Bell peppers are one of the most popular and versatile vegetables. They come in numerous colors and can be used in dishes from a variety of cuisines.
From red to green, yellow to orange, there are all sorts of hues and nuances in the flavor of bell peppers.
But, are bell peppers good for you? Are red peppers good for you?
In this article, we will discuss the nutrition facts and health benefits of bell peppers, including red peppers, green peppers, and peppers in general.
We will cover:
- What Are Bell Peppers?
- Are Bell Peppers Good for You? Bell Pepper Nutrition
- 5 Health Benefits of Bell Peppers
Let’s jump in!
What Are Bell Peppers?
Bell peppers (Capsicum annuum), also called sweet peppers or capsicums, are typically considered vegetables, but they are technically fruits because the peppers develop from the flower of the plant.
Like other peppers, including chili peppers, bell peppers belong to the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, eggplant, and other common “vegetables.” They are native to Central and South America.
Most people are familiar with green and red bell peppers, but they come in a range of intermediary hues as well, including yellows and reds. Each color of bell pepper provides some unique health benefits, but all bell peppers share most of the same nutritional profile.
The different colors of bell peppers each present a slightly unique flavor profile and level of sweetness.
Green peppers are essentially the unripe version, so they are more bitter than red peppers, which have a higher sugar content.
Bell peppers can be eaten cooked or raw and can also be dried and turned into a powder called paprika.
Are Bell Peppers Good for You? Bell Pepper Nutrition
Bell peppers are one of the healthiest foods you can eat.
They are very low in calories yet extremely high in vitamin C. The low caloric content is due to the fact that the overall volume of peppers is primarily water (peppers are about 92% water). This helps make peppers a relatively filling, nutrient-dense, low-calorie food, so they can be great for weight loss.
According to the USDA, the nutrition facts for one medium raw red bell pepper (about 119 grams) are as follows:
- Calories: 31
- Water: 92%
- Protein: 1.2 gram
- Carbs: 7 grams
- Sugar: 5 grams
- Fiber: 2.5 grams
- Fat: 0.3 grams
Green peppers have a similar nutritional profile but contain slightly less sugar and fewer calories (about 24 vs. 31) because they are unripe.
In addition to providing fiber and water, bell peppers are packed with vitamins and minerals. For example, bell peppers are rich in potassium.
All bell peppers are high in vitamin C, but red peppers are the best source. In fact, red peppers contain significantly more vitamin C per serving than even oranges. The average medium-sized red bell pepper provides 169% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin C.
Red bell peppers, in particular, are high in beta-carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for supporting healthy vision as well as supporting overall health and immunity.
Bell peppers also provide vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which helps form red blood cells, as well as vitamin K1, known as phylloquinone, which plays a key role in bone health and blood clotting. There is also vitamin B9 (folate), which is particularly important during pregnancy for fetal development.
Bell peppers also contain small amounts of vitamin E.
In addition to the basic bell pepper nutrition profile, these healthy powerhouses are packed with antioxidants. The riper the pepper (red peppers vs. green), the higher the antioxidant content, particularly the beneficial carotenoids.
The primary antioxidants in bell peppers depend somewhat on the color of the pepper but include the following:
- Capsanthin: A powerful antioxidant found mainly in red bell peppers and is responsible for the bright red color.
- Violaxanthin: A beneficial carotenoid antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, found mainly in yellow bell peppers.
- Quercetin: This is a powerful polyphenol antioxidant present in all bell peppers. Evidence suggests that quercetin can help reduce blood pressure and may help prevent heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases.
- Lutein: Although not found in ripe bell peppers (red), green (unripe) bell peppers and black paprika are very high in lutein, an antioxidant beneficial for vision and eye health.
- Luteolin: Similar to quercetin, luteolin is a polyphenol antioxidant that can confer numerous positive health effects, such as reducing the inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease.
5 Health Benefits of Bell Peppers
There are many health benefits of bell peppers, largely due to the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and polyphenols (beneficial plant compounds).
Let’s check out some of the top health benefits of bell peppers include the following:
#1: Bell Peppers Are a Great Source of Antioxidants
As mentioned, bell peppers are rich in natural antioxidants such as vitamin C, as well as capsanthin, violaxanthin, lutein, quercetin, and luteolin.
Antioxidants are potent compounds that can combat free radicals in the body, which are reactive oxygen species.
The reactive nature of free radicals makes them prone to causing oxidative damage. Free radicals can damage proteins, nucleic acids like DNA and RNA, cell membranes, and other cell components, causing premature aging and increasing the risk of various diseases.
#2: Bell Peppers Can Improve Eye Health
There are several compounds in bell peppers that have been shown to support eye health.
Red peppers are rich in beta-carotene, called pro-vitamin A. The body is able to convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, which in turn, is thought to improve vision and prevent premature eye aging (macular degeneration, vision loss, and cataracts).
Bell peppers also contain the carotenoids known as lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been shown to help protect your retina from eye damage.
The retina is the light-sensitive inner part of your eye, and damage to this delicate structure can increase the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, among other visual impairments.
Indeed, evidence suggests that diets high in foods containing these specific carotenoids may improve eye health and potentially prevent age-related damage to the retina.
#3: Bell Peppers Can Support Iron Absorption
Iron deficiency can result in fatigue and weakness because it results in a reduced ability of the blood to transport oxygen to your tissues. If iron deficiency progresses, it can result in iron-deficiency anemia, an even more severe condition in which your hemoglobin levels are insufficient.
Although bell peppers aren’t the best dietary source of iron themselves, they do contain some non-heme (plant-based iron).
However, where bell peppers really shine is in their vitamin C content. There is about 169% of your RDI for vitamin C in a medium-sized red bell pepper.
Research has demonstrated that iron absorption is significantly enhanced when iron-rich foods are consumed alongside foods high in vitamin C.
Therefore, eating raw red bell peppers or other bell peppers alongside iron-rich foods like steak, liver, and spinach may reduce your risk of anemia.
#4: Bell Peppers Can Support Healthy Digestion
Although bell peppers don’t contain a ton of fiber per serving, they do contain a lot of fiber per calorie.
For example, according to the USDA, there are 2.5 grams of fiber in one cup (150 grams) of raw green pepper and only 30 calories.
The general recommendation is for adult men to eat a minimum of 30-35 grams of fiber per day and for women to consume 25-32 grams of fiber per day.
Therefore, one cup of raw green peppers is about 10% of the daily fiber recommendations for women and slightly less for men.
There’s quite a large body of evidence demonstrating the numerous health benefits of fiber, such as providing a sense of satiety to control appetite and reduce hunger, supporting healthy bowel movements and decreasing the risk of constipation, supporting the beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome and decreasing the risk of diseases of the digestive system such as inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.
The fiber content is higher when you consume raw bell pepper rather than cooked because the cooking process partially breaks down some of the cellulose and fiber.
#5: Bell Peppers Can Improve Overall Health
Numerous studies have found that diets high in vegetables and fruits help improve heart health, reduce blood pressure, reduce the risk of chronic lifestyle diseases, and help people maintain healthy body weight with lower levels of visceral fat and central abdominal obesity (which is associated with a risk of cardiometabolic diseases).
So, when asking yourself are bell peppers, or are red peppers good for you, you have numerous reasons so say, of course they are!
Bell peppers are filling, nutritious, versatile, and low in calories, so they can be enjoyed by anyone looking to lose weight, improve health, and support their body with the best nutrients for optimal performance.
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