By Melissa Biggs-Chavez, MS, RDN, LDN
Bell peppers belong to the Capsicum family, and while a botanist would classify them as a fruit because they are a flowering plant, we in the culinary world consider them vegetables. Their name comes from their physical resemblance to the shape of a bell.
Bell peppers are mild in flavor and are sometimes referred to as sweet peppers. They can be found all year round in supermarkets, but their peak season is approximately from July to September.
While most bell peppers are green when young, as they ripen and mature they can turn orange, purple, red, yellow, or brown.
Bell peppers are a low-calorie food with lots of micronutrients. One cup of chopped peppers contains 30 calories, 2.5 grams of fiber, and 133 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. They are also a good source of vitamins A, K, and B6.
Peppers are full of phytochemicals, naturally occurring compounds that many studies have linked to cancer prevention. In particular, red peppers contain more of these compounds and also contain lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that studies have linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration.
How to enjoy:
You can enjoy bell peppers in a variety of ways. They taste great whether cooked or raw, which makes them a versatile option for home cooking. Try some of the following tips to incorporate bell peppers into your diet:
• Enjoy sliced raw bell peppers with a dip such as hummus or ranch dressing.
• Add chopped bell peppers to your salad for some extra zest and crunch.
• Sauté sliced bell peppers and onions in olive oil to add some color to fajitas, omelettes, or stir-fries.
• Sprinkle diced bell peppers onto your homemade (or even frozen) pizza before baking.
• Infuse bell peppers in oil blends or homemade dressings that can also be used as a dip for bread.
• Add large chopped bell pepper pieces on skewers with other meats and vegetables.
• Try a stuffed bell pepper recipe.