- Written by Keri Torres – Nutritionist
- BBC Food
What is sweet pepper?
Capsicum fruit and a member of the nightshade family Along with eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes, sweet peppers are also called “bell peppers.” Capsicums are a relative of the pungent chili peppers, which can be eaten raw or cooked and are a nutritious addition to the meal.
Check out our full range of health benefit guides and also take a look at some of our delicious pepper recipes, from roasted peppers with tomatoes and anchovies to chili beans and roasted peppers.
Nutritional benefits of sweet pepper
80 grams of red pepper (raw) provides:
- 17 kcal / 71 kJ
- 0.6 g protein
- 0.2 g fat
- 3.4 g carbs
- 1.8 grams of fiber
- 173 mg potassium
- 60 mcg folic acid
- 101 mg Vitamin C
Interestingly, the nutritional value of sweet peppers varies according to their colour, with the red varieties providing more potassium, vitamin C and folic acid than their yellow, orange or green counterparts. However, unripe green peppers are richer than their ripe red counterparts in protective plant compounds known as polyphenols.
As with other vegetables, the nutritional value will be affected by the methods of preparation and cooking. Roasted peppers, which are often found in jars or trays in delicacies, lose up to 25% of their vitamin C content. The cooking time of peppers, the temperature used, the method of cooking and the preservation techniques applied are all factors that affect the loss of vitamin C. Dry heat, such as that used for frying or roasting peppers, is preferable to blanching or steaming.
What are the top 5 health benefits of sweet peppers?
1. May reduce the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
Diet plays an important role in delaying the development of age-related vision loss. In particular, two carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin, taken in adequate amounts, appear to improve eye health. They work by protecting the retina from oxidation. Red peppers are particularly high in these carotenoids, as well as other protective nutrients like vitamin C. Several studies show that regularly eating foods rich in carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin, may reduce the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
2. May reduce the risk of anemia
Anemia is a common condition, especially in women and girls of childbearing age, and is caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood. Iron deficiency is one of the most common causes. Sweet peppers provide modest amounts of iron, but are remarkably rich in vitamin C, with half a pepper providing up to 100 mg. This is important because vitamin C increases iron absorption in the gut and several studies confirm that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C leads to better iron absorption. Sweet peppers are also good because they contain vitamin B6, which is needed to make hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen throughout the body.
3. May prevent some chronic diseases
Sweet peppers are rich in antioxidants, which are linked to better health and protection against diseases such as heart disease and cancer. For example, sweet peppers are particularly rich in antioxidant vitamins, including vitamins C and E and beta-carotene. They also provide copious amounts of polyphenols, those protective plant compounds including lutein, quercetin, and capsanthin, which are particularly high in ripe red peppers. Being a powerful source of antioxidants indicates that pepper has a strong anti-inflammatory ability and may reduce the risk of chronic disease. Unfortunately, to date, there is a lack of large-scale studies that specifically examine pepper consumption on chronic disease.
4. May delay age-related memory loss
Interesting results from animal studies suggest that eating peppers may be effective in preventing memory loss in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Compounds in ripe peppers appear to inhibit the enzyme that releases amyloid proteins — these proteins build up around nerve fibers and contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Subsequent research suggests that several plant compounds found in peppers, including phenols, carotenoids, and flavonoids, may be responsible for these findings.
5. May have hypoglycemic effects
Animal studies show that pepper helps control blood sugar. However, although there is growing evidence that polyphenols in plants like peppers have a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels and appear to help reduce diabetes risk, more human studies are needed. It is hoped that future research will help determine how much to eat effectively with food rich in polyphenols.
Is sweet pepper safe for everyone?
Peppers are a healthy food for most people, although some choose to avoid them because they find peppers difficult to digest and can lead to heartburn.
Others have allergy symptoms, although this is rare, with an occasional reaction likely to occur in people with pollen allergies.
If you are in doubt about including pepper in your diet, consult your doctor or dietitian for advice.
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