Bell peppers, also known as sweet peppers, are a fruit commonly mistaken for vegetables. This is because of the seeds they contain. Depending on which pepper color you choose, the taste is expected to be slightly different with each.
These tasty peppers provide several nutrients and health benefits that many are unaware of. They are also easy to add to meals and snacks, and can even be juiced!
Keep reading to find out all you need to know about bell peppers.
Fun Fact:Traditional Chinese medicine has used bell peppers as a treatment for some medical conditions like poor blood circulation, indigestion, loss of appetite, swelling, frostbite, and digestive issues.
Table of Contents
- History & Facts
- Nutrition Facts
- Health Benefits
- Ways to Consume
- Potential Risks
- Frequently Asked Questions
History & Facts
Bell peppers, or capsicum annum, are a type of fruit that belongs to the Grossum plant group also known as the nightshade family (1). Some of the other members of this family include eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes. In different places of the world, bell pepper is also known as paprika, sweet pepper, pepper, capsicum, and mangoes. Other varieties of capsicum are considered chili peppers because of their pungency but come from the same family.
Bell peppers most commonly are seen in the colors green, yellow, orange, and red but may vary to other color hues, too (2). Green bell peppers are unripe which is why they often are less sweet than the fully ripe ones like red bell peppers. Green Bell Peppers do not receive all the natural sugars that a pepper would normally get from the ripening process. This causes them to typically have a more bitter flavor when comparing them to the others.
Bell peppers are sometimes dried and powdered and this is considered paprika. Paprika often has a sweet yet slightly smoky flavor.
Native to Mexico, Central the Caribbean, and northern South America, bell peppers were imported to Spain in 1493 and then spread from there. Today, global production of bell peppers is around 36 million tons per year, with China being the leading producer, followed by Mexico, Indonesia, and Turkey. The United States ranks 5th in total production, producing approximately 1.6 billion pounds annually.
Summary:Bell peppers are native to the Mexico and South American areas and come in all different colors.
Bell peppers pack a punch with all the nutrients they contain.
In a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of raw red bell peppers, there are the following macronutrients (3):
- Calories: 31 calories (kcal)
- Protein: 0.9 grams (g)
- Total fat: 0.13 grams (g)
- Carbohydrates: 6.65 grams (g)
- Fiber: 1.2 grams (g)
Bell peppers are relatively low in calories at a whopping 31 calories per serving (4). They contain mostly carbohydrates which is where their sweet flavor comes from (5). Other than carbohydrates, they are primarily composed of water, 92% in fat. This makes them a food that can help curb appetite, promote hydration, and potentially aid in weight loss.
Additionally, bell peppers are a good fiber source which is an important key nutrient (6). Most Americans do not get adequate fiber in their diets. Eating a diet rich in fiber can help increase the feeling of fullness, reduce blood sugar spikes, lower cholesterol, and promote gut health (7). Additionally, they are a low glycemic index food, which means eating them won’t typically spike your blood sugar very high. This can be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.
Summary:Bell peppers are low in calories and high in water and fiber content. Because of this eating them could help with things like curbing appetite and promoting hydration and gut health.
Vitamins and Minerals
In a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of raw red bell peppers, there are the following vitamins and minerals (8):
- Calcium: 6 milligrams (mg)
- Magnesium: 11 milligrams (mg)
- Phosphorus: 27 milligrams (mg)
- Potassium: 213 milligrams (mg)
- Sodium: <2.5 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin C: 142 milligrams (mg)
- Niacin: 1.02 milligrams (mg)
- Folate: 47 micrograms (mcg)
Overall, bell peppers are a very good source of vitamin C (9). Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant necessary for immune health and promoting skin health (10).
They are also high in folate and potassium (11). Folate, an important B vitamin, helps to maintain normal tissue growth and cell function (12). Potassium is a mineral that is involved in many processes and metabolic functions in the body, one of which is regulating blood pressure (13).
Other than vitamins and minerals, bell peppers naturally contain several plant compounds. The plant compound varies typically depending on which color of bell pepper is being consumed. Capsanthin, a potent antioxidant is especially high in red bell peppers and gives them their rich color (14).
Violaxanthin is a type of carotenoid antioxidant in yellow bell peppers. Lutein and quercetin are in all bell peppers but most abundantly in green bell peppers (15). Both of these compounds are antioxidants that may have positive effects on eye health and prevent conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Bell peppers also contain capsaicin (16). Capsaicin is one of the components in peppers that give them their sometimes spicy and unique flavor. In bell peppers, it is present in small amounts which the makes spice in them very mild. Believe it or not, capsaicin may provide analgesic properties for some. It has been used as a homeopathic remedy to treat burning pain. The research concludes that capsaicin may effectively treat several conditions, including osteoarthritis, chronic musculoskeletal pain, sore throat, burning mouth syndrome, and more.
