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Black pepper
Black pepper

A pinch of black pepper is added to almost every type of recipe imaginable. Once used as currency and presented to the gods as a sacred offering, it is fortunate that this most popular of spices is available throughout the year.

Black pepper comes from the pepper plant, a smooth woody vine that can grow up to 33 feet in hot and humid tropical climates. They begin to bear small white clustered flowers after 3 to 4 years and develop into berries known as peppercorns. Ground peppercorns produce the spice we call pepper.

Black Pepper, whole peppercorns
2.00 tsp
(5.80 grams)
Calories: 15
GI: very low

NutrientDRI/DV



 copper9%

 fiber6%



 iron3%


This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Black pepper provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Black pepper can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Black pepper, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

Health Benefits

Improve Digestion and Promote Intestinal Health

Black pepper (Piper nigrum)stimulates the taste buds in such a way that an alert is sent to to the stomach to increase hydrochloric acid secretion, thereby improving digestion. Hydrochloric acid is necessary for the digestion of proteins and other food components in the stomach. When the body's production of hydrochloric acid is insufficient, food may sit in the stomach for an extended period of time, leading to heartburn or indigestion, or it may pass into the intestines, where it can be used as a food source for unfriendly gut bacteria, whose activities produce gas, irritation, and/or diarrhea or constipation.

Black pepper has long been recognized as a carminitive, (a substance that helps prevent the formation of intestinal gas), a property likely due to its beneficial effect of stimulating hydrochloric acid production. In addition, black pepper has diaphoretic (promotes sweating), and diuretic (promotes urination) properties.

Black pepper has demonstrated impressive antioxidant and antibacterial effects--yet another way in which this wonderful seasoning promotes the health of the digestive tract. And not only does black pepper help you derive the most benefit from your food, the outer layer of the peppercorn stimulates the breakdown of fat cells, keeping you slim while giving you energy to burn.

Description

Black pepper comes from the berries of the pepper plant. Black pepper, green pepper and white peppercorns are actually the same fruit (Piper nigrum); the difference in their color is a reflection of varying stages of development and processing methods.

Black peppercorns are made by picking the pepper berries when they are half ripe and just about to turn red. They are then left to dry which causes them to shrivel and become dark in color. Alternatively, green peppercorns are picked while still unripe and green in color, while white peppercorns are picked when very ripe and subsequently soaked in brine to remove their dark outer shell leaving just the white pepper seed.

Pink peppercorns are actually from a completely different plant species (Schinus molle) that is related to ragweed.

Black pepper is the most pungent and flavorful of all types of peppers and it is available as whole or cracked peppercorns or ground into powder.

History

Native to India, pepper has played a very important role throughout history and has been a prized spice since ancient times. Since ancient Greece, pepper has held such high prestige that it was not only used as a seasoning but as a currency and a sacred offering. Pepper was used to both honor the gods and to pay taxes and ransoms. During the fall of ancient Rome, the invading barbarians were even honored by being given black pepper. Additionally, in the Middle Ages the wealth of a man was oftentimes measured by his stockpile of pepper.

The reason that pepper was so cherished is that it served important culinary purposes. Not only could its pungency spice up otherwise bland foods, but it could disguise a food's lack of freshness, the latter being an especially important quality in the times before efficient means of preservation.

Pepper became an important spice that catalyzed much of the spice trade. This not only led to exploration of many undiscovered lands, but also to the development of major merchant cities in Europe and the Middle East.

Today, the major commercial producers of pepper are India and Indonesia.

How to Select and Store

Black pepper is available whole, crushed or ground into powder. To ensure best flavor, buy whole peppercorns and grind them yourself in a mill just before adding to a recipe. In addition to superior flavor, buying whole peppercorns will help to ensure that you are purchasing unadulterated pepper since ground pepper is oftentimes mixed with other spices. Whole peppercorns should be heavy, compact and free of any blemishes.

Even through dried herbs and spices like black pepper are widely available in supermarkets, you may want to explore the local spice stores in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness than those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, when purchasing black pepper try to select that which is organically grown since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated (among other potential adverse effects, irradiating black pepper may lead to a significant decrease in its vitamin C content.)

