The term bell pepper, or capsicum, refers to a species of vegetable belonging to the family Capsicum annuum. Indigenous to regions like Mexico, Central and northern-south America, the name ‘pepper’ was first coined by the great explorer and navigator Christopher Columbus. It was he who popularized the plant in the European countries, where the term ‘paprika’ was used for it. This term is also used to refer to the powdered spice made from the same fruit. A variation in its name is found in different zones of the world. For example, they are called capsicum in certain Commonwealth countries, like India, New Zealand and Australia, whereas the term ‘mango’ is popular in certain parts of Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In Japan, piman is used for the green bell peppers, whereas papurika is common for the bell pepper in other colors. However, in the US and Canada, the plant species is simply referred to as ‘pepper’. These bell shaped vegetables, with their tangy flavor and bright glossy exteriors, come in a variety of colors, like red, green, yellow, brown, orange and black. They are in their best forms during the autumn season, especially the months of August and September. Let us now explore the heath benefits of bell peppers.
Health Benefits Of Eating Bell Peppers
- Bell Peppers are an important source of Vitamin B6 and folic acid. These vitamins are very essential to reduce the levels of homocysteine in the body, which are produced as a result of a chemical process called methylation cycle. High levels of this substance cause damage to the blood vessels in the body and thereby, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Regular intake of these vitamins helps in the conversion of these elements into beneficial molecules.
- Bell peppers also have high fiber content that helps lower elevated cholesterol levels. Thus, in this way, they reduce the risk of any cardiovascular diseases associated with increased cholesterol levels.
- Bell peppers are also beneficial against cataract, as they supply essential vitamins like vitamin C and beta-carotene to the body. These vitamins play a key role in maintaining a proper and healthy vision.
- Macular degeneration, the prime cause of blindness in the aged, can be prevented by the regular intake of bell peppers, as they supply certain polynutrients (lutein and zeaxanthin) that prevent this degenerative process.
- Studies have indicated that consumption of food rich in vitamin C, like bell peppers and chili peppers, strengthens the body defense system against inflammatory polyarthritis, which is a type of RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) involving two or more joints.
- Research has also indicated a connection between vitamin A, lung inflammation, and emphysema. A carcinogen found in cigarette smoke, benzo(a)pyrene, stimulates vitamin A deficiency, which leads to the development of emphysema. However, regular intake of vitamin A-rich diet helps counteract this effect and thereby, reduces the occurrence of this lung condition. Bell pepper, being a good source of vitamin A, can be used for this.
- Consumption of red peppers can help prevent prostate cancer and cancers of the pancreas, bladder, and cervix, as they contain lycopene, a carotenoid that acts against the development of these types of cancer.
- Red bell peppers also have the highest amount of beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange-red carotenoid that lowers the risk of developing lung cancer.
- Regular intake of folic acid, vitamin C, and beta-carotene, found in bell peppers, also helps lower the risk of colon cancer.
- Don’t use bell peppers during pregnancy, as they may stimulate the uterus negatively.
- Avoid the use of bell peppers if you are allergic to them. This may include redness of the eyes, running nose and also watering of the eyes.
- For cleaning bell peppers, wash them under cold running water, prior to cutting or slicing them. In case, the pepper has been waxed, it is important to scrub it as well.
- Next, using a kitchen paring knife, gently cut around the stem of the pepper and dispose the part.
- If you want to cut the peppers into strips, first divide it into half - lengthwise, then clean the center and seeds, and finally, after peeling the skin, cut into desired shape and size.
- You can also cut peppers horizontally, into rings, after carefully taking out the seeds from the innermost cavity.