Health benefit – the humble Green/Yellow/Red Pepper !

Health benefit – the humble Green,/Yellow/ Red Pepper !

While bell peppers are a very popular vegetable, they have not always shared the health research spotlight with other members of the pepper family due to their very minimal content of the phytonutrient capsaicin, the well-researched pepper compound that gives hot peppers their “heat.” bellpepper

Once active in the body, capsaicin can bind onto nerve cell receptors and change pain sensation, and it may also have important anti-cancer and blood-sugar balancing properties.

However, the lack of “heat” or significant amounts of capsaicin in bell peppers does not mean that this vegetable should be denied the health research spotlight!
The actual nutrient and phytonutrient content of bell peppers is impressive – and also somewhat surprising given the very low-fat nature of this vegetable (some nutrients and phtyonutrients are fat-soluble and hence for them to be present the food needs to contain some fat).

There is far less than 1 gram of total fat in one cup of sliced bell pepper. However, this very small amount of fat is enough to provide a reliable storage spot for bell pepper’s fat-soluble nutrients, including its fat-soluble carotenoids and vitamin E. Bell pepper is a very good source of vitamin E at about 1.45 milligrams per cup, and it contains more than 30 different carotenoids, including excellent amounts of beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. Both of these carotenoids provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits.

Within this Health Benefits section, we’ll focus on two areas of bell pepper research: research on the antioxidant benefits, and research on potential anti-cancer benefits.

Antioxidant Benefits

While research studies have tended to focus on carotenoids as the hallmark antioxidants in bell pepper, this vegetable actually provides us with a very broad range of antioxidants. In terms of conventional nutrients, bell pepper is an excellent source of vitamin C at 117 milligrams per cup. (That’s more than twice the amount of vitamin C found in a typical orange.) Bell pepper is also a good source of another antioxidant vitamin–vitamin E. In addition to these conventional antioxidant vitamins, bell pepper is also a good source of the antioxidant mineral manganese. The list of bell pepper phytonutrients is also impressive and includes:

Flavonoids
luteolin
quercetin
hesperidin
Carotenoids
alpha-carotene
beta-carotene
cryptoxanthin
lutein
zeaxanthin
Hydroxycinnamic Acids
ferulic acid
cinnamic acid
Within this list of phytonutrient antioxidants, it’s understandable why carotenoids have been singled out for research attention. Among the five carotenoids listed above, bell pepper contains concentrated amounts of beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. (One cup of freshly sliced red bell pepper, for example, contains about 1,500 micrograms of beta-carotene, or the same as one third of a small carrot.) In a recent study from Spain, researchers took a close look at vitamin C, vitamin E, and six different carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin) found in all commonly eaten foods. Only two vegetables were determined to contain at least two-thirds of these nutrients. One of these foods was tomato, and the other was sweet bell pepper! In addition, bell pepper alone was determined to provide 12% of the total zeaxanthin found in the participants’ diets! Bell pepper alone was also found to provide 7% of the participants’ total vitamin C intake.

This remarkable track record for bell peppers as an antioxidant-rich food has yet to be translated into research on risk reduction for disease. We expect to see antioxidant benefits specifically from bell peppers showing up in a wide variety of human health studies, including studies on prevention of cardiovascular disease and prevention of type 2 diabetes. We also expect to see antioxidant benefits showing up strongly in the area of eye health. Just one cup of sweet green bell pepper slices provides us with 314 micrograms (combined) of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These two particular carotenoids are found in high concentrations in the macula of the eye (the centermost part of the retina), and they are required for protection of the macula from oxygen-related damage. In one condition called age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, the macula of the eye can become damaged and vision can become lost. (In the U.S., AMD is the leading case of blindness in adults over the age of 60.) We suspect that future human studies will show risk reduction for AMD with routine intake of bell peppers due to their strong antioxidant benefits (and in particular, their unique concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin).

Potential Anti-Cancer Benefits

As a food that is rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, bell pepper would be expected to provide us with important anti-cancer benefits. Exposure to chronic excessive inflammation and chronic unwanted oxidative stress can increase the risk of cancer development for most cancer types, and both of these factors can be partly offset by diet. (Regular intake of antioxidant nutrients can lower the likelihood of chronic oxidative stress, and regular intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients can lower the likelihood of chronic excessive inflammation.) With a rich supply of phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, bell peppers would be expected to help offset these factors and lower our risk of cancer development. Unfortunately, large-scale human research studies have not tried to isolate the impact of bell peppers on cancer risk. At best, they have usually grouped bell peppers among other vegetables and analyzed the anti-cancer benefits of vegetables as a group. Still, we very much expect to see future studies documenting the specific benefits of bell peppers for risk reduction of cancer. Based on preliminary studies on animals and in the lab, cancers of the digestive tract (including gastric cancer and esophageal cancer) may be areas in which bell peppers end up showing a special potential for support.

