
If you are on any medications, you need to first speak to your doctor. Pepper interacts with a lot of medications and can cause them to be absorbed differently or to work differently. There are quite a few so check out the link to WebMD listed in the sources to get an idea. Some medications are listed there but there are others not listed, so it’s best to speak to your doctor first to make sure whether you can take in large amounts of pepper and how much you can take safely.
Pepper is also not meant to be inhaled. I’m sure you’ve noticed that when you do it causes you to sneeze. It’s quite irritating to the nerve endings in your nose and isn’t good for your lungs. So keep an eye on your kids especially when they’re using it, they aren’t as good at clearing their airways as adults are just yet. This will be more for the powdered forms. Also, just like with other spicy or burny foods, too much can irritate your stomach, so don’t eat too much.
Pepper can be used in many different types of dishes. You are probably already using it quite a bit since salt and pepper are staples in many kitchens and you’ll find it at most restaurants in shakers at your table. I wanted to save this tip for last. Combine pepper and turmeric.
Tumeric contains curcumin and pepper helps your body absorb it better which boosts the health benefit of turmeric which includes antioxidants and inflammatory properties. As you know, this can help prevent some nasty illnesses and the effects of free radicals. There are so many recipes that use them together that you can try out.
This is the end of my little series on the spices used in chai. It’s been quite eye opening for me and I hope it has been for you too. Food is meant to be delicious but ultimately it’s a source of fuel for our bodies and of course, healthy sources of fuel are much better than the foods that clog our arteries or play havoc with our blood sugar.
These spices have so many health benefits as well as tasting great, making sure that our meals and even beverages taste good and are even better for us. As for the desserts, well, everything in moderation. If we’re healthy we can live longer and have that many more years to eat some of the naughtier goodies too every once in a while 🙂
As promised, here is the recipe for chai tea by SpiceMecca:
1.5L boiling water
4 black tea bags
12 whole cardamom pods
3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
0.5 tsp black peppercorns
3 Tbsp sugar
In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add the teabags and the spices, return to the boil. Immediately stir in the sugar. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
I am sure that you can use other types of tea too, here in South Africa we also use rooibos and green rooibos tea. You can also choose not to use any sugar at all or to use honey or a different sugar substitute instead. Play around with the recipe and see what tastes good to you.