Health Benefits of Bell Peppers

Medically reviewed by Simone Harounian, MS

Bell peppers (Capsicum annum L.) are vibrant vegetables from the nightshade family whose colors change depending on their ripeness. Green bell peppers are the least ripe and have a mild, slightly bitter flavor. Yellow, orange, purple, and red peppers, sometimes called sweet peppers, are the most ripe and boast a sweet, fruity taste.

Bell peppers can be eaten raw or cooked, making them an extremely versatile food and a nutritious addition to a well-balanced diet. Plus, they're packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that offer many health benefits throughout the body.

Here are the many ways that eating bell peppers can benefit your health.

<p>Design by Health / Getty Images</p>

Design by Health / Getty Images

Supports Eye Health

Bell peppers are excellent sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that can benefit eye health through various mechanisms. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the main components of the eye's macular pigments, making them essential for eye health.

Research has shown that daily lutein supplements can increase the macular pigment optical density and improve visual function in patients with early signs of age-related macular degeneration. Studies have also shown that higher intakes of lutein, zeaxanthin, and other carotenoids can result in a long-term reduction in the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration.

Overall, a diet rich in lutein and zeaxanthin can be a preventative strategy for reducing the occurrence of age-related macular degeneration. Several fruits and vegetables contain these carotenoids, but bell peppers are exceptionally high in them.

Related: What Are Nightshade Vegetables, And Are They Good For You?

Helps Prevent Anemia

Anemia is characterized by insufficient hemoglobin—healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. It can lead to various functional deficits, including gastrointestinal disturbances, fatigue, impaired immunity, poor body temperature control, and reduced cognitive function. Unfortunately, anemia is a common diagnosis, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that half of the 1.62 billion cases of anemia worldwide are caused by iron deficiency.

Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, which transfers oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues. Bell peppers contain an impressive amount of iron and are packed with vitamin C, making them an excellent food for preventing iron deficiency anemia.

One large red pepper contains 0.705 milligrams of iron, approximately 4% of the recommended intake for adult women and 9% for adult men. However, the same serving of bell pepper also contains 210 milligrams of vitamin C, which is more than double the recommended daily amount.

Vitamin C also improves the absorption of plant-based iron, further enhancing its effects. Fresh bell peppers are an excellent food for those at risk for anemia, including young children, women of reproductive age, and pregnant women.

Provides Antioxidant Support

Bell peppers are packed with antioxidants, including vitamin A and vitamin C, beta carotene, and other acidic and neutral phenolic compounds. Together, these powerhouse components help protect the body against oxidative cell damage. The antioxidants in bell peppers may help prevent certain inflammatory conditions, such as some cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and neurological diseases.

Interestingly, research shows that yellow peppers have the highest antioxidant activity of all the varieties. Still, any bell pepper color is an excellent addition to a diet that aims to fight free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.

Arthritis Relief

Bell peppers contain impressive compounds, such as vitamin C and beta-cryptoxanthin, which have been linked to various anti-inflammatory properties. They're also rich in antioxidants, such as quercetin and luteolin. These powerful nutrients can help reduce inflammation associated with arthritis, thereby reducing the severity of symptoms and easing chronic discomfort.

Incorporating bell peppers into a well-balanced diet provides beneficial nutrients that can support efforts to manage arthritis symptoms. However, to achieve maximum relief, it's important to include a variety of anti-inflammatory foods and follow the medical advice of your healthcare provider.

Nutritional Facts of Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are a low-calorie vegetable with an impressive nutrient profile. Most of their calories come from their carbohydrate content, but bell peppers also contain small amounts of protein and fat. While they're mostly composed of water, they contain many powerful nutrients that support many avenues of health.

One large red bell pepper (164 grams) provides:

  • Calories: 43

  • Fat: 0.49 grams (g)

  • Carbohydrates: 9.9 g

  • Fiber: 3.4 g

  • Added sugars: 0 g

  • Protein: 1.6 g

  • Iron: 0.71 milligrams (mg) (9% DV)

  • Vitamin A: 257 micrograms (mcg) (29% DV)

  • Vitamin C: 210 mg (233% DV)

  • Vitamin E: 2.59 mg (17% DV)

  • Potassium: 346 mg (10% DV)

  • Folate: 75.4 mcg (19% DV)

Interestingly, the nutrition facts vary between the different colors of bell peppers. A comparably-sized green bell pepper (164 grams) provides:

  • Calories: 38

  • Fat: 0.18 g

  • Carbohydrates: 7.8 g

  • Fiber: 1.5 g

  • Added sugars: 0 g

  • Protein: 1.2 g

  • Iron: 0.31 mg (4% DV)

  • Vitamin C: 163 mg (181% DV)

  • Potassium: 267 mg (8% DV)

  • Folate: 36.1 mcg (9% DV)

Risks of Eating Bell Peppers

While bell peppers are generally considered safe for the average healthy adult, they may trigger adverse effects in some people. While extremely rare, some individuals are allergic to bell peppers. Studies have found that those with a pollen allergy may be sensitive to the compounds in bell peppers due to allergic cross-reactivity.

Consuming large amounts of bell pepper may also cause gas or bloating due to its high fiber content. Be mindful of your portion sizes and discuss any potential concerns with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian before incorporating a new food into your diet.

Tips for Consuming Bell Peppers

Bell peppers can be enjoyed fresh or included in various recipes. Consider these tips when incorporating bell peppers into a well-balanced diet.

  • To keep bell peppers fresh for as long as possible, make sure they're dry before putting them in the refrigerator. Then, put them in an open mesh or plastic bag and place them in a low-humidity drawer.

  • Bell peppers make a great addition to various dishes. To soften their texture, saute them in a pan with low-sodium seasonings or other peppers.

  • To grill bell peppers, brush them with olive oil and place them directly on the rack. Grill them uncovered until the skins are charred and the flesh is tender. Remove them from the heat, wrap them in tin foil, and allow them to sit for approximately 15 minutes.

  • Try roasting bell peppers in the oven by cutting them in half and baking them at 425 degrees Fahrenheit until the skins are charred and wrinkled.

  • Stuffed bell peppers are a great one-pan meal for those who want to enjoy bell peppers with other foods, such as a protein source.

  • Bell peppers are available in various hues. Green bell peppers taste bitter, while yellow, red, red, orange, and purple peppers taste sweet.

A Quick Review

Bell peppers are often known for their bright colors and delectable crunch, but they also provide many health benefits. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health and enhance immune function.

One large red bell pepper provides more than double the recommended daily vitamin C, making it an excellent food for supporting your immune system and preventing iron deficiency anemia. Plus, bell peppers contain an impressive amount of iron that can also help improve oxygen transportation throughout the body.

Their versatility makes bell peppers a great vegetable to have on hand. They have a refreshing crunch that pairs well with hummus or vegetable dip, or you can cook them several ways. Bell peppers can be grilled, roasted, sauteed, and boiled. A registered dietitian or nutritionist can help you navigate the many different ways to consume bell peppers, especially in ways that support your nutritional needs.

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