Capsicum (known as bell or sweet pepper in UK, US and Canada and capsicum in Australia and Asia) is the most popular of the chili peppers in the Capsicum annum family. Capsicum belongs to the nightshade (Solanaceae) family of plants, along with chili pepper, cayenne pepper, eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes (except sweet potatoes and yams). Their scientific name Capsicum annum, however, is used to refer not only to bell peppers, but also to wax peppers, cayenne peppers, chili peppers, and jalapeno peppers.
Unlike their fellow capsicum members, bell peppers have characteristic bell shape with crunchy, thick fleshy texture. Because of their characteristic low pungency, that ranges from zero to very minimal hotness, capsicums are generally treated like vegetables instead of spice.
Are green, yellow and red capsicums different?
While we are most accustomed to seeing green capsicums in the supermarket, these delicious vegetables actually come in a wide variety of colors, including yellow, orange, red, purple, brown and black. While green capsicums usually turn yellow-orange and then red this is not always the case. Red, orange, and yellow capsicums are always more ripe than green ones and therefore require more time in the ground before they can be harvested; that’s why they are more expensive.
Not all capsicums start off green, however, nor do green capsicums always mature into other basic colors and depend upon time of harvest, cultivar type and degree of ripening. So all of the bell peppers originate from the same species of plant, and they achieve their different colors naturally, not by any artificial means.
Green capsicums feature an abundance of chlorophyll. Yellow capsicums have more carotenoids- lutein and zeaxanthin. Orange capsicums have more alpha-, beta-, and gamma-carotene. Red capsicums have more lycopene and astaxanthin, two other important carotenoids. Purple ones have anthocyanin. Paprika is a dried powdered form of capsicums, and even though we are used to seeing red paprika in the spice section of the grocery, a paprika can be made from any color of capsicum and it will end up being that same color once dried and ground into powder.
Bell peppers have been cultivated for more than 9000 years, with the earliest cultivation having taken place in South and Central America. While the name “pepper” was given to this food by European colonizers of North America who first came across it in the 1500-1600’s and then transported it back to Europe, the original name for this food in Spanish was pimiento.
Top 18 Curative Health Benefits of Spicy Capsicum:
1. Anti-septic properties: The anti bacterial and anti fungal properties in capsicum when coupled with probiotic foods helps fight food poisoning, yeast and fungal infection problems, like ring-worm, shingles, athlete’s foot.
2. Anti-aging: Capsicum is flush with anti-oxidants that are highly effective in protecting the skin from free radical damage known to cause body and skin aging.
3. Anti coagulant: Rich levels of Vitamin C are very effective in preventing blood clots, thus preventing heart attacks and strokes.
4. Anti Cancer: High levels of anti-oxidant, phytonutrients and carotenoid lycopene in capsicum are found to be effective in the prevention of cancer of the prostate, bladder, cervix and pancreas. They also contain health supportive sulphur compounds that help prevent gastric cancer and esophageal cancer.
5. Heart Health: Oxidative stress is the main culprit in oxidizing the LDLs in our blood. Capsicum’s antioxidants retard the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), vitamin B6 and folate help to lower homocysteine levels and potassium lowers blood pressure.
6. Cold feet: To keep your feet warm during freezing cold winter days, place cut capsicum pieces under your feet or the under sole of your socks.
7. Digestive system: Capsicum’s stimulant qualities help relieve gastrointestinal problems like indigestion, stomach ulcers, colic, dyspepsia, diarrhea and even help reduce excessive flatulence.
8. Immune system: Vitamin C is vital strengthening your immune system, stimulating white cells to fight infections, building strong collagen to support skin and joints, and lowering the risk of arthritis and reducing inflammation.
9. Aids Weight loss: Capsicum contains capsaicin that helps in activating thermo-genesis, and increases the metabolic rate without increasing the heart rate and blood pressure unlike hot peppers.
10. Stops bleeding nose: Vitamin C helps heal, repair, build/strengthen the lining of the mucous membranes to prevent nose bleeds.
11. Vision care: Vitamin A helps support healthy eyesight, especially night vision. They are a rich source of a carotenoid called lutein that helps in lowering the risk of macular degeneration of the eyes. Vitamin C and beta-carotene also protect your eyes against cataracts and astigmatism.
12. Pain relief: Capsaicin in capsicum blocks the transmission of pain, providing relief and is also effective for eliminating headaches and migraines.
13. Soothes Respiratory problems: The high level of vitamin C coupled with flavonoids make capsicum a very good food that helps prevent respiratory problems like asthma, emphysema, wheezing, lung infections, etc.
14. Cures Sore throat: Gargling with Capsicum juice help eliminate a sore throat because of its anti-septic properties.
15. Vitamin B6 and Magnesium: Vitamin B6 along with magnesium reduces anxiety levels, particularly due to pre-menstrual symptoms. Vitamin B6 is also a natural diuretic that reduces bloating and prevents hypertension.
16. Prevents Iron Deficiency: Red capsicum provides almost 300 percent of the daily vitamin C requirement which is essential for the proper absorption of iron and to prevent anemia.
17. Effective Detox: Capsicum helps in clearing out the congested mucus membranes in the nose and lungs and eliminates toxins through sweating.
18. Supports Healthy Hair & Nails: Green capsicum has a high content of natural silicon, which supports healthy hair and nails. Red capsicum is a natural hair growth stimulator and is highly effective in curing hair loss.
Side effects and Precautions:
– Pesticide Residues: According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2014 report “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides,” conventionally grown capsicums are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found.
– Skin and Bowel Irritation: 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 the burning pain by diluting capsaicin concentration and preventing its contact with stomach walls. Avoid touching eyes with pepper contaminated fingers. Rinse eyes thoroughly in cold water to reduce irritation.
– Acid Reflux: They may aggravate underlying gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD) condition.