Functional Foods: Sweet Bell Peppers

Updated: Aug 23



By Christine “Cricket” Giles, M.S., B.S., Certified Nutrition Consultant


When you think of bell peppers, do you think first about the awesome recipes they pair with or their nutrition? I usually think first about fajitas, stuffed peppers and a delicious veggie to dip in hummus or guacamole. Yet, these vibrant colored vegetables are abundant with nutrients too! I call that a win-win!


You may have a favorite color bell pepper but, did you know red, yellow, and orange bell peppers are mature versions of green peppers? These varieties of the bell pepper are sweeter than the green pepper and have changed color due to aging. The colors have changed mostly from the carotenoids, a type of phytonutrients affiliated with Vitamin A.


Nutrient Content of Bell Peppers:

Bell peppers, of any variety, contain roughly the same nutritional content. Yet, here is a slight variation between them due to their antioxidant properties. A fun fact to note about any variety of the bell pepper is that they contain more Vitamin C than an orange!. See the Nutrition Facts label for red bell pepper nutrients. This amazing functional food can boost your immune system and aid your body in functioning properly:

Types of Bell Peppers and What to Use Them For:

Green Bell Peppers are like kale in the fact that they contain many nutrients, masked by the green pigment. They are great in salads, sautéed by themselves, or with other veggies, in tacos, or even stuffed peppers (see recipe below). These peppers are milder than their vibrant counterparts and can be used in any healthy recipe you whip up.



Red, Yellow and Orange Bell Peppers are sweeter than the green peppers and very versatile in their use. They can be delicious additions in salads, eaten raw and/or with a dip, roasted with other vegetables, or as a main course for stuffed peppers. Start out by grabbing a few colors of peppers and eat them raw with your favorite dip. Which color do you enjoy most? Once you’ve discovered this, try out this delicious, nutritious and filling stuffed pepper recipe below, using your favorite variety!


Food For Thought

Bell peppers are categorized in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. This family of plants is made up of peppers, pepper derived spices such as cayenne pepper, eggplant, tomatoes, white potatoes, and tobacco. All of these vegetables contain nicotine, but in trace amounts and bell peppers contain the most out of any of the above. Why is this important? Nicotine, in trace amounts (not by smoking), is thought to have neuroprotective effects in non-smokers, specifically in Parkinson’s Disease. Due to having a higher amount of trace amounts of nicotine, peppers may have a higher neuroprotective effect than their counterparts. Specifically, eating peppers 2-4 times/week has been associated with a more than 30% reduction in the risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease according to a study by the University of Washington Superfund Research Grant.


Sneaky Chef Stuffed Peppers Recipe


Ingredients:

4 bell peppers, you choose the color. Pick ones that will be easy to stuff!

3 tbsp cooking fat, such as coconut or avocado oil

2 cups of leafy greens. We recommend kale, spinach, beet greens, collards, swiss chard or really any green you love!

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup diced tomatoes or ½ cup tomato sauce

1 cup chopped starchy vegetables such as butternut squash or sweet potato

1 pound ground meat; beef, lamb or turkey are great options.

¼ cup chopped onion

¼ tsp cumin

¼ tsp chili powder

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

Optional: nutritional yeast to taste


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Cut off the top of each bell pepper and remove the seeds.

Place peppers in a greased or lined deep baking dish and bake for 10 minutes to soften.

While the peppers bake, melt the cooking fat in a large skillet and medium heat.

Add onion and cook until translucent.

Add garlic and cook until aromatic

Add in ground meat and break it up with a wooden spoon.

Add the vegetables and let them cook for about 3 minutes before adding the spices.

Continue to cook, mixing occasionally until meat is almost fully cooked.

Divide mixture evenly into each pepper.

Return to the oven and bake for 10 more minutes.

Top with nutritional yeast if you desire!


Note: Sometimes there is leftover filling. I love eating this as breakfast with scrambled eggs the next day!


If you'd like more information on how to work with Christine on your nutrition-related goals, please email hello@carolinaholistichealth.com.


**Reminder: This is an educational article that does not constitute medical advice. It is always recommended to speak with your healthcare provider before implementing any of the above recommendations, especially if you have pre-existing conditions or are taking medications.

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