Saturday, February 14, 2009

pick a peck

I was talking with a friend, Danielle, the other day and she mentioned that she didn't really like vegetables.  It's funny, since I am a Nutrition Educator people somehow feel they have to confess their dietary habits to me.  Whether they don't eat vegetables or they like soda.  What they don't realize it that I'm not here to pass judgement on anyone.  If you want to improve your nutrition, need support for changing food habits, or need information to help with health issues, I'm happy to help.  But I truly don't spend my time making pronouncements about someone else's food habits;  if I did that I wouldn't be a very fun person to hang out with.

In talking to Danielle about her non-vegetable habit she did share that she likes peppers.  A lot.  While there are a lot of different kinds of peppers (capsicum) from chili peppers to cayenne, I realized that she was talking about sweet, or bell, peppers (capsicum annuum) which are available in a few different colors.  They are all the same fruit (yes, like tomatoes peppers are a fruit because the seeds are on the inside) and the color mostly indicates ripeness.

Bell peppers are a member of the nightshade (solanaceae) family, similar to potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant.  Nightshade vegetables are noted for being very high in alkaloids which is an inflammatory substance.  Nightshade vegetables should be avoided by those who have arthritis or other joint difficulties because alkaloids and other inflammatory substances are very hard on their system.

Green bell peppers are the most common ones found in the supermarket.  They are also the least expensive.  This is because they are not fully ripe.  They are also not as sweet as their colored counterparts.  If left on the plant a green bell pepper will become either yellow or orange.  If left further it will become red.  As a pepper progresses through the growth process it becomes sweeter and the vitamin content changes.  Of the colors red bell peppers are highest in vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta carotene.  Red peppers also contain lycopene which is gaining a lot of positive press as a carotinoid that appears to lower the risk for prostate, cervix and other cancers.  Green bell peppers have more vitamin A and beta carotene than yellow or orange ones.  

Bell peppers are also a good source of fiber, vitamin K and folate.  They make an easy and tasty addition to almost any dish and can be cooked in a wide variety of ways.  My favorite way is to sautee them with onions and garlic, but grilling them comes in a close second.  Diced and sprinkled on top of a salad or tacos they are delicious.  Stuffed and baked is another tasty way to serve them.   There are many more ways to incorporate them into your diet.

Although I certainly suggest eating a wide variety of vegetables, and lots of them, every day, peppers are certainly one way to get some fiber and some nutrients into your system.

Be well.

photo courtesy of

No comments: