Ingredient of the Week, March 24: Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are a delicious vegetable that can be enjoyed either raw or cooked. When served raw, bell peppers have a crisp texture that lends itself to salads and makes a perfect complement to dips. When bell peppers are cooked they take on a smoky, sweetness that enhances many dishes.
Bell peppers come in a variety of colors including green, yellow, orange, red and black. Green bell peppers are somewhat bitter in flavor while red and orange peppers tend to be much sweeter. Red bell peppers are used to make pimentos and paprika. In addition to their great flavor, bell peppers have great nutritional value.
Bell peppers contain very high amounts of vitamin C and Vitamin A. One cup of raw, red bell peppers supplies roughly 290 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and 105 percent of the RDA for vitamin A. Bell peppers also contain significant amounts of vitamin B 6 and dietary fiber.
Low in Calories
Bell peppers are a great, low calorie snack. One red bell pepper contains only 30 to 40 calories and has a satisfying crunchy bite. The fiber that bell peppers contain will help you to feel full with very few calories. Keep slices of bell peppers in the refrigerator, so you’ll always have something healthy to reach for when you’re having a snack attack.
High in Antioxidants
Bell peppers are a great source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are free radical scavengers that help to keep the body in tip-top shape. Not only are bell peppers high in the antioxidant vitamins C and A, they are also a good source of lycopene. Consuming foods with lycopene has been shown to lower the risk of prostate, bladder, cervical and pancreatic cancers.
Look for peppers that are vibrant in color. The skins should be firm and unblemished. Avoid peppers with any dark spots. The peppers you choose should also have a nice, weighty feel for their size. Bell peppers are available all year long but are more plentiful, and thus a better deal, in the summer months.
Bell peppers should be stored, unwashed, in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerators. If stored correctly, they will keep fresh for up to a week. Bell peppers may also be frozen. Store whole peppers in an airtight, freezer-safe container.
Always wash peppers under running water before use. You can also use a vegetable wash to remove any wax from your peppers. It’s easy to make your own veggie wash, just dilute vinegar or lemon juice with fresh water and store in a spray bottle.
After washing, peppers can be sliced or chopped any way you wish. Just be certain to remove the stem, seeds and ribs prior to cutting.
Bell peppers taste great raw, grilled, roasted and stuffed. However you decide to prepare your bell peppers, know that you are eating one of the world’s most nutritious vegetables.
Do you like to eat bell peppers raw or cooked?