The caper plant is a deciduous shrub that grows primarily in the Mediterranean region, Northern Africa, and parts of Asia Minor. The shrub produces small berry-shaped pea-sized buds. The buds, also known as caper berries (Capparis spinosa) or simply capers, are commonly dried and then preserved in brine or oil for culinary use. Capers also have health, nutritional, and medicinal values and uses that we will explore further.
The Health Benefits of Capers
Everything about these delicious small buds appears to point to desirable health benefits. The only thing that is not exceptional about them is that they are generally preserved in brine that is rich in sodium. That is fine for many people. However, people who have high blood pressure or kidney disease should avoid them.
The good news is that you can purchase them preserved in olive oil as well. You can also rinse them before using. And you are likely to only use a tablespoon or two in a recipe. A little goes a long way.
- Capers are a good source of Quercetin. This flavonoid is famous for its anti-inflammatory properties, cholesterol lowering capabilities, and for coping with seasonal allergies.
- Caper buds are a good source of fiber. This is beneficial in helping with constipation and in lowering your risk for cardiovascular diseases. According to the USDA, 100g of capers contains 3,2g dietary fibers.
- Caper buds are naturally low in calories, making them a wonderful addition to any weight loss program. And because they have such a unique flavor, capers can turn even the blandest of meals into a feast.
- They have zero cholesterol. This is essential when planning healthy meals for those with cardiovascular issues, including high LDL cholesterol.
Caper berries are nutrient dense. You don’t need to eat a lot of them to benefit from the variety of minerals and vitamins that they supply.
- The essential minerals calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous are present in generous amounts. Calcium promotes bone and tooth health. Magnesium is excellent for muscle maintenance, cardiovascular health, and quality of sleep. Phosphorous is necessary for metabolism and overall digestive health.
- The caper buds supply us with plentiful vitamins A, C, E, and K. Vitamin A is essential to our vision. Vitamins C and K are wonderful in fighting infection and boosting the immune system. Vitamin K is also necessary for blood clotting. Vitamin E is necessary for regulating blood pressure and blood glucose levels, according to WebMD.
- B vitamins are also present in capers. These are our energy boosters and mood stabilizers, suggesting that they play a role in helping with hormonal balance. Niacin is particularly helpful since it seems it can lower LDL cholesterol. Vitamin B9, also known as Folate, has cancer-fighting properties. Some also believe folate is useful in reducing the symptoms of depression.
Caper plants have been cultivated for centuries for culinary and medicinal uses. The tiny caper berry has some pretty impressive medicinal qualities that can’t be overlooked.
Medicinal Uses of Capers
- Because of the positive digestive properties, including the fiber content, people include caper buds in dishes to help promote motility and to decrease flatulence. Many believe they are an appetite stimulant. Thus, they can be helpful for those undergoing therapies that cause nausea and a desire to forgo meals.
- The caper has been used as an anti-parasitic remedy. Some believe that the caper is helpful in expelling intestinal worms, though this effect has not been researched fully.
- Some cultures use the fresh, unpreserved, bud as a skin moisturizer. 100 grams of berries contain .86 grams of natural fat.
- Due to the chemical makeup of the caper berry, it is often used as a blood sugar regulator. People with diabetes may incorporate capers into their diets to help them keep their blood sugar levels in check. Naturally, capers cannot replace medical treatment. However, they can be a very useful addition.
- Capers have antioxidant properties. This is beneficial in fighting damaging free-radicals. Mediterranean cultures believe the caper berry has anti-aging qualities due to the antioxidants
Culinary Uses of Capers
People have used the bud of the caper plant in cooking for centuries. After being picked, it is left to dry, generally in the sun, for approximately 24 hours. After drying, the capers are placed in a brine of water, vinegar, and salt to preserve them. They can also be preserved in olive oil. These pickled capers are a staple in Greek and Italian diets.
People generally use caper berries as a condiment and flavoring agent in many dishes. The saltiness of the brined caper imparts much of the flavor and seasoning in various dishes. In addition to the inherent piquant flavor, the buds are a nutritious component to many dishes. You don’t have to use a lot of them to gain the flavor and health benefits in your meals.
Some of the most popular dishes that incorporate capers are:
The caper plant is widely grown and cultivated for its delicious and nutritious buds. Capers are mainly used in food recipes for their wonderfully piquant and salty flavor. For some, this is an acquired taste. You should use capers sparingly in most dishes, as their flavor is quite powerful. Capers are also full of nutritious substances, making them a healthy addition to meals. The medicinal benefits have been appreciated by European, African, and Asian cultures for ages. So, even in small quantities, you can feel the full effect of capers’ health benefits and nutritional content.