You may have encountered, or even tasted, those little green pea-sized buds from your favorite Mediterranean or French dishes. Those are what are commonly known as capers. Capers are the edible flower buds of the shrub-like bush, Capparis spinosa, which are either used as a seasoning or consumed as pickled.
Capers are picked from the shrub and after which, they are dried in the sun and then preserved in salt, vinegar, wine, brine, or olive oil. They are consumed like olives or pickles. Capers are distinguished by its tangy sour and salty taste, which gives additional texture and depth to any dish. Capers are available in different sizes- from the size of a pea to the olive-sized ones. While capers are known to some as a bit pricey, they are indeed a great addition to any dish and definitely an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.
Top 12 Health Benefits of Capers
Capers are low in calories
Capers are great options to add boldness and richness of taste in your dish without putting in too many calories. A 100g serving of capers only has 23 calories or 2 calories per tablespoon. This is good news for people who are trying to make each calorie intake count. At a low-calorie count, capers are packed with numerous vitamins and minerals that help reach the recommended daily intake for each.
Aid in digestion
Fiber is a crucial element not only in weight loss but in improving digestive health. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate, which does not get digested by the body. Instead, it is used to fill the stomach, which is the reason why fiber-rich food makes you feel full for a longer period, and soften the stool to prevent constipation and to promote smooth digestion. Studies also reveal that food loaded with fiber lowers an individual’s risk of any cardiovascular disease.
Help with blood circulation
Capers are likewise found to be beneficial in promoting proper blood circulation. They consist of flavonoid compound called rutin, which strengthens the capillaries and at the same time prevents the formation of platelet clump in the blood. This ensures smooth blood circulation even in the tiniest vessels. Proper and smooth blood circulation will allow the organs to receive all the nutrients they need for their optimum function. Rutin present in caper was discovered to treat varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and other bleeding conditions, which are apparently effects of poor circulation.
Capers are high in antioxidant
Speaking of rutin, which is instrumental in improving the circulation of blood in the body, it is also a form of antioxidant, which is essential for the body. Rutin and quercetin are flavonoid compounds that work as powerful antioxidants scavenging the harmful free radicals, which damage the healthy cells in the body. These free radicals turn healthy cells into damaged ones, often leading to cancer. Capers are another excellent plant-based source of quercetin, found to be significant for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties. A 100g serving of capers has 180mg of quercetin, second to tea leaf.
Apart from rutin and quercetin, capers contain a substantial amount of vitamins A and C, which boost the immune system of the body. These vitamins are considered as natural antioxidants, which aside from scavenging and eliminating the free radicals, they help combat infection. Vitamin A, in particular, not only improves eyesight but also protects the body from any infection. Vitamin K likewise safeguards the system from any disease.
Lower cholesterol level
Not all cholesterol is bad for your health. It stabilizes all the cells in the body. Cholesterol can either be a good cholesterol or a bad cholesterol. Good cholesterol or the HDL cholesterol travels through the bloodstream as it removes the bad cholesterol (or LDL cholesterol), thereby lowering the risk of heart disease. The presence of LDL, meanwhile, increases an individual’s risk of heart disease.
One of the many good things about capers is its ability to lower the LDL cholesterol in the body. This important change is attributable to the powers of niacin and rutin, which are found in capers. Both niacin and rutin assist in reducing LDL cholesterol in the body.
Promote healthy skin
As mentioned, capers are packed with an enormous amount of antioxidants, which do not only reduce the risk of cancer, but they also slow down aging. Capers have the ability to provide moisture to the skin while reducing the dryness. By reason of its Vitamin E content, they are widely used to treat skin problems like redness, pimples, and irritation. Some skin care products even contain capers are one of their key ingredients.
Help prevent hair loss
The amount of iron and vitamin B in capers essentially result to a healthy hair. For every 100g of capers, there are 1.67mg (or 21% RDV) of iron. Iron helps prevent hair loss. The huge amount of vitamin B, meanwhile, helps maintain the health of your hair.
Help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer
Apart from the more popular antioxidant and ability to lower LDL cholesterol level, the power of capers to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer is attributed to its extracts that prevent the development of compounds. These compounds are harmful to the DNA and play a crucial role in developing heart disease and cancer.
Capers help in reducing the oxidation of fat from the food while they are being cooked. Some components of capers are even discovered to have a positive result in the regeneration of antioxidant Vitamin E. Even when used as a seasoning, capers can already do wonders.
Improve bone health
If you want to build stronger bones, then the vitamin K content of capers will surely do the job. Apart from its use to prevent excessive bleeding and for cell growth, this essential fat-soluble vitamin is an essential factor in improving bone health. The vitamin K adds density to the bones and reduces the chances of bone-related problems like arthritis and osteoporosis.
Help you stay active
Capers are an excellent source of various vitamins and that include vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is needed by the body, one of the reasons is because the vitamin is turned into fuel that makes a person energetic or active. This is the reason why the commercially-bought B vitamins for energy always include vitamin B12 in it.
