The People vs. Black Pepper

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how does Peter Piper feel about BLACK pepper?

Would Peter Piper pickle black pepper? What kind of peppers does Peter Piper pick?!

Listen: Casual conversations with my friends tend to lead to discussions around food myths. One day in the not too distant past (like… 3 weeks ago maybe?), I was discussing bone broth with a friend and how I like to add spices to mine like garlic, cayenne, salt, turmeric, and black pepper.

On this such occasion, my friend got a rather confused look on her face and said… “I thought black pepper was bad for you?”

Me: “Ummmm… I mean… what?”

You see, turmeric and black pepper are a match made in heaven. You may have heard by way of the internet that turmeric is a pretty great supplement. You can take it in a pill, you can take it in a powder, or you can enjoy the raw root, grate it, and swallow it on down. Recent research has suggested that turmeric “does a body good,” and that, my friend, is thanks to curcumin, one of the active constituents of turmeric.

But guess what? Your body has trouble absorbing curcumin. So… kinda a moot point to be downing all sorts of turmeric if your bod ain’t reaping the rewards.

Black pepper, though? It helps your body absorb curcumin, thanks to the bioactive compound piperine (it has been shown to increase bioavailability—or the ability of your body to absorb curcumin—by 2000%). So curcumin = turmeric and piperine = black pepper and together research has shown they fight the good fight against inflammation in your sweet bod. (think arthritis, joint pain, internal inflammation/digestive inflammation/PMS cramps, etc)

Okay, so all of that is well and good, but we’re here to talk about how black pepper ISN’T good for you, and all I’ve talked about thus far is how is IS good for you.

If you go Google “black pepper bad for you” right now (which is what I did to start my research for this article), you’ll be led to a plethora of articles about how good black pepper is for you.

Ah, I love finding a good ol’ case of Food Confusion in the wild!

Obviously this is something that people are Googling enough for the SEO writers out there to write content that speaks directly to the question at hand.

I did some digging to figure out the root of this belief, and it looks like the concern about black pepper may stem from another one of its components, safrole. Safrole is also found in small amounts in star anise, nutmeg, witch hazel, and basil, and in the 1960s, the FDA banned the use of safrole in food in the United States after it was found that injecting large amounts caused liver cancer in lab rats. 

You would have to eat a TON of pepper for this to be of any concern for you, ma’am. I do not think you are eating spoonfuls of pepper, right? As any toxicologist will tell you: the difference between medicine and poison is in the dose.

As with most foods, it seems black pepper is one of those things that is very personal. Me? I have a lovely choking/burning sensation in my throat in response to black pepper, inherited from my grandfather by way of my mother. I skip the fresh cracked black pepper because I know I’ll spend each bite of my salad choking and coughing until I cry. Not a good dinner date.

However, I sprinkle ground black pepper in with my turmeric because, from what I’ve read: it does me little harm and much good.

Cracked pepper = no good for me.
Ground pepper = a-okay from what I can tell.

What I hope you’ll take away from this post:

  1. Do your research. Don’t read just one article (unless the article sites many different, reputable sources AND offers points and counterpoints) or listen to your friends mom who was a nurse in 1960 and so OF COURSE she thinks black pepper is bad. Listen to yourself. Form an INFORMED conclusion, and be open to new and different information.

  2. Follow the advice from what I shared on how it’s more important to ask questions than it is to know the answers. Remember the three most important things to keep in mind when reading health articles: What is the agenda behind this information? How current is this info? How does it connect with other information I’m finding?)

  3. Remember to listen to YOUR body. Do you experience digestive distress after you eat pepper? Do you also choke when eating pepper? Do you have no response to pepper and therefore it’s maybe doing you some good? (It has more benefits that just helping you absorb curcumin, by the way)

Now go and explore the world, armed with the ability to research and use your own internal guiding system.


p.s. Ready to love the food you eat and live the life you love? Here are a couple ways I can help you with ending the cycle of shame and regret when it comes to food and your body:

1. Join the Beet Powder group and connect with women who are investing in their health and happiness, too.

This is my new Facebook community where women learn to get more of what they want in their body, food, and lives. Click Here

2. Reserve your copy of Glowing Goddess Guru Beast Manifesto before it goes live on Amazon.

If this is the kind of food & life philosophy that you find intriguing, or if you're interested in this kind of approach to eating and living well, you'll really dig the book I'm wrapping up and getting ready for print right this very moment: Glowing Goddess Guru Beast Manifesto. It's now available for pre-sale!

3. Hop on the phone with me to work out if and how I can help you. Hate talking on the phone to strangers?! Me too. (Telephonophobia, or phone fear, is genetic!) But fear not. This 10 minutes is going to fly by, and we’re going to keep it fun & simple by focusing on three things: what's not working with food and your body, what's standing in the way, and if and how I can help you. Answer a few questions, and we’ll be set to chat—awkward free. Apply here.

Brittany KrigerComment