Bell peppers are a simple vegetable known for their great, usually mild, taste and the array of colors they come in. They are sometimes referred to as “sweet peppers” for this reason, as their sibling chili peppers tend to run wild for lovers of things spicy and hot. In recent days, you may have seen some of my green bell peppers that I harvested from my backyard garden. The more I explore new and unique plant-based recipes, the more I have learned to really savor the variety of tastes bell peppers can provide. Whether you eat the bell pepper as the primary vegetable in the meal, or mix it in with a variety of other foods, it is hard to ignore that it tastes great, and is great for you too!
There are many health benefits that come from bell peppers. The following list of 10 reasons why you should add bell peppers to your diet just touches the surface on why this veggie should be in your kitchen, and a part of your weekly grocery haul!
1). Bell peppers taste great. While the taste of food is not an actual "health benefit," it is a benefit for those who struggle to find foods that they enjoy. Sometimes individuals who are switching to a plant-based diet struggle to find tasty alternatives to meat and dairy products. Bell peppers provide a generally mild, sometimes almost fruity, taste that is great on it's own or in a larger recipe with other grains, fruits, and veggies.
A unique feature about bell peppers is that their taste changes as they mature (and so do the colors they come in). Generally, unripe bell peppers will be green (though do be aware there are some strands of green bell peppers that stay green through being fully matured). These bell peppers as they start to mature will start to look more yellow/orange in hue. Finally, they reach a bright red color when they are fully ripened. These changes in color mark changes in taste as well. Green bell peppers are generally very mild in flavor, while they become progressively sweeter as they ripen.
2). Bell peppers are not actually "peppers." For some people, the word "pepper" can be an immediate turn off because it conjures up images of someone's bright red face and need to drink some water to escape the spicy taste. Bell papers were actually falsely named by Christopher Columbus upon bringing the vegetable back to Europe after discovering The New World.
If you have an aversion to the words "hot" and "spicy" when it comes to the food you eat, let it be known that bell peppers will not leave you trembling at the thought. As already noted, they are traditionally very mild in taste.
To make this point more scientific, the reason for this difference in taste is because bell peppers are the only member of the Capsicum genus of plants that does not produce capsaicin. Capsaicin is a chemical that can cause a strong burning sensation when it comes in impact with the mucus membranes. As you might imagine, capsaicin is found in "real" peppers - but not bell peppers.
3). Bell peppers can be used as a seasoning - Paprika. If by some chance you still struggle to eat bell peppers in their raw state, did you know that the ripened bell peppers can be turned into paprika - a common household seasoning? An easy way to adjust your taste buds to the taste of bell peppers, then, would be sprinkling a little of this seasoning on your other foods. If you feel you have too much salt in your diet, you could always try removing salt and replacing with crushed paprika flakes.
Keep in mind: Not all paprika is made out of bell peppers, as different species of pepper plants are turned into this seasoning, including some that are very hot!
-- As paprika is available in different varieties, a useful grading system (put together by The Spice House Blog) can help you determine the best kind for you - the most likely to be derived from bell peppers are the milder flavored seasonings --
- Noble sweet (Édesnemes) – slightly pungent (the most commonly exported paprika; bright red)
- Special quality (különleges) – the mildest (very sweet with a deep bright red color)
- Delicate (csípősmentes csemege) – a mild paprika with a rich flavor (color from light to dark red)
- Exquisite delicate (csemegepaprika) – similar to delicate, but more pungent
- Pungent exquisite delicate (csípős csemege, pikáns) – an even more pungent version of delicate
- Rose (rózsa) – with a strong aroma and mild pungency (pale red in color)
- Half-sweet (félédes) – a blend of mild and pungent paprikas; medium pungency
- Strong (erős) – the hottest paprika (light brown in color)
4). Bell peppers can be prepared in many ways in the kitchen. One of the reasons bell peppers have become a staple in my diet is because they can be prepared in many different ways, which helps to keep the taste fresh every time. You can bite into a green bell pepper raw, much like an apple, or spend more time cooking them over the stove in a stir fry or roasting them in the oven. Towards the end of the gardening season, I like to convert them into green pepper sauce to be placed in refrigerated storage.
5). Bell peppers are easy to purchase. It would be difficult to implement any new food into our diet if they were not readily available. Fortunately, bell peppers (in many varieties) are abundant, and can be purchased at a low cost at most local grocery stores. During growing season, I can even bypass needing to purchase because all I need to do is go out into my garden and pick them. If you have a garden yourself, or considering starting one, I would highly recommend growing bell peppers because they are easy to cultivate and even easier to harvest!
6). Bell peppers contain high levels of Vitamin A. One serving of sweet bell peppers contain 101% daily value of Vitamin A. This essential nutrient plays a vital role in bone growth, reproduction and immune system health. Red bell peppers provide an excellent source of disease protection, and can help you stave of even the common cold.
7). Bell peppers are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help remove toxic chemicals in our bodies. These toxic chemicals come from an array of sources such as smoke inhalation and even poor quality food choices. Antioxidants are provided by nature through countless plant-based foods to help offset the negative effects of some of the things we consume. Bell peppers have been scientifically proven to be high in antioxidants, and include high levels of luteolin, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and more.
8). Bell peppers are low in calories. If you are counting calories or looking to lose weight, a plant-based diet provides a lot of great options for decreasing the amount of calories, while also keeping yourself feeling full and satisfied. Bell peppers provide about 45 calories per cup. Given that your average person needs about 2,000 calories to maintain their weight, it will take many cups of bell peppers to reach this quantity. You can eat these peppers until your hearts content. Pair with other plant-based foods, and you will find yourself eating enough to feel great, but not so much that you are continuing to pack on the pounds.
9). Bell peppers contain high levels of Vitamin C. While bell peppers are nutritionally dense in many ways, the level of Vitamin C they provide far exceeds that of most other foods. Green bell peppers provide around 80mg (97% daily value) per 100g (3.5 oz). The ripened red bell peppers provide double this amount.
Instead of popping a vitamin C supplement like Airborne next time you are sick, consider eating a bell pepper instead. It will provide the needed supplementation, and more, in a far more "whole foods" approach.
10). Bell peppers can help keep cancer away. Red and green bell peppers are high in the chemical compound "para-coumaric acid." Also referred to as p-coumaric acid, this organic compound has antioxidant properties and has research that shows a reduction in stomach cancer by reducing the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines.
When letting "food be thy medicine," it is hard to ignore the innate value of bell peppers. They offer a lot of variety to a whole food, plant-based diet and pack a significant punch when it comes to being a healthier you. I personally love bell peppers, and grow them in my backyard garden every year. They are quite easy to cultivate, and I am able to put them in storage to be used throughout the fall and winter months as well. If you are not eating bell peppers yet, I highly suggest you give them a try!