You may have heard of this wonder plant but may not have come across the health benefits of capers in your daily diet. These tiny flower caper buds have been extensively used in Mediterranean cuisine for centuries. While these small ingredients may seem minuscule, they shouldn’t be underestimated. These tiny plant buds are super strong in their nutritional value as well as flavor. They are versatile veggies that can add excellent flavor to your salads, soups, and sauces. Read on to know about the various advantages of adding capers to your diet.
What Are Capers?
If you are still wondering “What is a caper?” The answer is simple — flower buds. Capers are essentially the immature flower buds of a plant called the Capparis Spinosa. These are small bush-like plants that grow in countries like Spain, Greece, and Italy (1). They are a major part of making Mediterranean dishes. Apart from making the food super tasty and flavorful, they are packed with nutrients and may aid weight loss, and hair growth and even help manage blood sugar levels.
Handpicking delicate, cream-white flower buds in the early morning hours is standard practice. The buds are cleansed and left to wilt in the sun for a few hours after harvesting them. Post this, the buds may be placed in jars and coated with salt, brine, olive oil, or vinegar.
The size of capers may vary, some may be as big as a peppercorn while others may be as tiny as an olive. How you use them in food may depend on whether you want a strong flavor or just the aroma. If you want the aroma using small capers will do the task and if you want a peculiar flavor the big ones are recommended.
Nutritional Value of Capers
Capers are generally used in small quantities and hence each serving may contain a low amount of calories and fewer amounts of fat, proteins, and carbs.
According to the USDA one tablespoon of canned Capers may contain the following nutrients (2):
- Calories – 2
- Fiber – 0.3 grams
- Protein – 0.2 grams
- Carbs – 0.4 grams
- Copper – 4% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Sodium – 202 mg
- Vitamin K – 2% of the DV
- Iron – 0.144 mg
- Riboflavin – 1% of the DV
- Magnesium – 1% of the DV
Sodium is essential for maintaining fluid balance and blood pressure levels (3). Copper is a vital mineral involved in iron metabolism, energy production, and brain function (4). Capers also include a small amount of vitamin K, a micronutrient in your body that is responsible for blood clotting and bone health (5).
13 Amazing Health Benefits of Capers
1. May Help with Weight Loss
While capers may add flavor to your food one of the major health benefits of capers is that they are low in calories. This makes them an excellent food to add to your weight loss diet. Losing weight can benefit people’s health in general as well and hence, capers can be added to your low-calorie food. You can swap your high-calorie ingredient for capers to add flavor. This may decrease your daily calorie intake, leading to effective weight loss (6).
2. May Help Fight Inflammation in the Body
Antioxidants are compounds that help neutralize free radicals that can be harmful to the cells in your body and prevent cell damage (1), (7). According to research, capers is an excellent source of antioxidants such as quercetin and rutin (1). Some research suggests that antioxidants could also reduce inflammation.
They can also then help protect against diseases like cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes (7). Both quercetin and rutin are well-researched compounds and have been shown to alleviate inflammation, manage blood sugar levels, and enhance wound healing (8). According to a recent study, quercetin has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-carcinogenic activities which can help fight inflammation in the body (9).
3. May Help with Diabetes
Another health benefit of capers that may make you consider using them in your diet is that they may help with managing diabetes. There is some evidence that suggests the compounds in capers may help with maintaining blood sugar levels. As per one literature review, specific components contained in capers may support improved blood sugar regulation by decreasing carbohydrate absorption, and protecting insulin-producing cells in the pancreas (10).
Another small study done on 30 diabetics also found that taking a tonic containing caper extract three times per day helped avoid rises in blood sugar and lipid levels (11). Similarly, an older study of 54 persons who had diabetes also discovered that taking caper fruit extract three times a day for two months resulted in significant improvements in long-term blood sugar management and fasting blood sugar levels when compared to those in a control group (12).
However, more research is needed to understand how capers affect blood sugar levels when consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. It is also important to note that if you are already on diabetes management medication, it may be best to avoid capers as both lower blood sugar levels (13).
4. Rich in Minerals
Capers contain a large variety of minerals like calcium, iron, and copper, that can be beneficial for the body (14).
