Bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) are fruits that belong to the nightshade family.
They are related to chili peppers, tomatoes, and breadfruit, all 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 and 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 less sweet than fully ripe ones.
This article tells you everything you need to know about peppers.
Bell peppers nutrition facts
Fresh, raw bell peppers mainly contain 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 primarily sugars — such as glucose and fructose — 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.
Summary: Bell peppers are mainly made up of water and carbs. Most of the carbs are sugars, such as glucose and fructose. Bell peppers are also a decent source of fiber.
Vitamins and minerals
Bell peppers are loaded with various vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin C. One medium-sized red bell pepper provides 169% of the recommended daily intake 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, a family of nutrients essential for forming red blood cells.
- Vitamin K1. A form of vitamin K, also known as phylloquinone, K1 is vital 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.
Summary: Bell peppers are very high in vitamin C, with a single one providing up to 169% of the recommended daily intake. Other vitamins and minerals in bell peppers include vitamin K1, E, A, folate, and potassium.
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. Like quercetin, luteolin is an polyphenol antioxidant that may have various beneficial health effects.
Summary: Bell peppers contain many healthy antioxidants, including capsanthin, violaxanthin, lutein, quercetin, and luteolin. These plant compounds are associated with many health benefits.
Health benefits of bell peppers
Like most whole plant foods, bell peppers are considered 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 several other health benefits.
The most common types of visual impairments include macular degeneration and cataracts, the leading causes of which are aging and infections.
Suggested read: Tomatoes: Nutrition facts and health benefits
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.
They protect your retina — the light-sensitive inner wall of your eye — from oxidative damage.
Several 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 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.
One medium-sized red bell pepper may contain 169% of the recommended daily vitamin C intake.
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.
Summary: Like other fruits and vegetables, bell peppers may have many health benefits. These include improved eye health and reduced risk of anemia.
Bell peppers are generally healthy and well-tolerated, but some people may be allergic. That said, allergy is quite rare.
Still, some people with pollen allergies may also be sensitive to bell peppers due to allergic cross-reactivity.
Allergic cross-reactions can happen between certain foods because they may contain the same allergens — or allergens similar in chemical structure.
Suggested read: Spinach: Nutrition facts and health benefits
Summary: When eaten in moderation, bell peppers do not have any adverse health effects. However, they may trigger allergies in some people.
Bell peppers are rich in many vitamins and antioxidants, especially vitamin C and various carotenoids.
For this reason, they may have several health benefits, such as improved eye health and reduced risk of several chronic diseases.
All in all, bell peppers are an excellent addition to a healthy diet.