Bell Peppers: Ringing Goodness
HALE AND HEALTHY by Salmeen Salem – Dietitian/Nutritionist
Traffic Light Colors, but Yummier!
You’ve at least seen them fresh, roasted, blended, stuffed or dried and ground. Bell peppers are an amazing choice in your kitchen, on your plate and for your body.
Even though bell peppers are considered as vegetables and are widely used as so, they are actually botanically classified as fruits since they grow from a flowering plant and contain seeds. When dried and ground, bell peppers are also used as a spice: the popular paprika.
In a beautiful palette, bell peppers exist in an amazing range of colors. The color of a bell pepper is simply determined by how much it’s allowed to ripen before harvest. All bell peppers start off as green and as it continues to grow on its vine, it changes color to yellow, orange and finally red.
How to Pick, Store & Prepare Your Bell Peppers
Always look for firm, bright bell peppers with shiny and glossy skin and ones that feel heavy for their size. Avoid those with wrinkled skin or soft spots. Keep in mind that since red, orange and yellow bell peppers require longer times to grow and harvest, they’re usually more expensive than their green counterparts. And in case you’re wondering if bell peppers with 3 lobes are male and those with 4 lobes are female, wonder no more. This is a myth; fruits and vegetables don’t exist in different genders. Whether a bell pepper has 3 or 4 lobes is based on genetics and growing conditions.
Store bell peppers in the refrigerator in a plastic bag or in the bottom drawer. As the case with other fruits and vegetables, don’t wash bell peppers until just before use; the moisture will make it rot quickly. If stored properly, bell peppers last around 4 – 5 days in the refrigerator. Green red bell peppers might last a bit longer.
There’s almost nothing you can’t make with bell peppers. Try it fresh in salads or dipped in hummus. Roast it and blend it to make a light dip or a pasta sauce. Stuff it with rice or quinoa and some more vegetables. Use it in soups, omelets or on pizzas. And the list goes on.
Bell Peppers Nutrition
Bell peppers are a nutrition bomb when it comes to its vitamin C and antioxidant content. It contains more vitamin C than any citrus fruit and is among the top sources of carotenoids (a class of antioxidants), which are associated with numerous health benefits. Bell peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin A (except green) and vitamin B6, which is important for the formation of red blood cells. The vegetable also provides a decent amount of fiber – important for gut health, blood cholesterol and bowel movements – and potassium – involved in heart health and blood pressure –.
As a bell pepper ripens on its plant, not only does it change color and develops a sweeter taste, but it also matures nutrition-wise. Compared to green bell peppers, red ones contain a much higher amount of antioxidants, almost twice the amount of vitamin C and about 9 – 11 times more vitamin A. One medium red bell pepper provides over 2.5 times the daily need of vitamin C and three quarters that of vitamin A. On the other hand, green bell peppers are slightly lower in calories, sugars and have a unique mildly bitter flavor.
The Bottom Line: In every shade, form or recipe, bell peppers will definitely add a splash of color to your dish and a precious handful of nutrients to your health.