Fresh capers can add significant flavor to a dish, but you might be surprised at the health benefits. Here’s why capers may be a healthy choice.
Fresh capers are an often overlooked garnish, but they make a tasty addition to Italian dishes of all types. When used as a seasoning in pasta and salad dishes, capers add an extra burst of salty flavor and give a dish more visual appeal. While intrigued by the taste, few people appreciate the health and nutritional properties that fresh capers have. There are a variety of reasons to feel good when you pop a dish garnished with capers into your mouth. What are the health benefits of capers?
Their Medicinal Properties
Capers have a long history of being used medicinally dating back to early Greece culture where they were used to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatism. Capers have also been used throughout history as a treatment for excessive flatulence. It’s been claimed that they promote health liver function, although there’s little scientific evidence to support this. Fresh capers contain two bioflavonoids, rutin and quercetin which have strong antioxidant properties. This may account for some of their anti-inflammatory effects.
Do They Protect DNA?
In a study published on the website Science Daily, it was found that adding extracts of fresh capers to grilled meat helped to prevent the formation of compounds that could damage DNA, the cell’s genetic material. These compounds are thought to play a role in the development of heart disease and cancer. It doesn’t take many capers to see this effect. The amount of caper extract needed to reduce DNA damage was equivalent to the amount that would typically be used as a garnish or to season food.
What They Share in Common With Broccoli
Could capers be as healthy as broccoli? One health benefit shared by both capers and broccoli is the presence of isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates help the liver breakdown cancer causing chemicals that could potentially damage the cell’s DNA. These natural chemicals are thought to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. It’s the isothiocyanates present in capers that give them their pungent taste.
Fresh capers are also low in fat and calories and are a relatively good source of fiber and iron. Caution should be used by those who have hypertension or heart disease. Capers are very high in sodium with over 250 mg. of sodium in a single tablespoon and should be eaten in moderation. Fortunately, their rather pungent, salty taste reduces the need for additional salt.
The Bottom Line?
Enjoy fresh capers in moderation, but be careful if you’re on a low sodium diet.