Bell peppers are members of the nightshade family, which includes potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant. They are some of the most versatile vegetables in your kitchen. Green and purple peppers have a slightly bitter flavor, while the red, orange and yellows bell peppers have a sweet flavor, and lack the fiery capsaicin of their spicier family members, the jalapeno and habanero.
Available in a range of colors today, all varieties of bell peppers can help you reach your daily recommended vegetable intake of 2.5 cups for women or 3 cups for men, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The specific nutrient content of bell peppers differs depending on their color, but any bell pepper makes for a healthy addition to your diet as it’s packed with essential nutrients and vitamins.
Bell peppers have been cultivated for more than 9000 years, with records of the earliest cultivation in South and Central America. The name ‘pepper’ was given by European colonizers of North America who first came across it in the 1500-1600’s and then transported it back to Europe. However, the original name in Spanish was ‘pimiento’.
Do Bell Peppers Really Help In Weight Loss?
[pullquote]Red bell peppers do not contain capsaicin, which is what makes peppers hot and causes us to sweat, but they do have a mild thermogenic action that increases our metabolism without increasing our heart rate and blood pressure like the hot peppers do.[/pullquote]Capsaicin found in hot peppers (including chilis and cayenne powder), has been shown to boost metabolism as well as suppress appetite, at least slightly. Over time, this effect might give you an extra edge when it comes to weight loss. But it won’t melt the pounds away. However, recent research has shown that sweet red peppers can activate thermogenesis and increase metabolic rate.
Red bell peppers do not contain capsaicin, which is what makes peppers hot and causes us to sweat, but they do have a mild thermogenic action that increases our metabolism without increasing our heart rate and blood pressure like the hot peppers do.
Research shows that people who don’t typically eat spicy foods are most likely to benefit from turning the heat up a notch. Capsaicin seems to affect metabolism by raising body temperature, which uses up more energy.
Dihydrocapsiate (DCT), a cousin of capsaicin, DCT is found in a strain of mild, sweet chili peppers, sometimes called CH-19 peppers. Researchers found that DCT in capsule form acts similarly to capsaicin, minus the fiery sensation. In a small study, people who took it while following a high-protein, very low-calorie diet for a month burned about an extra 100 calories per day. However, they didn’t lose more weight than people taking a placebo pill, perhaps because their diet was already very low in calories.
Piperine is found in dried black pepper and may prevent new fat cells from forming. But scientists have only studied it mouse cells, so there’s no proof that it will work in people. It’s calorie-free and won’t raise your blood pressure but just don’t count on them to melt your weight off.
Bell pepper contains an impressive list of plant nutrients that are found to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.
1. Low calories
Unlike other fellow chili peppers, it has very less calories and fats. One cup of chopped pepper contains between 30 and 40 calories. Peppers offer a sweet flavor and satisfying crunch, which makes them a good substitute for high-calorie chips in dips such as hummus or salsa. Sauteed peppers also make a healthy accompaniment to chicken fajitas and steak. Add peppers to salads or casseroles to boost serving sizes without adding notable calories.
2. Anti-bacterial and Anti-carcinogenic
Sweet (bell) pepper contains small levels of alkaloid compound, capsaicin. Early laboratory studies on experimental mammals suggest that capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. When used judiciously, it also found to reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels in obese individuals.
3. Chock-block of minerals
Bell pepper has adequate levels of essential minerals. Some of the main minerals in it are iron, copper, zinc, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and selenium. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Selenium is an anti-oxidant micro-mineral that acts as a co-factor for enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
4. Good source of vitamin B
Bell peppers are a good source of B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin, and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential because the body requires them from external sources to replenish. Moreover, B-complex vitamins facilitate cellular metabolism through various enzymatic functions.
5. Anti-cancer benefits
Bell peppers are valuable sources of health-supportive sulfur compounds. Several recent studies have taken a close look at the presence of enzymes in bell peppers called cysteine S-conjugate beta-lyases and their role in a sulfur-containing metabolic pathway called the thiomethyl shunt.
These enzymes and this pathway may be involved in some of the anti-cancer benefits that bell pepper has shown in some animal and lab studies. They may serve as the basis for some of the anti-cancer benefits shown by green, yellow, red and orange vegetable intake in recent studies.
6. Rich source of phyto-nutrients
The actual nutrient and phytonutrient content of bell peppers are impressive and also somewhat surprising given the very low-fat nature of this vegetable (some nutrients and phyto-nutrients are fat-soluble, hence for them to be present in the food, it would need to contain some fat).
There is far less than 1 gram of total fat in one cup of sliced bell pepper. However, this very small amount of fat is enough to provide a reliable storage spot for bell pepper’s fat-soluble nutrients, including its fat-soluble carotenoids and vitamin E.
7. Good source of vitamin E
Bell pepper is a very good source of vitamin E at about 1.45 milligrams per cup, and it contains more than 30 different carotenoids, including excellent amounts of beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. Both of these carotenoids provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits.
8. Rich in anti-oxidants
While research studies have tended to focus on carotenoids as the hallmark antioxidants in bell pepper, this vegetable actually provides us with a very broad range of antioxidants. Bell pepper is also a good source of the antioxidant mineral manganese and flavonoids, carotenoids, and hydroxycinnamic acids
Bell pepper contains concentrated amounts of beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. (One cup of freshly sliced red bell pepper contains about 1,500 micrograms of beta-carotene, or the same as one third of a small carrot.)
