FANTASTIC FOODS: Bell Peppers
Bell peppers (official name: capsicum annuum) are a large, mild variety of pepper that is propagated in various colors, including green, red, orange, yellow, purple, black, and brown. Sometimes they may be white. They are a member of the so-called “nightshade” family which includes potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and tomatillos.
Bell peppers are native to Mexico, and Central and South America and were brought to the Western World via the Spanish incursions into these regions beginning in about 1493. They have been grown by humans for nearly 9,000 years. The Spanish called them “pimiento” which specifically refers to a red sweet pepper — hence, pimiento olives, for example.
Bell peppers are quite primarily rich in vitamin C—indeed, 1 cup of bell pepper provides over 140% or the recommended daily vitamin C intake. Other nutrients of decent amount found within the bell pepper include vitamin B6, folate, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, fiber, and potassium.
Quite notable is that bell peppers contain no less than 28+ varieties of carotenoids which are essential to human health. Red bell peppers contain the highest concentration of carotenoids and other essential nutrients — but the other colors of bell peppers also provide the same nutrients, if not at the extreme highest degree of red bell peppers.
Many people don’t realize that the spice called “paprika” is simply ground, dried bell peppers.
Despite not being hot-tasting as most peppers are, bell peppers still contain a healthy and helpful level of capsaicin which has been proven by science to help reduce bad cholesterol levels and aid in reducing inflammation and providing essential pain relief in humans. Modern science is also discovering that bell peppers can play a helpful role in controlling diabetes — a growing health problem in, particularly, the United States.
Among other health benefits provided by the consumption of bell peppers is that their high sulphur content helps to protect against certain varieties of cancer. Also, the vitamin E content encourages healthy skin and hair. The vitamin B6 helps to maintain a healthy nervous system and assists greatly in the renewal of cells within the body. Bell peppers also contain the enzyme lutein which helps to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
Bell peppers are easy to utilize. I use them as a staple aspect to even the most basic salads — and also as an automatic add to many soups and chilis I make. A whole cut-up bell pepper also is one of my base vegetables used when baking a roast, along with the potatoes, carrots, onions, etc. They also are a superb primary vessel within which to bake other stuffings. Bell peppers are a crunchy, easy-tasting, healthy and enjoyable little raw snack, as well—which is probably why that for every bell pepper I slice-up in the service of another dish, probably only two-thirds of it actually makes it into the greater dish because I eat the other third during preparation.
But… such is life and an example of the way I cheat. What can I say?
If you’re not already using bell peppers, try them out and prepare yourself to be pleased. They’re cheap — especially the green ones — and give many lasting health benefits.