comscore Pepper your meals with food as medicine | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Pepper your meals with food as medicine


    A can of ground pepper at the C.F. Sauer spice and extract plant in Richmond, Va., in 2014.

Sgt. Pepper may have led the Lonely Hearts Club Band for the Beatles in 1967, but we’re promoting him to major general and spreading the pepper around as much as possible.

Turns out this spice contains an ingredient called piperine that has amazing powers. It is, as a study in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology points out, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune-modulatory, anti-asthmatic, anti-convulsant, anti-mutagenic, anti-mycobacterial, anti-amoebic and anti-cancer. Seems it also increases levels and activity of detoxifying enzymes and suppresses stem cell self-renewal.

And while research in the petri dish and in animals confirms these powers, researchers are hoping to show it is just as useful in fighting cancer in humans as it is in turning a bland meal into a tasty one. While scientists explore how to harness the power of piperine, we say add it to your “food as medicine” pantry.

Grind fresh black pepper onto veggies, soups, salads, lean protein like skinless chicken and even onto cantaloupe or in smoothies for some zing. (Avoid taking piperine supplements as it can interact with some drugs.)

Wondering what you can add to your meals to increase the heart-, brain- and gut-loving power of smart food choices? Here are six remarkable foods-as-medicine that you’ll want to bring into your diet: black pepper, turmeric, salmon/sea trout, extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts and berries. Bonus round: coffee, dark chocolate and red wine!

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to

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