Black pepper should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Whole peppercorns will keep almost indefinitely, while ground pepper will stay fresh for about three months. Pepper can also be frozen although this will make its flavor more pronounced.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

Tips for Cooking with Black Pepper

Add pepper that you have freshly ground in a mill at the end of the cooking process. Since it loses its flavor and aroma if cooked for too long, adding it near the end will help to preserve its flavor.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas
  • Coat steaks with crushed peppercorns before cooking to create the classic dish, steak au poivre.
  • As the pungent taste of black pepper is a natural complement to the deep, berry-like flavor of venison, use it to flavor this meat when preparing venison steaks or venison stews.
  • Keep a pepper mill on your dining table so that you can add its intense spark to a host of different recipes that you prepare.
  • Olive oil, lemon juice, salt and cracked pepper make a delicious salad dressing.

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Nutritional Profile

Black pepper is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin K, a very good source of copper and dietary fiber, and a good source of iron, chromium and calcium.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling." Read more background information and details of our rating system.

Black Pepper, whole peppercorns
2.00 tsp
5.80 grams
Calories: 15
GI: very low
NutrientAmountDRI/DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
manganese0.74 mg3745.7excellent
vitamin K9.49 mcg1113.0excellent
copper0.08 mg911.0very good
fiber1.47 g67.3very good
iron0.56 mg33.8good
chromium0.93 mcg33.3good
calcium25.69 mg33.2good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DRI/DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
very good DRI/DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
good DRI/DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, here is an in-depth nutritional profile for Black pepper. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Black Pepper, whole peppercorns
(Note: "--" indicates data unavailable)
2.00 tsp
(5.80 g)
GI: very low
BASIC MACRONUTRIENTS AND CALORIES
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Protein0.60 g1
Carbohydrates3.71 g2
Fat - total0.19 g--
Dietary Fiber1.47 g6
Calories14.561
MACRONUTRIENT AND CALORIE DETAIL
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Carbohydrate:
Starch-- g
Total Sugars0.04 g
Monosaccharides0.04 g
Fructose0.01 g
Glucose0.01 g
Galactose0.01 g
Disaccharides0.00 g
Lactose0.00 g
Maltose0.00 g
Sucrose0.00 g
Soluble Fiber-- g
Insoluble Fiber-- g
Other Carbohydrates2.20 g
Fat:
Monounsaturated Fat0.04 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.06 g
Saturated Fat0.08 g
Trans Fat0.00 g
Calories from Fat1.70
Calories from Saturated Fat0.73
Calories from Trans Fat0.00
Cholesterol0.00 mg
Water0.72 g
MICRONUTRIENTS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Vitamins
Water-Soluble Vitamins
B-Complex Vitamins
Vitamin B10.01 mg1
Vitamin B20.01 mg1
Vitamin B30.07 mg0
Vitamin B3 (Niacin Equivalents)0.12 mg
Vitamin B60.02 mg1
Vitamin B120.00 mcg0
Biotin-- mcg--
Choline0.66 mg0
Folate0.99 mcg0
Folate (DFE)0.99 mcg
Folate (food)0.99 mcg
Pantothenic Acid0.08 mg2
Vitamin C0.00 mg0
Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Vitamin A (Retinoids and Carotenoids)
Vitamin A International Units (IU)31.73 IU
Vitamin A mcg Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE)1.59 mcg (RAE)0
Vitamin A mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)3.17 mcg (RE)
Retinol mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)0.00 mcg (RE)
Carotenoid mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)3.17 mcg (RE)
Alpha-Carotene0.70 mcg
Beta-Carotene17.98 mcg
Beta-Carotene Equivalents19.05 mcg
Cryptoxanthin1.45 mcg
Lutein and Zeaxanthin26.33 mcg
Lycopene1.16 mcg
Vitamin D
Vitamin D International Units (IU)0.00 IU0
Vitamin D mcg0.00 mcg
Vitamin E
Vitamin E mg Alpha-Tocopherol Equivalents (ATE)0.06 mg (ATE)0
Vitamin E International Units (IU)0.09 IU
Vitamin E mg0.06 mg
Vitamin K9.49 mcg11
Minerals
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Boron-- mcg
Calcium25.69 mg3
Chloride-- mg
Chromium0.93 mcg3
Copper0.08 mg9
Fluoride0.00 mg0
Iodine-- mcg--
Iron0.56 mg3
Magnesium9.92 mg2
Manganese0.74 mg37
Molybdenum-- mcg--
Phosphorus9.16 mg1
Potassium77.08 mg2
Selenium0.28 mcg1
Sodium1.16 mg0
Zinc0.07 mg1
INDIVIDUAL FATTY ACIDS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids0.01 g0
Omega-6 Fatty Acids0.04 g
Monounsaturated Fats
14:1 Myristoleic0.00 g
15:1 Pentadecenoic0.00 g
16:1 Palmitol0.00 g
17:1 Heptadecenoic0.00 g
18:1 Oleic0.04 g
20:1 Eicosenoic0.00 g
22:1 Erucic0.00 g
24:1 Nervonic0.00 g
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
18:2 Linoleic0.04 g
18:2 Conjugated Linoleic (CLA)-- g
18:3 Linolenic0.01 g
18:4 Stearidonic0.00 g
20:3 Eicosatrienoic0.01 g
20:4 Arachidonic0.00 g
20:5 Eicosapentaenoic (EPA)0.00 g
22:5 Docosapentaenoic (DPA)0.00 g
22:6 Docosahexaenoic (DHA)0.00 g
Saturated Fatty Acids
4:0 Butyric0.00 g
6:0 Caproic0.00 g
8:0 Caprylic0.01 g
10:0 Capric0.00 g
12:0 Lauric0.01 g
14:0 Myristic0.00 g
15:0 Pentadecanoic0.00 g
16:0 Palmitic0.03 g
17:0 Margaric0.00 g
18:0 Stearic0.02 g
20:0 Arachidic0.00 g
22:0 Behenate0.00 g
24:0 Lignoceric0.00 g
INDIVIDUAL AMINO ACIDS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Alanine0.04 g
Arginine0.02 g
Aspartic Acid0.08 g
Cysteine0.01 g
Glutamic Acid0.08 g
Glycine0.03 g
Histidine0.01 g
Isoleucine0.02 g
Leucine0.06 g
Lysine0.01 g
Methionine0.01 g
Phenylalanine0.03 g
Proline0.08 g
Serine0.02 g
Threonine0.01 g
Tryptophan0.00 g
Tyrosine0.03 g
Valine0.03 g
OTHER COMPONENTS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Ash0.26 g
Organic Acids (Total)-- g
Acetic Acid-- g
Citric Acid-- g
Lactic Acid-- g
Malic Acid-- g
Taurine-- g
Sugar Alcohols (Total)-- g
Glycerol-- g
Inositol-- g
Mannitol-- g
Sorbitol-- g
Xylitol-- g
Artificial Sweeteners (Total)-- mg
Aspartame-- mg
Saccharin-- mg
Alcohol0.00 g
Caffeine0.00 mg

