Bell peppers are one of my favorite vegetables.
They taste delicious, they can be eaten raw, roasted, fried, grilled or steamed, and are packed full of nutrients, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
Just half a pepper contains almost 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin-C.
I always keep raw, chopped peppers in an airtight container in the refrigerator, to snack on and add to my lunchtime salads.
They are also great for dipping in hummus and cottage cheese!
Bell peppers have been grown for consumption for over 9000 years.
They originally came from South and Central America but can now be found growing all over the world.
Despite their name they contain very little of the ‘hot’ substance called capsaicin which is prevalent in chili peppers.
Bell peppers are part of the nightshade family, which also includes potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant.
They come in a number of different colors, including; yellow, orange, green red, purple, brown and black.
Red, orange and yellow peppers have a sweet, tangy taste that can really enhance the flavor of a dish, while green and purple peppers are picked before they are fully ripened and are slightly more bitter.
Bell peppers have excellent nutritional properties and are particularly rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Vitamin B6.
They also contain over a dozen other vitamins and minerals in lesser amounts.
Peppers contain virtually zero fat, cholesterol and sodium and a cup of chopped peppers has only around 25 calories.
Peppers have more Vitamin C than the average orange.
Among other benefits, vitamin C has been shown to reduce the chance of strokes, protect the skin from premature aging, and prevent cold symptoms from developing further; such as pneumonia.
However, it is due to their bright, vibrant colors that make this delicious vegetable, particularly potent.
As with most brightly colored foods, peppers are extremely rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
Antioxidants are important compounds that the body needs to fight the damaging effects of free radicals.
Without going into detail, free radicals destroy cells which can lead to serious illness and disease such as cancer.
Countless studies have shown that vegetables in general have a significant effect on reducing the chance of developing cancer whilst also helping to treat the effects.
More research is needed to isolate the benefits of peppers alone, in the treatment of cancer.
But it is clear that the rich antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties within this vegetable make it a valuable food for fighting cancer.
Bell peppers are at their most nutrient-dense after they are allowed to fully ripen.
You will mostly buy peppers from stores in this state.
Green peppers however are green because they are picked before they are ripe.
If you leave them and allow them to ripen, they will eventually turn yellow, orange and then red.
Always chose peppers with the most vibrant colors and ensure they are firm.
Avoid ones with soft spots or any blemished areas.
If your peppers are not fully ripe, you should store them in a cool place away from direct sunlight, as they will ripen faster this way.
However, even less than fully ripe peppers contain significant nutrient benefits.
For fully ripened peppers, store them in the crisper part of your refrigerator.
They will keep fresh for up to ten 10 days.
You can also freeze them.
Always wash peppers under cold running water.
Peppers are one of the most highly pesticided (I think I invented a new word here!) crop, and non-organic peppers should be thoroughly washed.
There are different ways to cut a pepper, but whichever method you prefer make sure you cut out the core and seeds.
The white membrane within the inner cavity of the pepper is also usually cut out, but is actually rich in flavonoids and can be eaten.
They are perfect when eaten raw and make a great addition to salads, especially the sweet pepper varieties.
You can also cook them, and in doing so can actually enhance their flavor and maximize their nutritional value – just keep the cooking time short and the temperature low.
Over-cooking peppers will cause them to lose up to 50% of their nutrients.
Stuffed peppers are so tasty and healthy and are great to prepare if you have anyone round for dinner.
Here’s a video showing you how to cook stuffed peppers:
Bell peppers are one of the most nutrient dense and versatile vegetables you can eat.
Their free radical fighting properties are particularly important, especially in fighting cancer.
They taste great and I highly recommend you include them in your daily diet.