Bell peppers, also known as sweet pepper or capsicum are basically peppers of less pungent varieties which are available in different colours such as yellow, red, green, purple and orange. These plump, bell shaped vegetables were cultivated more than 900 years ago in south and central America and were given the name pepper by the European colonizers of North America. These can easily grow in different types of climate.
Sweet bell peppers are a great combination of tangy taste and crunchy texture. These are scientifically known as Capsicum annuum and belong to the category of nightshade (solanaceae) family of plants comprising of chilli pepper, cayenne pepper, potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant. Green and purple peppers are slightly bitter in taste whereas red, yellow and orange have a sweeter and fruity taste.
The substance ‘capsaicin’ which controls hotness in peppers is present in very small amounts in bell peppers making it less ‘hot’. Though, they are available throughout the year, they are most abundant and tasty in the summers. The content of vitamin C and carotenoid also increases when the pepper is at the peak of its ripeness. These colourful and attractive vegetables are enjoyed all over the world in a variety of cuisines.
Apart from imparting flavor and attractiveness to bland dishes, bell peppers are loaded with nutrients like vitamins A, C and K, carotenoids and dietary fiber which makes them immensely beneficial for the overall good health. Bell peppers also have vitamin B6 and folate that help to lower homocysteine levels, thus reducing the risk of heart disease.
Some of the health benefits of bell peppers are given below:
1. Good for Eyes: Being high in vitamin A, red bell peppers help to support healthy eyesight, especially night vision. They are a rich source of a carotenoid called lutein that helps in lowering the risk of macular degeneration of the eyes. Macular degeneration of eyes is the most common cause of age related visual loss. Bell peppers also protect your eyes from cataracts due to their high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C.
2. Burns more Calories: Red bell peppers help in activating thermogenesis and increase the metabolic rate. Capsaicin which is responsible for increasing the hotness of other peppers is found in bell peppers in very small amounts. Thus, they have a mild thermogenic action that increases the metabolism without increasing the heart rate and blood pressure unlike hot peppers. Hence, they can support weight loss.
3. Anti-Cancer: Being rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, bell pepper provides several anti-cancer benefits. The risk of cancer increases due to chronic excessive inflammation and chronic unwanted oxidative stress. These factors can be offset with regular intake of phytonutrients having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, bell peppers also contain health supportive sulphur compounds. The enzymes in bell pepper help to prevent gastric cancer and esophageal cancer. The carotenoid lycopene is found to be effective in the prevention of prostate, bladder, cervix and pancreas cancer.
4. Cardiovascular Benefits: Red bell peppers are rich in lycopene, thus making them excellent for a healthy heart whereas green bell peppers are a good source of cholesterol lowering fiber. Increased homocysteine levels can lead to a higher risk of heart disease. Bell peppers contain vitamin B6 and folate which help to lower homocysteine levels. In addition to these, the powerful antioxidants vitamins A and C present in these vegetables help to wipe out free radicals. Potassium contained in bell peppers lowers about 162 milligrams of blood pressure which is also beneficial for heart.
5. Supports the Immune System: Vitamin C is vital for maintaining a healthy immune system and for building strong collagen to support skin and joints. It is instrumental in lowering the risk of arthritis and reducing inflammation. Vitamin K aids in the formation of blood clots. It is important for developing strong bones and protection of cells from oxidative damage.
6. Great source of Vitamin B6 and Magnesium: The combination of vitamin B6 and the mineral magnesium leads to decrease in anxiety levels, particularly due to pre-menstrual symptoms. Being a natural diuretic, vitamin B6 helps to reduce bloating and prevents hypertension.
7. Cures Iron Deficiency: Red bell peppers provide almost 300 percent of the daily vitamin C requirement. Vitamin C is essential for the proper absorption of iron. Thus, those suffering from iron deficiency should consume red peppers.
8. Benefits of Capsaicin: Capsaicin is found in the white membranes of peppers which is responsible for imparting heat to the seeds as well. It lowers the cholesterol levels and triglycerides. It kills the ulcer causing bacteria in the stomach and boosts immunity.
9. Detoxifying Properties: Bell peppers help in clearing out the congested mucus membranes in the nose and lungs and eliminate toxins through sweating.
10. Benefits of Potassium: Bell peppers are good sources of potassium. This mineral helps in keeping the fluids and minerals balanced in the body. It enhances muscle function and regulates blood pressure.
11. Other Benefits: Bell pepper juice has proven to be effective in curing gastrointestinal disorders such as ulcers, diarrhea and dyspepsia. It also lowers the incidence of several respiratory problems such as emphysema, asthma and infections in the lungs. Drinking bell pepper juice is an effective remedy against sore throats and nose bleeds.