What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Bell Peppers
Stuff 'em, slice 'em, dice 'em—whichever way you like to eat them, bell peppers are a versatile and delicious addition to any diet, especially since they come in at least four different colors (yes, there are also mixed color versions), each with its own unique flavor profile and health benefits. Other than gas or the rare allergic reaction to eating nightshade foods, there aren't many downsides to consuming more bell peppers. So because this vegetable-like fruit has few negative side effects, their bounty of health pluses are likely enough to encourage you to keep eating them. So, pick up a peck and start gaining these body benefits. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
You're aware that eating carrots is good for the eyes. Well, bell peppers are, too, for many of the same reasons: peppers contain the carotenoid compounds beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, plus vitamin C, which are all critical to eye health, according to the National Eye Institute. An Australian study published in 2019 in Proceedings of the Third International Tropical Agricultural Conference found that orange bell peppers contain the highest levels of zeaxanthin while yellow peppers are high in lutein. For more, check out 6 Best Supplements For Your Eyes, According to Experts.
"Peppers are an anti-inflammatory superfood—but go red to reap the most benefits," says Mike Zimmerman, author of The 14-Day Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Of all the colors of bell pepper, red peppers contain the highest amounts of beta-carotene, quercetin, and luteolin, according to research in the Journal of Food Science. Luteolin has been found to neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation.
If it has been more than three to four hours since your last meal, eating a balanced snack by combining a serving of carbs with a protein can fend off hunger until mealtime, says certified diabetes educator Lori Zanini, RD. "I eat red bell peppers nearly every day," she says. "One medium pepper actually contains more vitamin C than an orange, and the vegetable is extremely versatile." Zanini suggests dipping slices of red bell pepper in hummus for the perfect hunger-busting carbohydrate and protein snack.
Here's another thing about bell peppers no matter which color you choose: they are low in calories, just 31 per medium bell pepper. That's because, like a lot of vegetables, they are made up of mostly water and dietary fiber. Filling up on low-calorie density foods like bell peppers is a proven weight-loss strategy, one based on decades of research by Barbara Rolls, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State and author of The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet. Rolls' studies found that by reducing calories per bite of food by 30% (by eating low-calorie foods like peppers) and cutting serving size by 25%, participants ate 800 calories less per day and didn't feel hungry.
Less painful joints
Some people avoid the nightshade family of vegetables, like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, for fear of worsening arthritis symptoms, but there's no scientific evidence to support that myth, according to Cleveland Clinic rheumatologists. On the contrary, peppers likely protect cartilage and bone thanks to their abundance of vitamin C, says the Arthritis Foundation. A half-cup of red bell pepper gives you a full day's supply of the recommended 75 milligrams and 90 milligrams of vitamin C for women and men, respectively.
Bell peppers, like apples and other crunchy vegetables and fruits, are nature's toothbrushes. For one, their crunchy, fibrous texture helps scrub away food particles and bacteria. Secondly, peppers are loaded with water which stimulates the flow of saliva. Saliva is critical to the health of your teeth because it reduces the damaging effects of acids and enzymes that attack teeth, according to the College of Dentistry University of Illinois Chicago. Saliva also contains some calcium phosphate, which restores minerals to tooth surfaces damaged by bacterial acids.
Researchers set out to identify foods that are the best sources of nutrients that have been proven by science to promote recovery from depressive disorders. Reviewing the scientific literature, they keyed on those foods containing the highest amounts of the following mood-boosting nutrients: Folate, iron, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), magnesium, potassium, selenium, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and zinc. The richest plant sources of those anti-depression nutrients were leafy greens, lettuce, cruciferous vegetables, and peppers, according to the 2018 report in the World Journal of Psychiatry.
Increased metabolism and fat burning
A compound in green peppers may elevate your resting metabolic rate and boost fat burn, according to a rodent study in Nutrition Research. Dihydrocapsiate is a substance similar to capsaicin, which is found in chili peppers and is known for its thermogenic properties. In the 12-week study, researchers orally administered dihydrocapsiate to mice on a high-fat diet and found that the supplement reduced weight and fat gain, increased glucose metabolism, and improved the rodents' gut microbiome. A human study in The American Journal of Nutrition, however, concluded that dihydrocapsiate had just a small 50-calorie-per-day thermogenic effect, which is in the range of resting metabolic rate variability. Capsaicin, one of the naturally occurring chemicals in red peppers, has been shown to have an effect on satiety or energy intake, reducing body weight, fat mass, and waist circumference. In an analysis of 19 scientific studies published in 2014 in Appetite, researchers found that people who took capsaicinoid supplements prior to a meal reduced their caloric intake by 309 calories.
Less IBS pain
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder of the large intestine that often causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Stress and certain types of foods, especially milk and cabbage, and other vegetables can trigger the distress. Red peppers, however, may offer some relief, suggests a small preliminary study. Researchers found that the capsaicin in red peppers, when given in powder form in a coated capsule that dissolves in the colon, was significantly more effective than the placebo in decreasing the abdominal pain and bloating of IBS.
Reduced risk of heart disease
Studies show that capsaicin is a powerful antioxidant that can protect against the oxidative stress of free radical attacks that play a crucial role in the development of cardiovascular disease. Researchers wanted to determine the effect of supplementation of this component in peppers on metabolic syndrome, a cluster of heart-related conditions including abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and a poor cholesterol profile. In an analysis of 12 studies published in Nature, researchers found no significant improvements in glucose levels or hypertension, but a significantly reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol.
For more heart-healthy tips, read Simple Tricks to Avoid a Deadly Heart Attack, say Doctors.