THE FOOD SERIES: Bell Peppers
Not only is it delicious and refreshing, but it gives any dish that instant pop of colour and crunch!
Bell peppers, also known as sweet peppers or capsicum. They are part of the nightshade family which also includes potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant. This edible nightshade foods have been known to create concern due to its close association to the deadly nightshades that are poisonous. Rest assured, for most people these veggies pose no threat or harm but are very beneficial. However, for those whose immune system have been compromised, such as people who have an autoimmune disease, or people who suffer from chronic pain such as arthritis, they may want to eliminate or try avoiding nightshades.
Sweet bell peppers are crunchy, plump and features either three or four lobes. They range in a variety of colours, from green, red, yellow, orange, purple, brown and even black. The green and purple peppers are slightly more bitter than the rest, while the others are sweeter and more fruit-like.
While ‘pepper’ is in the name, they are not ‘hot’ in that they are not spicy like some other peppers out there (e.g. cayenne, chill, and jalapeño peppers), this is because the substance that controls the spice/hotness of peppers is called capsaicin and are found in only small amounts in bell peppers.
Bell peppers are native to Mexico, Central America, and South America. Today bell peppers are produced in many parts of the world such as China, Indonesia, Turkey, Spain and the United States.
One cup sliced raw red peppers:
5.5 g carbs
1.8 g fiber
0.3 g fat
0.9 g protein
117.5 mg vitamin C
2880.4 ug vitamin A
0.3 mg vitamin B6
Vitamin A, specifically carotenoids are found mainly in plant sources. Vitamin A plays a huge role in maintaining eye health and aid in the growth and healing of tissues. Vitamin A also support the immune system by maintaining structural integrity and health mucous lining; optimizing white blood cells and reducing effects of food allergies. A deficiency in Vitamin A may result in night blindness and or poor eye health; and when chronically deficient may increase the risk of infection and cancer.
Because of its high Vitamin A, C, and B6 content, bell peppers provide high antioxidant benefits, offering a broad range of antioxidants. If you are unfamiliar with antioxidants, they protect our cells from free radicals, such as all the toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis (e.g. smoke, pollutants). These benefits have been found helpful on prevention of cardiovascular disease and prevention of type 2 diabetes.
It is important to note that to maximize the availability of Vitamin C and carotenoids in bell peppers, it is best to allow the bell pepper to ripen! Ripe bell peppers provide a deeper and more vivid colour and will feel heavier for their size. Either purchase peppers that are ripe, or allow them to ripen at home once purchased. When choosing bell peppers, look for ones that have green and fresh looking stems, they should be heavy relative to their size. Avoid overly ripen ones, such as those that are blemished, soft, or wrinkly. Not optimally ripe bell peppers should keep in the refrigerator for around 7-10 days when unwashed; over time the Vitamin C and carotenoids will actually increase! However, if they are already ripe, the Vitamin C content will slowly start to decrease, so consume them as soon as you can!
WAYS TO ENJOY
Honestly, what can you NOT add bell peppers to…
Especially when they are in season, bell peppers make for a fantastic ingredient in salads, adding in that refreshing crunch, texture and beautiful colour. If you’ve seen my instagram posts, you would often see bell peppers featured in my salads.
As a snack
Eat it raw with your choice of dip or spread such as hummus, pesto, cashew cheese… (If you’re based in Vancouver check out spread by Spread’em Kitchen Co. it’s amazing!)
In a dressing
For a quick, delicious raw and creamy dressing try blending red bell pepper, tahini and lemon juice. Super easy! If you have some leftover roasted red pepper, try this vegan and paleo recipe by Living Lean With Erin!
- Paprika is actually made from bell peppers! Any colour of bell pepper will end up being red once it is dried and ground into powder.
- Because they have seeds and come from flowering plants, bell peppers are actually fruits.
- Many red, orange and yellow bell peppers are actually very ripe green bell peppers. However, not all green peppers will end up maturing into those colours, nor are these peppers green to begin with.
- Bell peppers tops the list of highest level of Vitamin C, yes more than citrus fruits!
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES / REFERENCES