Sweet pepper, hot peppers, red, orange, yellow, green peppers. Sounds like a Dr. Seuss rhyme? Well the fun doesn’t stop there, this joyful, colorful family of fruits has a whole party of nutrients and benefits ready for you to enjoy. RSVP today!
Technically peppers are a fruit, but like as it often happens with tomatoes, and even avocados, most people classify them as vegetables. In fact peppers are part of the nightshade family which includes potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant. Their scientific name is Capsicum annuum. Regardless of whether you think of them as fruits or vegetables, just think of them, and do it often, they have many healthy qualities to offer. Peppers are available year round, and depending on a very small variation, they are subcategorized into hot pepper, or sweet peppers
Peppers are originally from Central and South America, and they have been cultivated for 9,000 years. But they started spreading around the world in the 1500-1600′s. In fact, it is said that it was Christopher Columbus, himself who “discovered” and named sweet and hot peppers in the New World. Thanks to the Spanish and Portuguese explorers of the time, peppers, as well as tomatoes, made their way around the globe and became an essential component in dishes from countries all over the world.
When buying peppers, choose peppers that have bright colors, taut skin, and that don’t have any soft spots, blemishes and darkened areas. Their stems should be green and fresh looking. Peppers should be firm and heavy for their size. Keep in mind that it is the brilliant hues of their colors that are responsible for their nutritional appeal. Let’s not forget that the brighter the color of a fruit or vegetable, the highest concentration of carotenoids and other antioxidants it has.
With that said, let’s talk about the health benefits and nutritional content of peppers. A small red, yellow or orange pepper provides three times the recommended daily dose of vitamin C, which is more than any citrus fruit. Keep in mind that Vitamin C helps maintain a healthy immune system, as well as healthy skin, mucous membranes and bones.
Together with vitamin C, bell peppers are a great source of vitamins A, K and B-6. Also vitamin E and the rest of the B family, with the exception of B-12. The mineral content of green bell peppers includes manganese, potassium, copper, magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and a trace of fluoride. Peppers are rich in fiber, both soluble and non soluble, which helps lower cholesterol and prevent colon cancer. They are also a good source of folic acid, very important for pregnancy health. This amazing combination of nutrients reduces homocysteine levels, boosts immunity and protect agains degenerative diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and risks associated with smoking such as emphysema. Peppers also help reduce inflammation, key benefit to the treatment of diseases like arthritis and asthma. Vitamin K promotes proper blood clotting, strengthens bones, and helps protect cells from oxidative damage.Together with cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or allium vegetables like onions and garlic, bell peppers are a valuable sources of sulfur compounds, very beneficial to our health. Bell peppers also contain a wide variety of phytochemicals, including chlorogenic acid, zeaxanthin, and coumeric acid.
When comparing the nutrient values of the different peppers, studies have found that red bell peppers have significantly higher levels of nutrients than their other fellow peppers. Red peppers are one of the few foods that contain lycopene, a carotenoid which may lower the risk of various cancers, including prostate and cervical cancer. Beta-cryptoxanthin, another carotenoid in red peppers, has been found to help in the prevention of lung cancer related to smoking and second hand smoke. They are also rich in beta-carotene.
Orange peppers are nature’s best source of zeaxanthin, a compound known to protect against cataracts and macular degeneration.
The primary substance that spices up hot peppers is called capsaicin. Capsaicin acts on pain receptors, and may help reduce pain. The capsaicin in hot peppers has been shown to decrease blood cholesterol and triglycerides, to boost immunity, and to reduce the risk of stomach ulcers. Yes, you read right, as opposed to popular belief that hot peppers aggravated ulcers, they may actually help kill bacteria in the stomach that can lead to ulcers.
Both hot and sweet peppers contain substances that have been shown to increase the body’s heat production and oxygen consumption for about 20 minutes after eating. This means your body is burning extra calories, for those of you interested in loosing some weight. Capsinoids, which are present in peppers, have been said to boost metabolism and may aid weight loss as a consequence.
Health experts talk about eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced, alkaline diet. Well peppers seem to have listened. They offer a wide arrange of colors and flavors for our enjoyment. Make it a point to try a new color this week, you may just love it!
Sources, http://www.livestrong.com/article/457128-what-are-the-benefits-of-eating-green-bell-peppers/#ixzz1tiQVXHq7, http://www.gayot.com/lifestyle/health/features/bell-pepper-health-benefits.html, http://home.howstuffworks.com/peppers3.htm, http://www.everynutrient.com/healthbenefitsofbellpeppers.html, http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=50
peppers health benefits