Alongside of this antioxidant/anti-inflammatory component of bell peppers’ potential anti-cancer benefits is a second, less expected component. This second component involves the metabolism of sulfur compounds in bell pepper, and in particular the metabolism of the sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine. While bell pepper is not high in either protein or in the amino acid cysteine, it may be unusual in its metabolism of this amino acid. Several recent studies have taken a close look at the presence of enzymes in bell peppers called cysteine S-conjugate beta-lyases and their role in a sulfur-containing metabolic pathway called the thiomethyl shunt. These enzymes and this pathway may be involved in some of the anti-cancer benefits that bell pepper has shown in some preliminary animal and lab studies. They may serve as the basis for some of the anti-cancer benefits shown by green, yellow, red and orange vegetable intake in recent studies, including a recent study on risk reduction for gastric cancer and esophageal cancer.

Description

Bell peppers belong to the nightshade (Solanaceae) family of plants, along with chili pepper, cayenne pepper, eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes (except sweet potatoes and yams). Their scientific name is Capsicum annuum.

This scientific name, however, is used to refer not only to bell peppers, but also to wax peppers, cayenne peppers, chili peppers, and jalapeno peppers.

While we are most accustomed to seeing green bell peppers in the supermarket, these delicious vegetables actually come in a wide variety of colors, including yellow, orange, red, purple, brown and black.

The green bell peppers you purchase in the food market may actually be immature, non-ripe versions of these other color varieties. Not all bell peppers start off green, however, nor do green bell peppers always mature into other basic colors.

Paprika is a dried powdered form of bell pepper, and even though we are used to seeing red paprika in the spice section of the grocery, a paprika can be made from any color of bell pepper and it will end up being that same color once dried and ground into powder.

Bell peppers can be eaten at any stage of development. However, recent research has shown that the vitamin C and carotenoid content of bell peppers tends to increase while the pepper is reaching its optimal ripeness. Bell peppers are also typically more flavorful when optimally ripe.

History

Bell peppers have been cultivated for more than 9000 years, with the earliest cultivation having taken place in South and Central America. While the name “pepper” was given to this food by European colonizers of North America who first came across it in the 1500-1600’s and then transported it back to Europe, the original name for this food in Spanish was pimiento.

Because bell peppers can be grown in a variety of climates and are popular in cuisines throughout the world, they can frequently be found on small farms in North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. In terms of commercial production, however, China has become by far the largest producer of bell peppers and produced 14 million metric tons in 2007. At about 2 million metric tons, Mexico is the second largest commercial producer, followed by the United States at approximately 1 million metric tons. excerpt from WHFoods.org

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I’ve discovered that this is the most versatile but the most under rated commodity that we have in our “salad” diet !!

With ” Nature’s bounty” why do we not look for a good way to create a healthy body for the summer and from thereon in ?

Now that spring is here, it is a good time to start thinking about preparing for the summer months, hopefully, sun and warm weather.

Santé

  • The countdown to summer should begin soon, as a gradual preparation is the best way to ensure a healthy body !
  • During the winter we’ve enjoyed our stews and ” comfort foods” especially as this year has not been easy, with the weather leading us to “need” warming sustaining meals.

Now is the time to start planning.

  • The need for a healthy life style, doesn’t have to be difficult, when there are so many lovely scrummy recipes and  great fresh produce of fruit,vegetables and salads becoming available and affordable.

The benefits of the salad varieties are amazing and often unsung !

Not only do they provide excellent nutrition, but the wonderful colours give a beautiful “eye catching  table” ! As we eat “with our senses”, the visual benefits of the colourful foods help to satisfy.

In our quest for a healthy life, sometimes we need a little help !

Self-monitoring is a tried and true weight management strategy.

Most people know to keep a daily food diary.

It’s also helpful to weigh and measure yourself regularly and track it on a graph so you can increase your awareness of how your behaviours impact your weight and measurements..

This graph provides a visual reminder to stay on track, and seeing a declining slope reinforces you when you’re on track.

This is one of the “apps” you can find in FitChoice.

For more information go to http://pleine-vie.ineways.eu select language and discover FitChoice

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Alternatively, you can ask me any questions regarding FitChoice at   maggie@pleine-vie.com 

My help is only a click away !

Author:Maggie Pascoe (G+)

 

 

About Maggie Pascoe

By helping enough people achieve what they want to achieve, you will achieve your goals !l My aim is to help people get what they want in life, to improve their health & life & have the same satisfaction by helping others.

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