Iron aids in the storage and utilization of oxygen by our muscles. It is a component of numerous enzymes that aid in the digestion of food in our bodies. Calcium on the other hand aids in the formation of strong bones and teeth (15). Copper reacts with specific proteins to form enzymes that act as catalysts in a variety of biological functions.
5. Rich in Vitamins
One other health benefit of capers is that they provide you with a rich source of a variety of vitamins. Capers contain niacin, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, and riboflavin that boosts your overall health (14). Riboflavin, often known as vitamin B2, aids the body in converting food into energy.
It is also thought to help with adrenal function. As a result, it contributes to the maintenance of a healthy nervous system (16). Vitamin A is an important nutrient as it is responsible for improving eyesight. It also helps us see things in the dark. It may also lower the risk of developing some malignancies. This necessary vitamin aids in the fight against illness and boosts the immune system.
Vitamin K is essential for bone health. It reduces the likelihood of blood clotting. Niacin plays an integral part in protecting you from cardiovascular diseases. It may help decrease cholesterol and improve cognitive, neurological, and digestive processes (17).
6. May Help Fight Bad Enzymes
If you are someone who consumes red meat, then capers may just be a good addition to your diet. This is because capers destroy specific by-products contained in meat and fat-rich diets. These byproducts are frequently linked to health diseases (18).
7. Fiber Packed
Capers are an excellent source of fiber (19). Fiber is known to reduce constipation and promote bowel movement. A tablespoon of capers has 0.3 grams of fiber, which is around 3% of your daily fiber needs.
8. May Help with Rheumatism
Capers have anti-inflammatory properties which may make them a great ingredient to manage rheumatism. They have been used since ancient times in Greek medicine for the treatment of rheumatism (20). An animal study conducted in 2016 also found that caper extracts could help relieve pain related to rheumatoid arthritis (21).
9. May Help Deal with Flatulence
Capers may also be beneficial in reducing stomach aches and flatulence (22). Along with this, they may also be used to improve your appetite.
10. May Help with Congestion
A lot of people suffer from excessive phlegm or mucus production, which accumulates in the chest and respiratory passageways. This causes chest tightness, pain in the chest, and other symptoms. Capers help to keep the respiratory tract healthy by removing extra mucus or phlegm and relieving congestion (23).
11. May Help Manage Dry Skin Problems
Well if you thought that the health benefits of capers were only limited to your body, you may just be wrong! They are also great for your skin. Capers can work well for you if you have dry skin (14).
12. May Promote Hair Growth
Capers are also commonly utilized in hair care products due to their high vitamin B and iron content. Both are known to stimulate hair growth. Deficiency of vitamin B and iron is known to cause hair loss, adding capers to your diet can help you fight hair loss and get stronger tresses (24).
13. May Help Improve Bone Health
Capers play a pivotal role in bone health. Capers include a high concentration of Vitamin K, which aids with bone density. It aids in the prevention of bone-related diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis, which occur as a result of reduced bone density (25).
How to Add Capers to Your Diet?
Capers are quite versatile as an ingredient and can be easily added to your diet. They can be used in various recipes daily. They have a rich, salty flavor and a somewhat tangy taste that goes very well in sandwiches, salads, and pasta dishes. They are commonly available pickled and tinned. They’re also popular in chicken piccata and on bagels with lox, cream cheese, onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
If you want to be creative with using capers, you can also try using them as a topping for your next homemade pizza! They can also be swapped for pickles when making tuna or a macaroni salad. You can also incorporate them into your salad dressings or sauces.
Capers are excellent for adding a plant-based edge to a variety of recipes. For example, while making Caesar salad dressing or spaghetti sauce, you can substitute capers for anchovies.
Remember that capers are highly salty, so you may need to alter your recipes or rinse excess salt off of your capers before using them.
What Do Capers Taste Like?
A caper’s flavor is similar to the lemony sharpness and brightness of green olives but with a flowery tartness all their own. Capers have a strong salty, savory flavor profile since they are brine-packed.
Capers are a popular flavor and garnish in Mediterranean cooking. There are also a host of health benefits of capers which make them a popular ingredient since ancient times. The unusual flavor and tanginess of these exotic fruits are well-known. Capers can help prevent oxidative stress and improve eye, bone, brain, and digestive health. Because of their fiber content, they also help with constipation. They also help in the treatment of rheumatism, diabetes, and congestion. Although low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, they are also high in sodium and should be consumed in moderation.
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