What is a bell pepper?
The fruit of the bell pepper plant (capsicum annuum) and a member of the Solanaceae family along with the eggplant, tomato and potato, the bell bell pepper is also known as the “sweet bell pepper”. Peppers are a non-hungry relative of chili peppers, which can be eaten raw or cooked and make a nutritious addition to a meal.
Check out our full line of health benefit guides and also check out some of our delicious bell pepper recipes, from roasted peppers with tomatoes and anchovies to double chili beans and roasted peppers.
Nutritional benefits of peppers
One 80g serving of red bell pepper (raw) provides :
0.6 g of protein
0.2 g of fat
3.4 g of carbohydrates
1.8 g of fiber
173 mg of potassium
60 mcg folate
101 mg of vitamin C
It is interesting to note that the nutritional intake of peppers varies according to their color, with red varieties providing more potassium, vitamin C and folate than their yellow, orange or green counterparts. However, immature green peppers are significantly richer than their mature red counterparts in protective plant compounds known as polyphenols.
As with other vegetables, the nutritional value will be affected by preparation and cooking methods. Pre-roasted peppers, often found in jars or trays in delicatessens, lose up to 25% of their vitamin C content. The length of time the bell pepper is cooked, the temperature used, the method of cooking and the preservation techniques used all affect the loss of vitamin C. Dry heat, such as that used for sautéing or roasting peppers, is preferable to boiling or steaming.
1. May reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Diet plays an important role in delaying the development of age-related vision loss. In particular, two carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin, when consumed in sufficient quantities, appear to improve eye health. They work by protecting the retina from oxidative damage. Red peppers are particularly rich in these carotenoids, as well as other protective nutrients like vitamin C. Many studies suggest that regular consumption of foods rich in carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin, may reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
2. May reduce the risk of anemia
Anemia is a common condition, especially in women and girls of childbearing age, and results from a lack of oxygen in the blood. One of the most common causes is iron deficiency. Peppers provide modest amounts of iron, but are remarkably rich in vitamin C, with half a bell pepper providing up to 100 mg. This is important because vitamin C increases the absorption of iron in the intestine and many studies confirm that a diet rich in vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables leads to better iron absorption. Peppers are also helpful because they contain vitamin B6, which is needed to make hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in the body.
3. May protect against certain chronic diseases
Peppers are rich in antioxidants, which are associated with better health and protection against diseases like heart disease and cancer. For example, peppers are particularly rich in antioxidant vitamins, including vitamins C and E and beta-carotene. They also provide abundant amounts of polyphenols, the protective plant compounds that include lutein, quercetin and capsanthin, the latter of which is particularly rich in ripe red peppers. Being a concentrate of antioxidants suggests that peppers have a strong anti-inflammatory capacity and are likely to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Unfortunately, to date, large-scale studies that specifically examine bell pepper consumption on the incidence of chronic disease are lacking.
4. Bell pepper may delay age-related memory loss
Interesting results from animal studies suggest that bell pepper consumption may be effective in preventing memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease. Compounds in ripe peppers appear to inhibit an enzyme that releases amyloid proteins – proteins that build up around nerve fibers and contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Further research suggests that the many plant compounds in peppers, including phenols, carotenoids and flavonoids, may be responsible for these findings.
5. Bell pepper may have blood sugar-lowering effects
Animal studies suggest that peppers help manage blood sugar. However, while there is growing evidence that it is the polyphenols, found in plants such as peppers, that have a beneficial influence on blood sugar levels and appear to help reduce the risk of diabetes, more human studies are needed. It is hoped that any future research will determine how much of a polyphenol-rich food is an effective intake.
Are peppers safe for everyone?
Peppers are a healthy food for most people, although some choose to avoid them because they find peppers difficult to digest and can trigger heartburn.
Others experience allergic symptoms, although this is rare, as cross-reactivity is more likely in people with pollen allergies.
If you have any doubts about including peppers in your diet, consult your doctor or a dietitian for advice.+
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