Crisp, sweet red bell peppers are versatile and packed with nutrients. They’re loaded with the antioxidants Vitamin C and A, which support immunity and help the body fight free radicals – molecules implicated in inflammation and many disease processes. That beautiful red color is attributed to the nutrient lycopene, another antioxidant. Vitamin B6 and folate – nutrients that support red blood cells – are also found in these crimson beauties. Making red bells a regular part of your diet can help protect against chronic illnesses such as heart disease, joint disease, and cancer.
Red bells are actually the fully ripe version of green bell peppers. With the exception of very cold winters, they’re available year-round in most places. Choose peppers with deep color, taut skin, and fresh-looking stems. Peppers should be firm and heavy for their size (indicating they are well hydrated). They add flavor to sandwiches, stir-fry, salads, soups, stews, sauces, and are also delicious raw.
You may have heard that peppers are a part of the nightshade family of vegetables and aren’t a good food choice for some people. Nightshades (including potatoes, eggplant and tomatoes), are so named because they grow best in shady areas and some bloom at night. For most people, nightshades are a healthy choice, but for others, they can trigger a reaction similar to that seen with soy or dairy. If you’re concerned about this, consult a natural medicine practitioner for dietary testing and guidance.