When you think of Bell Peppers, I bet you immediately envision the green ones. But the yellow, red and orange bell peppers are not only beautiful and add a visual interest to dishes, they are tastier and healthier! Green Peppers are picked before they are ripe which is why they are cheaper. They are often bitter and some people can’t digest them. If green bell peppers are left to ripen they will turn yellow, orange, and then red. These are much more flavorful. The orange and yellow have a fruity taste, while the red bell pepper is the most mature and contains more nutrients. A red bell pepper has over 10 times more beta-carotene than green bell peppers and twice the Vitamin C of an orange. Because of the high levels of Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and lutein, this food may protect our eyes by helping ward off cataracts and macular degeneration. The yellow, red and orange peppers are actually easier to digest than green peppers too. They are a good source of fiber and a concentrated source of lycopene which makes them heart healthy.
Bonus! This is an excellent food if you are watching your calories. Just one cup of raw red bell peppers contains only 25 calories. Who doesn’t love that?
You can get bell peppers year round, but they are their most nutrient dense in the summer months, and I recommend you take advantage of them at this time. When shopping, choose the ones with the deepest colors with green stems and firm to the touch. Avoid the ones that are wrinkled or feel soft. Bell peppers rank number seven on the Dirty Dozen, a list of most heavily sprayed pieces of produce. So please purchase these organic to avoid pesticide exposure. For a complete list of the most heavily contaminated produce visit my resource page and download the free pocket size shopping guide. http://karenrothnutrition.com/resources/websites
You should only cook bell peppers for a short time to retain the nutrients. Overcooking will reduce their nutrients as much as 50%.
Of course the best way to eat these is raw. They are so incredibly sweet and crunchy that they make an excellent snack all by themselves. But if you like, try dipping them into some hummus, or dress up some olive oil with fresh cracked pepper and salt and use that as a dip. You can chop in bite size pieces or long strips and add to a salad.
Next time you are cooking fajitas, think about slicing some colorful orange and yellow bell peppers instead of the green ones and sautéing them for no longer than 10 minutes. Remember if you are watching your calories, sauté in low sodium vegetable broth instead of oil. You can top any fish or chicken dish with freshly sautéed peppers.
Consider making a bell pepper salad. Toss raw strips of bell peppers with extra virgin olive oil, some lemon juice, fresh basil and crumbled goat cheese.
And don’t forget how easy it is to add these into stir fries. Dress up a side dish of couscous or rice with small pieces of bell peppers. One of my favorite ways to use these colorful vegetables is to dress up a boring can of beans. I add chopped onion and bell peppers. It turns a boring can of beans into a beautiful tasty side dish.
Written By Karen Roth