Good source of minerals like copper and iron
Moreover, caper is considered as a powerhouse of minerals like copper and iron, among many others. At a low-calorie count, capers lend significant value of vitamins and minerals. Minerals like copper, iron, and calcium, work together for body organs to function at their best.
Salads, vegetables, pizzas, sauces or dressings, and even main dishes are made extra special with the rich taste of capers. Not everyone can agree to its taste as some may find it too strong for their dish. However, the benefits one can get from capers are undisputable. Adding capers to your dish will not only enhance its taste, but will contribute to the overall wellness of the body. A 100g serving of capers lends…
- 23 calories (2 calories per 1 tbsp)
- Protein- 2.36g (4% of the recommended daily value)
- Carbohydrates– 4.89g (4% RDV)
- Total fat- 0.86g (3% RDV)
- Dietary fiber- 3.2g (8% RDV)
- Vitamin A– 138 IU (4% RDV)
- Vitamin B1 or Thiamin– 0.018mg (1.5% RDV)
- Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin– 0.139mg (11% RDV)
- Vitamin B3 or Niacin– 0.652mg (4.5% RDV)
- Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic acid– 0.027mg (0.5% RDV)
- Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine– 0.023mg (2% RDV)
- Vitamin B9 or Folates– 23mg (6% RDV)
- Vitamin C– 4.3mg (7% RDV)
- Vitamin E– 0.88mg or (6% RDV)
- Vitamin K– 24.6mg (20.5% RDV)
- Copper– 0.374mg (42% RDV)
- Iron– 1.67mg (21% RDV)
- Magnesium– 33mg (8% RDV)
- Calcium– 40mg (4% RDV)
- Manganese– 0.078mg (3% RDV)
- Zinc– 0.32mg (3% RDV)
- Selenium– 1.2mg (2% RDV)
- Phosphorus– 10mg (1% RDV)
- Potassium– 40mg (1% RDV)
- Sodium– 2954mg (197% RDV) OR 238mg of sodium per tbsp (9% RDV)
History of Capers
Capers are native to the Mediterranean region and in some parts of Asia. Capers are believed to have been in existence since 2,000 BC. They were first mentioned as an ingredient in the book, Gilgamesh, considered as the oldest written story in the world and found on ancient Sumerian clay tablets. In the Bible, in the book of Ecclesiastes, caper berries were known for its aphrodisiac properties. The Hebrew word for caper berry was closely attributed to the Hebrew word for desire.
Both Apicius, believed to have first written a cooking book in the first century, and Dioscorides, a pharmacologist who served as a surgeon to Nero’s armies, made mention of capers. The ancient Greeks and Romans have used capers not only for culinary purposes but were also used as medicines. The ancient Greece made use of capers to prevent flatulence.
Fun Facts about Capers
- Smaller capers are found to be more flavorful than larger ones and are considered to be more expensive than the latter.
- The capers are often found clinging from rocks, or protruding out of cracks or walls, along the mountains.
- Capers may be preserved in many ways- salt, brine, wine, vinegar, or oil.
- In the present time, capers flourish in the Mediterranean and other countries like Algeria, Spain, Italy, Morocco, and France.
- Capers are hand picked as they can be too sensitive and tender to be harvested using machines.
2 Popular Capers Recipes
If you are into the enjoyment of food that is bold in taste and rich in nutrients, then you will enjoy these easy to make dishes incorporating capers to give your food depth and an element of surprise. The use of capers in the kitchen traces back to thousands of years ago and even up to now, food enthusiasts use it in a wide range of recipes from sauces to pasta, dips, pizza, and main course.
If you think Aglio e Olio is simple, then you have to try making this Lemony Pasta with Garlic and Capers by Plain Chicken. It is so easy to make perfect for packed lunch at school or work. Then, upgrade your hummus recipe with the use of capers for a yummy treat at home. This Cooktoria recipe will take your hummus to a whole new level.
Lemony Pasta with Garlic and Capers
- 1 lb spaghetti pasta
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 6 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 6 tbsp capers, drained
- Salt and pepper
- Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain. Reserve ¼ cup pasta water.
- In a pan, heat the olive oil and put in garlic. Saute for about two minutes.
- With the heat turned off, add the cooked pasta and the rest of the ingredients as well as the reserved pasta water. Toss well before serving. You may add parmesan cheese if desired.
Hummus with Olives and Capers
- 15oz cooked or canned chickpeas
- ½ cup liquid from chickpeas
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp tahini
- ¼ tsp cumin powder
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup olives
- 2 tbsp chopped capers
- Additional olive oil to drizzle
- Place all the ingredients, except olives, capers, and olive oil for drizzle, in a food processor to make the hummus. Process until smooth. You may use the chickpeas liquid to achieve the desired consistency.
- Transfer it to another container. Top with the olives and chopped capers. Drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy!
Side Effects of Capers
While capers are good source of vitamins and minerals, it contain a substantial amount of sodium, which when taken in large quantities may result to a spike in the blood pressure. This will put your health, especially the heart, in danger.
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