Bell peppers and a host of pepper cousins are some of the most versatile vegetables in the kitchen, no matter where you go in the world. They make a yummy sauté with onions, and find themselves sliced or diced in salads, soups, and casseroles. They can be stuffed, grilled, placed on sandwiches, or simply sliced for a fresh, flavorful, and crunchy snack. Try them with a spicy cumin-enhanced dip, or, as the rhyme goes, pickled.
In comparison with some other pepper varieties, bell peppers may not earn 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.” A green pepper scores a zero on the scale, jalapeño peppers earn around 2,500-4,000, and Mexican habañeros 200,000 to 500,000 units. There are numerous types, making more than one variety useful in one dish, for the flavor, not just the color. Pepper varieties include: chile, banana, Hungarian, cayenne, serrano, and the fiery ones already mentioned.
Health Benefits of Bell Peppers
Perhaps it's the intense color variety, or maybe it's the flavor that gives it away, but bell peppers have more than their share of vitamins and minerals. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C, like green peppers, for instance, which contain more than twice the vitamin C of an orange, helps protect against scurvy, boosts the immune system, lowers inflammation in the arteries that leads to heart disease, diabetes, and cholesterol build up, and scavenges harmful free radicals from the body. Other nutritional benefits of bell peppers include thiamin, niacin, folate, magnesium, and copper.
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.1 Interestingly enough, sautéed peppers contain higher amounts of vitamin K than raw peppers.
Bell Pepper Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie
Studies Done on Bell Peppers
Green, red, and yellow bell peppers were studied to find their own unique nutrients. All contained phenolic compounds, ascorbic acid, carotenoids, and free radical scavenging activity. Green peppers showed the highest phenolic activity, but less of a carotenoid content than the red and yellow varieties. The red peppers had the most ascorbic acid and a higher level of free radical scavenging activity.2
Researchers conducted studies plus 12 years of follow-up on men exposed to asbestos to find the relationship between vitamin C-rich food intake, particularly green peppers, and a lowered risk of prostate cancer. Results showed those with increased amounts of green pepper and broccoli in their diet to have a lower incidence of the disease. Scientists attributed lycopene, β-carotene, vitamins E, C, and A, and retinoids in bell peppers in particular as compounds that may significantly reduce prostate cancer risk.3
Bell Pepper Healthy Recipes:
Crudités with Tangy Garlic-Scallion Dip
|1 red bell pepper or 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
||1 yellow bell pepper or ½ head cauliflower, cut in florets
||8 celery stalks
||2 tablespoons diced scallions
|2 tablespoons minced garlic
||1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
||2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
||3 tablespoons almond butter
|2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
||15 oz cooked chickpeas, drained
||3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
||½ teaspoon Tabasco
|2 tablespoons gomasio (ground sesame seeds and sea salt)
||½ teaspoon sea salt
- Cut peppers and celery into strips.
- In a food processor, combine scallions, garlic, ginger, tamari, almond butter, rice syrup, chickpeas, vinegar, and hot sauce.
- Blend for about 4 minutes.
- With the food processor running, add the gomasio and salt and blend for another 30 seconds.
- Place dip in a bowl and place on a chilled platter. Spread the cutup vegetables around dip bowl and serve.
This recipe makes 10 servings.
(From Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type by Dr. Joseph Mercola)
Bell Pepper Fun Facts
Peppers are members of the Solanaceae or Nightshade family, a wide-ranging species with more than 2,000 types of plants, some of them edible, some ornamental, some medicinal, and others poisonous. Bell peppers are related to tomato, potato, tobacco, eggplant, and petunia.
Just think of all the wonderful dishes you can create with this one, endlessly versatile garden vegetable. Whether it's mild, sweet, or hot, peppers add a spicy dimension to foods that would be bland and colorless without them. Good thing they're good for you, too, with the impressive amounts of vitamin A, C, K, thiamin, niacin, folate, copper and magnesium they offer. While peppers vary somewhat in the health benefits they provide, there's no question – it's well worth trying several different types to experiment with the flavors, and actually feel good while doing it.