Bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) are fruits that belong to the nightshade family.
They are related to chili peppers, tomatoes, and breadfruit, all of which are native to Central and South America.
Also called sweet peppers or capsicums, bell peppers can be eaten either raw or cooked.
Like their close relatives, chili peppers, bell peppers are sometimes dried and powdered. In that case, they are referred to as paprika.
They are low in calories and exceptionally rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants, making them an excellent addition to a healthy diet.
Bell peppers come in various colors, such as red, yellow, orange, and green — which are unripe.
Green, unripe peppers have a slightly bitter flavor and are not as sweet as fully ripe ones.
This article tells you everything you need to know about peppers.
Fresh, raw bell peppers are mainly composed of water (92%). The rest is carbs and small amounts of protein and fat.
The main nutrients in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of raw, red bell peppers are:
- Calories: 31
- Water: 92%
- Protein: 1 gram
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Sugar: 4.2 grams
- Fiber: 2.1 grams
- Fat: 0.3 grams
Bell peppers are primarily composed of carbs, which account for most of their calorie content — with 3.5 ounces (100 grams) holding 6 grams of carbs.
The carbs are mostly sugars — such as glucose and fructose — which are responsible for the sweet taste of ripe bell peppers.
Bell peppers also contain small amounts of fiber — 2% by fresh weight. Calorie for calorie, they are a very good fiber source.
Vitamins and minerals
Bell peppers are loaded with various vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin C. One medium-sized red bell pepper provides 169% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin C, making it one of the richest dietary sources of this essential nutrient.
- Vitamin B6. Pyridoxine is the most common type of vitamin B6, which is a family of nutrients important for the formation of red blood cells.
- Vitamin K1. A form of vitamin K, also known as phylloquinone, K1 is important for blood clotting and bone health.
- Potassium. This essential mineral may improve heart health.
- Folate. Also known as vitamin B9, folate has a variety of functions in your body. Adequate folate intake is very important during pregnancy.
- Vitamin E. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin E is essential for healthy nerves and muscles. The best dietary sources of this fat-soluble vitamin are oils, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.
- Vitamin A. Red bell peppers are high in pro-vitamin A (beta carotene), which your body converts into vitamin A.
Other plant compounds
Bell peppers are rich in various antioxidants — especially carotenoids, which are much more abundant in ripe specimens.
The main compounds in bell peppers are:
- Capsanthin. Especially high in red bell peppers, capsanthin is a powerful antioxidant responsible for their brilliant red color.
- Violaxanthin. This compound is the most common carotenoid antioxidant in yellow bell peppers.
- Lutein. While abundant in green (unripe) bell peppers and black paprika, lutein is absent from ripe bell peppers. Adequate intake of lutein may improve eye health.
- Quercetin. Studies indicate that this polyphenol antioxidant may be beneficial for preventing certain chronic conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.
- Luteolin. Similarly to quercetin, luteolin is an polyphenol antioxidant that may have a variety of beneficial health effects.
Health benefits of bell peppers
Like most whole plant foods, bell peppers are considered a healthy food.
High consumption of fruits and vegetables has been linked to a reduced risk of many chronic illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease.
In addition, bell peppers may have a number of other health benefits.
The most common types of visual impairments include macular degeneration and cataracts, the main causes of which are aging and infections. However, nutrition may also play a significant role in developing these diseases.
Lutein and zeaxanthin — carotenoids found in relatively high amounts in bell peppers — may improve eye health when consumed in adequate amounts.
In fact, they protect your retina — the light-sensitive inner wall of your eye — from oxidative damage. A number of studies indicate that regular consumption of foods rich in these carotenoids may cut the risk of both cataracts and macular degeneration.
Thus, adding bell peppers to your diet may help lower your risk of visual impairments.
Anemia is a common condition characterized by a reduced ability of your blood to carry oxygen.
One of the most common causes of anemia is iron deficiency, the main symptoms of which are weakness and tiredness.
Not only are red bell peppers a decent source of iron, they are also exceptionally rich in vitamin C, which increases the absorption of iron from your gut.
In fact, one medium-sized red bell pepper may contain 169% of the RDI for vitamin C.
Dietary iron absorption increases significantly when you consume fruits or vegetables high in vitamin C.
For this reason, eating raw bell peppers alongside iron-rich foods — such as meat or spinach — may help increase your body’s iron stores, cutting your risk of anemia.