Believe it or not, capsicums have been part of the human diet since 7,500 BC.1 And thanks to its crunchy flavor, versatility as an ingredient, and bright colors, this popular fruit is still going strong. To top it off, when you tuck into capsicum or bell pepper, you get a plethora of health benefits as well. Have a look!
1. Boosts Immunity And Keeps You Healthy
Capsicums are an excellent source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). While 100 g of red capsicum contains 127.7 mg of vitamin C, the yellow one contains a whopping 183.5 mg, and the green one has a modest 80.4 mg.2 Considering that the daily recommended vitamin C intake is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for adult men, capsicums are impressively rich sources.3
Getting plenty of vitamin C in your diet helps boost immunity, keep off the common cold and flu, maintain healthy gums, and heal cuts and burns faster. It also protects against asthma and age-related macular degeneration, and even prevents preeclampsia in pregnant women. Vitamin C is required to produce collagen, which is a normal part of cartilage, so a diet rich in vitamin C can help prevent osteoarthritis. Being a rich antioxidant, vitamin C can help protect against heart disease and hypertension too.4 The list is really endless!
2. Is Packed With Antioxidants
Capsicums are chock-full of antioxidants, the red ones more so. In fact, a study has established that among common vegetables, red peppers, along with beetroot and broccoli, have the highest cellular antioxidant activity.5
For getting the most antioxidants out of capsicum, stir-fry or roast them instead of steaming or boiling which tends to deplete the antioxidant properties of the fruit.6
Antioxidants are crucial for maintaining good health. They keep harmful free radicals in check and thereby help prevent many illnesses and chronic diseases. For example, antioxidants can help protect the cardiovascular system and improve brain and nervous system health.7
3. Reduces Risk Of Heart Disease
Capsicums are also known to have anti-inflammatory properties due to their capsaicin content. So it may offer some amount of protection against cardiovascular disease.8 In fact, various studies claim that in addition to fighting cardiovascular disease, capsaicin has beneficial effects in gastrointestinal conditions, obesity, skin problems, bladder problems, and various cancers.9
4. Lowers Blood Pressure And Risk Of Stroke
Capsicums are rich in potassium, with 100 g of red capsicum providing 211 mg and the green and yellow varieties providing 175 mg and 212 mg, respectively.10 The daily recommended potassium for adults is 4700 mg.11
A diet rich in potassium can help regulate blood pressure (thereby also guarding against heart disease), maintain healthy bones, and lower risk of stroke. Potassium can also guard against muscle cramps and stomach ailments.12
5. Helps Prevent Cancer
The high vitamin C content in capsicums also make them a great ally in fighting cancer. Vitamin C can prevent the formation of carcinogens, and, through its antioxidant function, reduces the oxidative damage that often leads to cancer. Studies show that eating foods that are rich in vitamin C can help prevent cancer in the skin, breast, lung, colon or rectum, esophagus, stomach, mouth, and larynx or pharynx.13 14
Red capsicums in particular also contain high levels of a pigment called beta-cryptoxanthin which has been found to cut cancer risk.15
6. Is Great For Your Skin
Snacking on capsicums also gives you clear, healthy skin! Due to its anti-inflammatory properties and vitamin C content, capsicums can help you fight the good fight against acne.16
7. Promotes Better Vision
The vitamin A content of capsicum makes them really good for your vision. A half cup of red capsicum can provide you with 47 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A.17 Vitamin A is also a strong antioxidant and plenty of it in your diet can help regenerate cells, boost immunity, and maintain healthy tissues in your stomach, mouth, and intestines.18
8. Helps Pregnant Women Tank Up On Folate
Folic acid is a nutrient highly recommended for pregnant women because it helps prevent spina bifida and also supports the placenta.21 The daily recommended folate for pregnant women is 600 mcg and 100 g of red capsicums can provide a healthy 8 percent of that.22
Pro tip: Get more of the red capsicums because they are proven to contain significantly more dietary folate than green ones.23
9. Is A Good Source Of Dietary Fiber
Differences Among Capsicums Of Various Colors
The most common colors of capsicum you’re likely to see at the supermarket are green, red/orange, and yellow. While none of them pack any heat, there are subtle variations in taste. Green capsicums tend to be ever so slightly bitter, red/orange ones are sweeter, and yellow ones tend to have tannic notes.26
Green colored capsicums are technically considered immature while red, orange, and yellow capsicums are ripe.27 As we’ve discussed before, red capsicums are richer in antioxidants, vitamin A, fiber, and folic acid, while yellow capsicums have the highest quantity of vitamin C.
