Bell peppers are a versatile ingredient. Believe it or not, bell peppers are a fruit. It is considered to be a vegetable because it is used as such in many savory dishes. Bell peppers are a low-calorie ingredient that is an excellent source of vitamin C as well as other beneficial compounds, making them a nutritious addition to any diet. However, before we discuss the health benefits of this delicious ingredient, let’s discover what bell peppers are.
What Are Bell Peppers
Bell peppers, scientifically known as Capsicum annuum, are fruits belonging to the Solanaceae or nightshade species. Commonly called sweet peppers in the Bahamas, bell peppers are grown for their thick, mildly sweet fruit that has an array of colors, including green, red, yellow, orange, and even purple.
Bell peppers are annual plants, and green bell peppers are picked before they develop a yellow or red pigment, usually, 60-80 days after they are transplanted. Green bell peppers have a slightly bitter, less sweet taste than their yellow, orange, or red counterparts.
Bell peppers are in the same family as breadfruit, chili peppers, and tomatoes which are indigenous to Central and South America. However, what sets bell peppers apart from hot peppers is their lack of capsaicin, a chemical responsible for causing spiciness.
It is also the reason why bell peppers are called sweet peppers. Like their close cousins, chili peppers, bell peppers can be dried and ground into a powder known as paprika.
Though bell peppers come in a variety of colors, bell peppers retain the same shape and structure. The exterior of bell peppers is smooth, but the flesh is crunchy and sweet. Bell peppers are hollow on the inside and contain a large cluster of seeds that connects to a membrane running along the walls of the pepper’s interior.
History Of Bell Peppers
Bell peppers have been around since the start of civilization. In fact, humans have consumed bell peppers since 7500 BC. Ancient Native Americans domesticated the wild chili Piquin which is the ancestor of several varieties of peppers found today.
Native Americans cultivated chili plants 5200 and 3400 BC, making chili one of the oldest cultivated crops. Bell peppers were one of the first plants to be grown in the New World, including maize, cucurbits, and beans. Bell peppers traveled from the New World to other continents by Spanish and Portuguese merchants during the 16th century.
Bell Pepper Substitutes
Even though bell peppers are widely available, should your local grocery store have a shortage, there is no need to have a panic attack. There are a couple of substitutes you can use to replace bell peppers in a recipe.
Poblano and Cubanelle peppers are the best substitutes for bell peppers as they have a similar flavor and texture. Poblano peppers have thick walls and do not break down once they are cooked.
In addition to this, poblanos can be used to make stuffed peppers, just like bell peppers. The only drawback of poblanos is that they are not as sweet as red or yellow bell peppers, and they have a mild spicy flavor.
On the other hand, cubanelle peppers boast a crunchy, subtle, sweet yet spicy flavor. Cubanelles are not as spicy as poblanos, but they are spicier than bell peppers.
Cubanelles are suitable for use as a pizza topping, quiches, salads, and casseroles. However, they can also be diced and sautéed along with onions, celery, and carrots for a soup or stew base. Even though Cubanelle peppers have thinner walls than bell peppers, they can still be stuffed with meats, vegetables, or rice.
How Long Do Bell Peppers Last?
The shelf life of bell peppers depends on the type of bell peppers and whether they have been cut. Since green bell peppers are picked before they are ripened, they have a longer shelf life than red, yellow, and orange peppers. Uncut green bell peppers stored in the refrigerator have a shelf life of 1-3 weeks.
In contrast, uncut red, orange, and yellow stored in the refrigerator can last for 5 days-2 weeks. Cut bell peppers stored in an airtight container in the fridge will last for 3 days. In addition to this, bell peppers can also be stored blanched or unblanched in the freezer.
The Health Benefits Of Bell Peppers
Although bell peppers contain several phytochemicals and carotenoids, they are valued for their abundant amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C is the most abundant water-soluble antioxidant in the human body.
Antioxidants are needed by the body to prevent free radicals, which have been linked to several major human diseases such as neural disorders, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. Furthermore, vitamin C is thought to prevent cancer by impeding the development of N-nitroso composites in the stomach and by stimulating the immune system.
On the other hand, carotenoids are fat-soluble antioxidants that are needed by the body for human epithelial cellular differentiation.
Due to their flavonoid and phytochemical content, bell peppers may also reduce your risk of developing a degenerative disease. In addition to this, flavonoids have several health benefits, such as reducing cancer and possessing antioxidation, anti-inflammation, and anti-allergy effects.
Flavonoids may also repress enzymes such as cyclooxygenase, prostaglandin synthase, and lipoxygenase, which are associated with tumorigenesis. In addition to this, cooked bell peppers can also prevent the oxidation of essential fatty acids.
One animal study found bell pepper’s antioxidant capabilities had protective effects on the brain cells. The components found in bell peppers actively inhibited the oxidation of the essential fats within the brain cells that are important for optimal brain function.
Bell peppers are a nutritious addition to any meal. You can consume slices of this flavorful fruit, raw or cooked. Best of all, bell peppers may prevent cancer and possess anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties.