Bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) are fruits that belong to the nightshade family and are related to chili peppers, tomatoes, and breadfruit, all of which are native to Central and South America.
Also called sweet peppers or capsicums, bell peppers can be eaten either raw or cooked. Like their close relatives, chili peppers, bell peppers are sometimes dried and powdered. In that case, they are referred to as paprika.
Bell peppers come in various colors, such as red, yellow, orange, and green — which are unripe. Green, unripe peppers have a slightly bitter flavor and are not as sweet as fully ripe ones.
Fresh, raw bell peppers are mainly composed of water (92%). The rest is carbs and small amounts of protein and fat. The main nutrients in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of raw, red bell peppers are:
- Calories: 31
- Water: 92%
- Protein: 1 gram
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Sugar: 4.2 grams
- Fiber: 2.1 grams
- Fat: 0.3 grams
Bell peppers are primarily composed of carbs, which account for most of their calorie content — with 3.5 ounces (100 grams) holding 6 grams of carbs. The carbs are mostly sugars — such as glucose and fructose — which are responsible for the sweet taste of ripe bell peppers.
Bell peppers also contain small amounts of fiber — 2% by fresh weight. Calorie for calorie, they are a very good fiber source.
Bell peppers are very high in vitamin C, with a single one providing up to 169% of the RDI. Other vitamins and minerals in bell peppers include vitamin K1, vitamin E, vitamin A, folate, and potassium. The high presence of vitamin A is essential to fighting both serious diseases, such as cancer, as well as more short-term illnesses, such as the common cold.
Bell peppers are rich in various antioxidants — especially carotenoids, which are much more abundant in ripe specimens.
The main compounds in bell peppers are:
- Capsanthin. Especially high in red bell peppers, capsanthin is a powerful antioxidant responsible for their brilliant red color.
- Violaxanthin. This compound is the most common carotenoid antioxidant in yellow bell peppers.
- Lutein. While abundant in green (unripe) bell peppers and black paprika, lutein is absent from ripe bell peppers. Adequate intake of lutein may improve eye health.
- Quercetin. Studies indicate that this polyphenol antioxidant may be beneficial for preventing certain chronic conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.
- Luteolin. Similarly to quercetin, luteolin is an polyphenol antioxidant that may have a variety of beneficial health effects
Bell Peppers are a healthy addition to your diet
Like other fruits and vegetables, bell peppers may have many health benefits. These include improved eye health and reduced risk of anemia.
Bell peppers are generally healthy and well-tolerated, but some people may be allergic. That said, allergy is quite rare. Still, some people that have pollen allergy may also be sensitive to bell peppers due to allergic cross-reactivity. Allergic cross-reactions can happen between certain foods because they may contain the same allergens — or allergens similar in chemical structure.
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