Getting More Capsicum Into Your Diet
Next time you’re making an omelet, quiche, scrambled eggs, pasta, pizza, or just a sandwich for lunch, throw some chopped capsicum in there for added crunch and color. Capsicums are obviously excellent in any Mexican dish as well – burritos, fajitas, tacos, enchiladas, you name it!
Capsicums add great flavor, texture, and visual appeal to salads, stir-fries, soups/stews, and grilled kebabs. They perk up nearly any dish and can be eaten raw, lightly sauteed, or fully cooked.
Hollowed-out capsicums can also be stuffed with veggie and/or meat fillings of your choice. Capsicums are sturdy so they hold stuffing really well. From quinoa and rice and couscous to minced turkey, beef, chicken, and even baked eggs, they all taste delicious when stuffed inside capsicums.
You can also cut capsicums into wide strips and use it as dippers. If you love your hummus, guacamole, and salsa, dip away with capsicum strips next time as a healthy alternative to tortilla chips.
|↑1||Capsicums: Innovative Uses of an Ancient Crop. Purdue University.|
|↑2, ↑10||USDA Food Composition Databases. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).|
|↑3||Vitamin C. National Institutes of Health (NIH).|
|↑4, ↑13||Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid). University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑5||Song, Wei, Christopher M. Derito, M. Keshu Liu, Xiangjiu He, Mei Dong, and Rui Hai Liu. “Cellular antioxidant activity of common vegetables.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 58, no. 11 (2010): 6621-6629.|
|↑6||Hwang, In Guk, Young Jee Shin, Seongeung Lee, Junsoo Lee, and Seon Mi Yoo. “Effects of different cooking methods on the antioxidant properties of red pepper (Capsicum annuum L.).” Preventive nutrition and food science 17, no. 4 (2012): 286.|
|↑7||The health benefits of antioxidants. Colorado State University.|
|↑8||Maximize Your Nutrients From Peppers. The Ohio State University.|
|↑9||Sharma, Surinder Kumar, Amarjit Singh Vij, and Mohit Sharma. “Mechanisms and clinical uses of capsaicin.” European journal of pharmacology 720, no. 1 (2013): 55-62.|
|↑11||Potassium in diet. Medline Plus.|
|↑12||Potassium. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑14||Vitamin C. NIH.|
|↑15||Common Food Pigment May Fight Cancer. Tufts University.|
|↑16||3 Ways Nutrition Can Promote Healthier Skin. Bastyr University.|
|↑17||Vitamin A. NIH.|
|↑18||Healthy Lifestyle, Healthy Body. North Dakota State University.|
|↑19||Peppers. University of the District of Columbia.|
|↑20||USDA Food Composition Databases. USDA.|
|↑21||Nutrients & Vitamins For Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑23||Phillips, Katherine M., David M. Ruggio, Mehdi Ashraf-Khorassani, and David B. Haytowitz. “Difference in folate content of green and red sweet peppers (Capsicum annuum) determined by liquid chromatography− mass spectrometry.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 54, no. 26 (2006): 9998-10002.|
|↑24||Bell Peppers. USDA.|
|↑25||Dietary Fiber. US National Library of Medicine.|
|↑26||Know your chile peppers. New Mexico State University.|
|↑27||Is a Green Pepper a Pepper?. University of Florida.|