Bell Pepper Nutrition: Green, Yellow, Orange, Red, and Purple
Belonging to the genus Capsicum, peppers have been harvested for food in South America since 7500 BCE. Columbus, as well as other conquistadors, may well have been responsible for bringing the fruits back to Europe leading to their subsequent global spread.
Everyone loves the flavor of sweet bell peppers tossed in a salad, grilled on a skewer, fried alongside onions, or even pickled by the peck. This popular and versatile fruit is plentiful in the summertime and very nutritious. But how does the nutrition profile change based on the color of the pepper?
The different colors of fruits indicate the presence of a variety of potent antioxidants and other beneficial phytochemicals. To appreciate the nutritional power of peppers, read on.
All peppers contain an abundance of vitamin C, about 2 to 3 times more than an orange. Vitamin C is needed for crucial bodily functions like healing wounds, building and repairing tissues, and assisting the absorption of iron. Vitamins B6, K, A, and E, along with multiple minerals and beneficial antioxidants all make peppers a dynamic health booster.
Eating a diet including raw and cooked peppers would satisfy many dietary requirements. Much of vitamin C is destroyed with heat, but vitamin A is absorbed when cooked in fat, like butter or oil. The nutrition density alone is a good enough reason to eat peppers often, but many enjoy the deliciously sweet flavor in an assortment of dishes. An experienced tongue is able to detect the subtle differences of flavor, bitter to sweet, among the variety of colored peppers.
Green Bell Pepper
Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants found mostly in green peppers. Together they play a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy vision. As for minerals, there is a beneficial amount of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and molybdenum. Bell peppers are highly fibrous and will aid digestion and promote overall gut health.
Yellow Bell Pepper
Other carotenoids become more prevalent when peppers turn from green to yellow and orange. Sulfur levels are notably higher in yellow bell peppers. The presence of sulfur may help ward off certain types of cancer. A strong presence of potassium in golden bells helps keep fluids and mineral levels within the body in check.
Related: Bell Pepper Info and Care
Orange Bell Pepper
Vitamin B6 is readily available in orange peppers. It will boost the body’s ability to process protein and produce red blood cells. Steady blood sugar levels and hemoglobin transport are also reliant on sufficient amounts of vitamin B6.
Red Bell Pepper
Capsanthin gives red peppers their bright crimson color. Lycopene, also found in red peppers, works in concert with other antioxidants to fight cancer. Usually the sweetest of the bunch, red peppers are the most suitable for eating raw.
Depending on an individual’s taste, of course. Beta carotene in red peppers is 10 times more prevalent than in green. Potassium and folate register much higher in red peppers as well. Red peppers spend more time ripening on the plant, therefore more nutrients are provided through the roots and from the energy of the sun.
Typically, the price of red peppers will reflect this necessary additional time and work. All these reasons might justify red bells as the most nutrient-dense of all the peppers.
Purple Bell Pepper
But wait, let’s not forget about the pretty purple bell pepper. Folate is a notable nutrient in purple peppers. It assists in the proper functioning of red blood cells and is an essential element for pregnant women. These mauve fruits contain almost the entire scope of B-complex vitamins. Included are niacin, folate, pyridoxine (B6), riboflavin, and thiamin (B1.)
The B-complex vitamins cannot be synthesized within our bodies, therefore purple is an important color for humans to eat. Also present in purple produce are special antioxidants called anthocyanins; they are responsible for producing the purple color. Anthocyanins attract pollinators (bonus for the rest of your garden!) as well as protect plants from different stressors including cold exposure and damage from the sun.
The power of purple does not end there; anthocyanins also protect and repair cells while guarding against cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurological disorders. Optimal cell function can be achieved if plenty of dark red, blue, and purple fruits and vegetables are consumed.
So it’s a toss-up: Is it red or purple bell peppers that can claim the capsicum crown of goo health? It may be too close to call. An adequate solution would be to eat a bounty of both red and purple, along with the other colors, to maximize your nutritional intake.
Peppers of all colors are popular at the grocery store and farmer’s markets and for good reason. The vibrant rainbow of colors will boost your health and brighten up any dish, perfect for your next foodie social media post.
In antiquity, fiery hot peppers grew wild. Nowadays, because of millennia of agricultural production and selective growing, we can’t imagine the world without a vast selection of peppers. So remember to eat the full spectrum of colors, because no matter the shape, size, or capsaicin content, peppers will always be beneficial to health.
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