9. Good source vitamin C
Bell peppers provide a source of vitamin C or ascorbic acid. 100 g red pepper provides about 127.7 µg or about 213% of RDA of vitamin C. Choose either pepper to provide your entire days’ worth of vitamin C, i.e. 75 milligrams for women or 90 milligrams for men, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Regular consumption of foods rich in this vitamin helps the human body protect from scurvy; develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity) and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
10. Good source of vitamin A
Bell pepper boosts your intake of beta-carotene, a source of vitamin A. Beta-carotene helps provide red bell peppers with their vibrant color, but is also found in green bell pepper. Green bell pepper contains 551 international units of vitamin A per cup which is 24 percent of the recommended intake for women and 18 percent for men, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Red bell pepper contains more vitamin A, almost 4,665 IU, or your entire vitamin A intake requirement.
11. Good source of vitamin K
USDA studies showed that the vitamin K (phylloquinone) content in peppers, including hot varieties, may affect blood coagulation, and may also play a role in protecting against osteoporosis, since patients with reduced bone density show lower levels of this nutrient. Interestingly enough, sautéed peppers contain higher amounts of vitamin K than raw peppers.
12. Good source of fiber
Like many vegetables, bell peppers contain fiber. A cup of chopped green pepper contains 2.5 grams of fiber, while red pepper boasts 3.1 grams. Eat either type of bell pepper to reach your target fiber intake of 14 grams per 1,000 calories, recommended by Colorado State University.
13. Excellent source of carotenoids
Red, yellow, and orange peppers their colour, as well as some of their noteworthy health effects, from plant pigments called carotenoids. These pigments act like sunscreen, protecting the ripening peppers from sun damage. As it turns out, those pigments have a similar safeguarding effect on us. Like other antioxidants, carotenoids also help boost immunity and fight cancer and heart disease. They’re valuable for vision as well.
Bell pepper is not only an excellent source of carotenoids, but also a source of over 30 different members of the carotenoid nutrient family. A recent study from Spain took a close look vitamin C, vitamin E, and six of these carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin) in all commonly eaten foods and found that only two vegetables contained at least two-thirds of all the listed nutrients. One of these foods was tomato, and the other was sweet bell pepper. Bell pepper alone provided 12% of the total zeaxanthin found in the participants’ diets. (Bell pepper also provided 7% of the participants’ total vitamin C intake.)
How Hot are Bell Peppers?
In comparison with some other pepper varieties, bell peppers don’t scale up much in the ‘hotness’ category. When it’s red, it may be sweeter, as are some yellow and orange varieties. The heat of peppers is measured in ‘Scoville heat units’. By that scale, a green pepper scores a zero on the scale, jalapeño peppers earn around 2,500-4,000, and Mexican habaneros a whopping 200,000 to 500,000 units.
How to Choose Bell Peppers
. Bell peppers are available all year-round, but they’re most abundant and least expensive in early summer, when vegetables are more likely to come from a farm closer to home
. Look for firm peppers with taut skins; avoid ones with wrinkles or cracks.
.To get peppers with thick, juicy walls, choose those that feel heavy for their size.
.If you want to maximize the availability of vitamin C and carotenoids from bell pepper, allow it to ripen. Recent studies have shown that the vitamin C content and the carotenoid content of bell pepper both increase with ripening.
.When the vitamin C and carotenoid content of bell peppers increases, so does their total antioxidant capacity, which can be a source of great health benefits. Growers can allow bell peppers to ripen on the plant prior to harvest (which means that you will be able to purchase them in the grocery store in a ripened state).
.If harvested early in the ripening stage, bell peppers can still be allowed to ripen post-harvest and after you’ve purchased them and brought them home from the market. In one recent study, the vitamin C in not-fully-ripe bell peppers continued to increase during home storage over a period of about 10 days.
.A good rule of thumb is to judge less by their basic color and more by their color quality as well as overall texture and feel. Whether green, red, yellow, or orange, optimally ripe bell peppers will have deep, vivid colors, feel heavy for their size, and be firm enough to yield only slightly to pressure.
Does Grilling Affect the Quality of Bell Peppers?
Yes, higher heat cooking can damage some of the delicate phytonutrients in bell peppers. In one recent study from Turkey, the effects of grilling on sweet green bell peppers were studied with respect to one particular phytonutrient, the flavonoid called luteolin.
Prior to grilling, the bell peppers were found to contain about 46 milligrams/kilogram of this important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoid. After grilling for 7-8 minutes at a temperature of 150°C (302°F), about 40 percent of the luteolin was found to be destroyed.
Side Effects and Precautions
.Capsaicin in chilies, especially cayenne peppers, initially elicit inflammation when it comes in contact with the mucus membranes of oral cavity, throat and stomach, and soon produces severe burning sensation that is perceived as ‘hot’ through free nerve endings in the mucosa. Eating cold yogurt helps reduce this burning pain by diluting capsaicin concentration, and preventing its contact with stomach walls.
.Avoid touching eyes with pepper contaminated fingers. If done so, rinse eyes thoroughly in cold water to reduce irritation.
.They may aggravate underlying gastro-esophageal reflux (GER) condition.