Note:

The nutrient profiles provided in this website are derived from The Food Processor, Version 10.12.0, ESHA Research, Salem, Oregon, USA. Among the 50,000+ food items in the master database and 163 nutritional components per item, specific nutrient values were frequently missing from any particular food item. We chose the designation "--" to represent those nutrients for which no value was included in this version of the database.

References

  • Abila B, Richens A, Davies JA. Anticonvulsant effects of extracts of the west African black pepper, Piper guineense. J Ethnopharmacol 1993 Jun;39(2):113-7. 1993. PMID:16400.
  • Ao P, Hu S, Zhao A. [Essential oil analysis and trace element study of the roots of Piper nigrum L.]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi 1998 Jan;23(1):42-3, 63. 1998. PMID:16370.
  • Calucci L, Pinzino C, Zandomeneghi M et al. Effects of gamma-irradiation on the free radical and antioxidant contents in nine aromatic herbs and spices. J Agric Food Chem 2003 Feb 12; 51(4):927-34. 2003.
  • Dorman HJ, Deans SG. Antimicrobial agents from plants: antibacterial activity of plant volatile oils. J Appl Microbiol 2000 Feb;88(2):308-16. 2000. PMID:16390.
  • Ensminger AH, Ensminger, ME, Kondale JE, Robson JRK. Foods & Nutriton Encyclopedia. Pegus Press, Clovis, California. 1983.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986. 1986. PMID:15210.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York. 1996.
  • Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Dover Publications, New York. 1971.
  • Mujumdar AM, Dhuley JN, Deshmukh VK, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of piperine. Jpn J Med Sci Biol 1990 Jun;43(3):95-100. 1990. PMID:16380.
  • Murray MT. The Healing Power of Foods. Prima Publishing, Rocklin, CA, 1993, pp. 211-212. 1993.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988. 1988. PMID:15220.

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