Commonly known as Capsicum or sweet peppers, bell peppers are nutritious and delicious vegetables that can be eaten raw or cooked. Botanically, bell peppers belong to the nightshade family.
Capsicum annuum is the scientific name of bell peppers and is related to breadfruit, chili peppers, and tomatoes. They are commonly grown in Central and South America.
Depending on storage and how ripe they are, bell peppers can be found in different colors like yellow, orange, red, and green if it is unripe.
Nutritionally, bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C and antioxidants. They also contain very small amounts of calories. Continue reading to learn more about bell peppers, their health benefits, and any side effects.
Nutritional Components of Bell Peppers
Bell peppers boast numerous nutrients including a variety of vitamins, carbohydrates, and minerals. Eating these vegetables also provides the body with certain antioxidants which may help in reducing oxidative stress.
A large portion of fresh and raw bell peppers is made up of water up to 92%. The remaining portion is taken by protein, fats, and carbohydrates. According to the nutritional facts found in the United States Department of Agriculture National, in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of raw red bell peppers, the following amounts of nutrients are estimated to be found. Calories 31, 1 g of proteins, 92% water, 6 g of carbs, 4.2 g of sugar, 2.1 g of fiber, and 0.3 g of fat.
Minerals and Vitamins
Nutritionists and dieticians believe that bell peppers are highly loaded with a variety of vitamins and minerals. These includes:
Vitamin A: Pro-vitamin A or beta-carotene are converted to vitamin A in the body and are present in bell peppers. Vitamin A improves vision, cell growth, proper functioning of organs, immunity, and reproduction.
Vitamin B6: This type of vitamin also exists in different forms and pyridoxine is the main. They are involved in erythropoiesis- the formation of red blood cells.
Vitamin B9 (folate): Is important for good fetal growth.
Vitamin C: Bell peppers have very high amounts of vitamin C providing up to 169% of the daily recommended intake. This vitamin apart from improving immunity, promotes protein metabolism, production of collagen in the body, and prevents scurvy.
Vitamin E: It is an antioxidant that is responsible for the good health of nerves and muscles.
Vitamin K1: It is also called phylloquinone and is essential in the process of blood clotting.
Potassium: This is one of the essential minerals which protects against heart conditions and improves its functions.
The carbs found in bell peppers are mainly sugars, that is, glucose and fructose. This is what gives the ripe bell peppers their sweet taste. 6 g of carb can be found in 100 g of bell peppers.
Alongside carbs, absorbable fiber is abundantly found in bell peppers. Fiber is important in promoting gastrointestinal health and through this, bowel movements are improved. It also supports cardiovascular functions by lower the low-density lipoproteins cholesterols.
Bell Peppers and Its Plant Compounds on Health
According to study findings of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, plant compounds or antioxidants such as carotenoids are highly contained in bell peppers. These carotenoids include:
Lutein: This antioxidant is mainly found in unripe bell peppers and paprika (dried and powdered bell pepper). They are essential in improving eyesight.
Capsanthin: it is abundantly found in red peppers and it’s what gives the peppers their characteristic red color.
Violaxanthin: is the main carotenoid in the yellow bell pepper.
Quercetin: it is a polyphenol antioxidant that is vital in the prevention of cancer, heart conditions, and certain chronic conditions.
Luteolin: it is attributed to various health benefits including the prevention of cancers. It is also a polyphenol antioxidant.
Collectively, these plant compounds work synergistically to prevent chronic health problems such as cataracts, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, bell peppers also contain flavonoids which play a role in protecting the brain against oxidative stress.
Other Health Benefits of Bell Peppers
Improving Eye Health
Visual impairment is a problem that can be caused by various problems and the main causes include infections and increasing age. Cataracts and macular degeneration diseases are the most common types of visual impairment. The good news is that bell peppers may help improve and prevent these problems.
One particular study on diet and visual impairments conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that carotenoids present in bell peppers especially zeaxanthin and lutein may help improve eye problems.
This study established that these two plant compounds prevent the effect of oxidative stress on the retina. Therefore, you need to include bell peppers and other foods rich in carotenoids to reduce the risk for cataracts and macular degeneration. Lutein is abundantly found in yellow peppers while zeaxanthin is mostly found in orange bell peppers.
May Improve Inflammatory Conditions and Arthritis
According to study findings of the Arthritis Foundation, the likelihood of developing certain types of anemia may be reduced by eating vegetables especially bell peppers. The anti-inflammatory property in bell peppers is much attributed to the high contents of vitamin C and beta-cryptoxanthin.
Red and orange peppers are the chief carriers of beta-cryptoxanthin which is also a carotenoid. According to the reports of a study published in PubMed, beta-cryptoxanthin may help reduce the risk of having rheumatoid arthritis if consumed in good quantities.
The recommended daily intake of vitamin C is 75 mg for females and 90 mg for males. If a person eats less than that, then they may easily run into the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Including bell peppers, in your routine diet may help strengthen your bones and cartilage due to the presence of vitamin C.
Side Effects of Eating Bell Peppers
Problems associated with eating bell peppers are very few as they are well-tolerated in the body. The common side effect is bell pepper allergy. Also, one may develop a nightshade allergy. These allergies may present with skin rashes and difficulty in breathing.
Bell peppers are popular, nutritious, and delicious vegetables that can be eaten raw or cooked. They mostly come in red, green, orange, and yellow colors. Bell peppers contain various antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, proteins, and carbs. Eating bell peppers may help prevent visual impairment, inflammation, cancer among other health benefits.