What are Bell Peppers?
Bell peppers are cultivated all around the world and are widely used as a seasoning agent due to their sweet taste, flavor, crunchy texture and attractive and bright color. They are eaten raw in the form of salad or they can be cooked (in Asian cuisine, bell peppers are stir-fried with other vegetables). Bells peppers can also be used to make pickles and sauces.
Coming to its nutrient composition, bell peppers are low in calories, that is they have high moisture content. Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C and have a high nutritive value. They contain various plant chemicals such as polyphenols and carotenoids which are strong antioxidants in nature.
They are a good source of dietary fiber and contains various essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin B6 vitamin K1, potassium, vitamin B9, vitamin A and vitamin E.
Health Benefits of Bell PepperBell peppers are loaded with nutrients and health promoting compounds that promote good health and keep diseases and disorders at bay. Let's throw some light at the health benefits of bell pepper-
Lowers High Blood Pressure
Studies have revealed that all types of bell pepper inhibit an enzyme called ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme). Such an inhibition prevents the production of angiotensin II, a substance that causes narrowing of the arteries and blood vessels which increases blood pressure. Inhibition of ACE by bell pepper results in widening and relaxation of the arteries and blood vessels and thus it helps in lowering blood pressure.
High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes mellitus and obesity are risk factors for heart diseases. Studies have observed that regular consumption of capsicum helps in the treatment and management of the these risk factors. In addition to this, the high antioxidant content of bell pepper reduces oxidative stress which further protects the heart. Thus, you can beat heart diseases naturally by including capsicum to your daily diet.
Red bell pepper is a great source of carotenoid pigments. Carotenoids act as an antioxidant and they are responsible for red color of bell pepper too. One of the causes of cancer is high level of free radical production in the cells that damages the DNA.
Because bell pepper is an amazing source of antioxidants it suppresses the production of free radicals and thus helps in the management of cancer. Further, red bell pepper has anti-tumor promoting activities and thus it prevents the growth of tumor. It also kills the cancer-causing cells and inhibits the spread and multiplication of such cells to other parts of the body.
Capsaicin in bell pepper promotes the breakdown of large fat molecules into smaller ones. Large fat molecules are stored in the body and cannot be used as a source of energy but these small fat molecules can further be used as a source of energy. Thus regular consumption of bell peppers inhibit the accumulation of fat in the body. Furthermore, "capsacinoids" present in bell pepper curb appetite and help in regulating calorie intake, facilitating weight loss.
Management of Diabetes Mellitus
High levels of oxidative stress increase the risk of diabetes associated complications. Bell peppers are an excellent source of antioxidants that fight oxidative stress and controls high blood glucose levels.
Bell pepper contains an enzyme that reduces the absorption of glucose and thus prevents spike in the blood glucose level. Such a property is commonly found in green bell pepper. A research has found that yellow bell pepper has an amazing potential to reduce tissue damage and complications associated with diabetes mellitus.
Bell pepper serves as a natural anti-bacterial agent and prevents bacterial and fungal growth. Flavones, flavonol, alkaloids and polyphenols (health-promoting compounds) present in bell pepper are very effective against an array of microorganisms. Thus, bell pepper is considered as a readily available and safe option for the treatment of infectious diseases.
Capsaicin, an active compound present in bell pepper shows pharmacological properties. Red capsicums are a good source of vitamin C and a source of vitamins A (formed from carotenoids) and B6 which help contribute to a healthy immune system. High oxidative stress levels due to a poor immune system are the root cause of various diseases and infections. As bell pepper is a rich source of antioxidants, it fights oxidative stress and keeps diseases and disorders at bay.
How To Select and Store Bell PepperSelect bell peppers that are spot free and have deep, fresh-looking colors. They should be firm without any water-soaked areas. Bell peppers are easily available all throughout the year but they are abundant during summer.
Unwashed whole bell pepper can be stored in the refrigerator for 8-10 days. Do not cut the bell peppers into pieces while storing because this may lead to loss of moisture. If bell peppers are stored without their stem, it may lead to chilling injury. Before using it wash it properly under cold running water.
Effect of Cooking on Bell Pepper
- As the cooking time increases, the amount of carotenoids in bell pepper is reduced compared to its raw form. However, less carotenoids were lost during stir-frying.
- It is further recommended that bell peppers should be either roasted or stir-fried because these cooking methods result in lesser loss of vitamin C, carotenoids, polyphenols and antioxidants.
- Research has found that dry heat cooking methods such as roasting and stir-frying leads to small losses of vitamin C whereas, moist heat cooking methods such as steaming and boiling leads to greater loss.
Bell Pepper RecipeStuffed Capsicum
- Capsicum or Bell peppers - 5
- Boiled and mashed potatoes - 3
- Red capsicum, chopped- 1
- Crumbled Paneer or Tofu or minced meat - 1 cup
- Onion, chopped - 1
- Chopped Cilantro - 2 tablespoon
- Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon
- Red chilli powder - 3/4 teaspoon
- Coriander powder - 2 teaspoon
- Powdered cumin - 1 teaspoon
- Salt to taste
- Oil - For roasting
- Prepare the filling: Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan, add chopped onions, red capsicum and saute for 2 minutes until tender. Add crumbled paneer or meat and mix.
- Add in mashed potatoes and all the spices one by one and mix until well blended.
- Add chopped cilantro. Let the stuffing cool down to room temperature.
- Wash and chop the top of the capsicum. Run a knife all around the capsicum and cut its inner part.
- Stuff the capsicum with the filling. You can cut the capsicum into half.
- Bake the capsicum at 350 degree F for 20 - 30 minutes.
- Or you can heat oil in a pan. Place the stuffed capsicum and cook for 30 - 40 minutes with a closed lid.