Bell peppers are nightshade plants and are related to chili peppers. They originated in South America as early as 5000 BC, and Christopher Columbus mistakenly named them “pepper,” which means pimiento in Spanish. When Spanish conquistadors discovered they were extremely tasty, they carried them back to Europe, and, luckily, the plants were hardy and highly adaptable to a variety of climates. In fact, peppers soon became an important European and Asian food staple, and, today, bell peppers are important to a variety of cultures and included regularly in dishes throughout the world.
Bell peppers are colorful and nutritious and are available in a rainbow of colors from red, green, and yellow to orange, purple, brown, and even black. Bell peppers are also packed with vitamins and contain two powerful antioxidants, vitamin A and C. One cup of bell peppers offers over 290 percent of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C and more than 100 percent of your DV of vitamin A. Peppers are also considered an excellent source of vitamin B6 and a very good source of vitamin K, molybdenum, manganese, and folate.
Although bell peppers can usually be found throughout the year, they’re most abundant August through September, and because they’re so concentrated with vitamins and minerals, they offer numerous health benefits and aid you in these ways:
- Improve eyesight
- Promote lung health
- Protect against free radicals
- Protect against rheumatoid arthritis
- Reduce your risk of macular degeneration
- Stimulate the immune system
Bell peppers are also one of the twelve foods listed on Environmental Working Groups lists of foods you should buy organically if you want to avoid pesticides. (To learn the other eleven foods, read Twelve Foods to Buy Organic.) Bell peppers are frequently waxed, and, if the ones you purchase are, scrub them well before using them. Additionally, the riper the pepper, the more nutritious it is, and, the thicker its skin, the sweeter. So, if you’re searching for nutrition and sweetness the red pepper is preferable to the green pepper, because it began as a humble green pepper.