Summary:Bell peppers are high in vitamin C, folate, and potassium. They also contain different compounds in addition to capsaicin which offer different health benefits.
In addition to the tons of nutrients in bell peppers, they also offer several health benefits.
May Help Lower Inflammation
With the nutrients in bell peppers, it is no wonder that they have anti-inflammatory effects. Research suggests consuming foods like bell peppers may help to reduce the risk of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions (17).
The vitamin C in bell peppers helps to protect bone and cartilage tissues which can lead to decreasing the risk of issues like osteoarthritis. Beta-cryptoxanthin is a type of antioxidant that may help reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (18). Beta-cryptoxanthin is also present in bell peppers which makes them a great dietary source to potentially help with inflammation and reduce joint pain.
Summary:The vitamin C and beta-cryptoxanthin that is in bell peppers may help decrease inflammatory conditions like arthritis and can potentially help with joint pain too.
May Promote Weight Loss
For those trying to lose weight, there are tons of different approaches and strategies that one may take. What you are eating in the diet is a huge factor in this. Bell peppers may be able to offer some help with this. Bell peppers consist of 80-90% water and fiber, which can make you feel more full and satisfied for longer after eating them.
As mentioned above, there are just around 30 calories in a 3.5 oz serving of bell pepper (19). They also do not contain any fat or cholesterol. For someone following a low-carb diet, this makes bell pepper a great food choice and potentially helps with weight loss.
Summary:Because bell peppers are low in calories and high in fiber and water content, they can help increase satiety and potentially help with weight loss.
May Promote Digestive Health
Studies conclude that consuming bell peppers may help support regular bowel movements (20). The amount of fiber in bell peppers can help remove waste from the body. Additionally, dehydration is a big contributor to constipation and can cause hardening of stools, making this an uncomfortable and difficult experience. Since bell peppers are high in water content, consuming them can help improve hydration and potentially help improve stools and prevent constipation.
Capsaicin, which is present in small amounts in bell peppers, may have benefits on the gastrointestinal system including having a digestive stimulant action, further promoting digestive health, and the prevention of constipation.
Summary:Consuming bell peppers may help to support regular bowel movements and prevent constipation, likely due to their fiber and water content.
Ways to Consume
Bell peppers can be consumed raw or cooked.
Here are some ways that they are most often consumed:
- Cut up and eaten plain on their own as a snack
- Use them in place of crackers and dip into your favorite condiment
- Add pieces of bell pepper to your favorite salad
- Use them as a pizza topping
- Make stuffed bell peppers
- Grill them on the barbecue
- Make a bell pepper soup
- Make pepper boats
Fun Fact:Bell Peppers are in good supply all year around; however, are typically less expensive and more abundant in the summer.
In general, bell peppers are a healthy food and part of a balanced diet. However, there are some things to keep in mind when it comes to eating them.
- Allergy risk: There have been reports some have called a bell pepper or nightshade allergy (21). Peppers are part of the vegetable family that are called nightshades. Nightshades have gained popularity in the social media world because of their potential to cause inflammation and irritation to the gut. However, there is not enough evidence to confirm this.
- Some people find that consuming nightshade foods causes digestive issues or allergic-like symptoms. If you are someone who wants to test whether nightshades trigger some of these symptoms, it is recommended to do a nightshade elimination diet. Eliminate all nightshade foods from the diet for a few weeks, then slowly reintroduce them and observe any changes. In general, for healthy individuals who have not had adverse reactions to nightshade foods, there is no reason to avoid them. If there is more of a severe reaction like a rash or breathing problems, this could be more indicative of an allergy and should be addressed with a medical provider.
Summary:Bell peppers are part of the nightshade family, which may cause adverse reactions for some but does not mean nightshades should be avoided completely.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I look for when choosing a bell pepper to eat?
When choosing a bell pepper, look for one that does not have any spots on it, is not shriveling, and has no signs of decay. Scars on bell peppers are okay as they do not affect the freshness or taste of the peppers. The number of lobes on the pepper does not typically matter. However, if you are making a recipe that the bell peppers need to stand up, you may want to consider a pepper with more lobes on it to help with balance.
How should bell peppers be stored?
Bell peppers keep best when they are cold. Keep them in the crispy drawer of the fridge and they will last around one to two weeks. They should be kept dry and away from moisture. If they are kept at room temperature or cut beforehand they will typically last a few days.
Did You Know?:You can tell a pepper’s gender by flipping it over. The ones with 4 bumps are females and the ones with 3 bumps are males.
Bell peppers are colorful, tasty, and a rich fruit to keep handy for salads, soups, and as a snack. They are high in water content, fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and folate. They contain several different plant compounds that offer a variety of benefits to health.
Consuming bell peppers regularly can help support eye health, and the digestive system, and could have the potential to help with weight loss.
Overall, bell peppers are an excellent food to keep added to the diet.