What are Capers? | Health Benefits & Downsides of Eating Capers

What are Capers?

Capers are the unripe buds of flowers of Capparis Spinosa. They are also called Flinders rose. Capers are perennial winter deciduous plants and are most commonly cultivated in Spain, Italy, and Greece.(1)

Capers range in size from peppercorn to a size of small green olive. As they are small in size, they are salted and pickled. They are even used for garnishing. Larger-sized capers are stronger in flavor and the smaller ones are richer in the aroma.

Health Benefits & Downsides of Eating Capers

A tablespoon of canned capers contains 2 calories, 0.2 grams of protein, 0.4 grams of carbohydrates, 9% of the daily value of sodium, 4% of the daily value of copper, 2 % of the daily value of Vitamin K, 1% of the daily value of Riboflavin, 1% of the daily value of iron and 1% of the daily value of Magnesium.(2)

Health Benefits of Capers

Capers are known for numerous health benefits, which include the following:

Good Antioxidant Sources

Capers are rich antioxidant sources and help in neutralizing free radicals and preventing cell damage.(3) Antioxidants reduce inflammation and also protect against various chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Test tube studies show capers to be a good source of antioxidants like quercetin and rutin.(1) Both these compounds have the ability to enhance wound healing and promote healthy blood sugar levels.

Supports Weight Loss

Capers are loaded with flavor and are low in calories. This makes them an excellent ingredient in weight loss dishes. Losing weight can be beneficial for overall health. Swapping capers for higher-calorie ingredients can make the dish flavorful along with reducing the calorie intake, helping in losing weight.

Has Diabetes Fighting Properties

Capers are known for their diabetes-fighting properties. There are certain compounds in capers that help in sugar management. They enhance the uptake of sugar by the tissues, reduce carbohydrate absorption, and protect the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.(4) A study was done on 30 people with diabetes. They were given tonic containing caper extract 3 times a day. It was observed that it prevented an increase in blood sugar and triglyceride level.(5)

One more study was done on 54 people with diabetes. It was found, consuming 400 mg of caper fruit extract, 3 times a day for 2 months led to a significant improvement in the fasting glucose level and also helped in long-term blood sugar management.(6)

Downsides of Eating Caper

Capers contain 9% of the daily value of sodium. Sodium may be an important aspect of health, but consuming it in large quantities may increase blood pressure levels.(7)

High blood pressure may further increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.(8)

Increased sodium intake may further increase the risk of other health conditions such as stomach cancer.(9)

Another side effect of eating capers in excessive quantities is increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Sodium decreases bone density causing the bones to lose strength. This prevents the body from absorbing calcium that is crucial for bone building, affecting bone health. For those already suffering from osteoporosis, it is better to stay away from capers.

Capers should also be avoided by pregnant females and those undergoing surgery

Due to the above adverse effects, it is advisable to eat capers in moderation.

How to Prepare Capers?

Capers can be obtained from any supermarket and can be found in a different type of specialty and shops containing healthy foods.

Capers can be enjoyed with salmon, cream cheese, and freshly grown black peppers. They can be sprinkled in creamy scrambled eggs for a burst of flavor. They can be sautéed in lemon juice and butter sauce to prepare chicken piccata. It can be added to stuffed peppers along with black olives, anchovies, and cheese.

Before adding them to any recipe it should be kept in mind that capers are very salty and their quantity in the recipes should be adjusted with other ingredients accordingly. You can also rinse off the excess salt from the caper before adding them to any recipe.

Capers are used widely to season and garnish Mediterranean cuisines. They are low in calories and rich in numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They can be included in the diet while keeping their sodium content in mind.