In culinary terms, the red bell pepper is a vegetable, but botanically it’s actually a fruit—just like tomatoes. No matter which bin you drop it in, you’ve got a nutritional superfood. In fact, red peppers are some of the most nutrient- dense vegetables you can eat, boasting 30 different antioxidants, which protect the body from disease-causing free radicals.
One medium red pepper provides a hefty 253 percent of your daily value of vitamin C and 74 percent of vitamin A. It’s also a very good source of B6 (17 percent), folic acid (14 percent) and fiber (10 percent). And it’s high (second only to tomatoes) in the antioxidant lycopene, which can help prevent cardiovascular disease, lower your risk of certain types of cancer and lessen the likelihood of chronic inflammation. Red peppers are potent when it comes to eye health too: They’re rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, which combat macular degeneration. Added bonus: One medium red pepper contains just 37 calories, making it an ideal snack for waist-watchers.
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Choose red peppers with deep color, taut skin and stems that look green and fresh. They should feel heavy for their size and firm enough so that they only “give” slightly to a small amount of pressure. If you’ll be eating your peppers in a day or two, there’s no need to refrigerate them. Beyond that, unwashed peppers will keep in the fridge for 7 to 10 days. Options for using red peppers are limited only by your creativity: Add finely chopped pepper to soups, stews and tuna or chicken salad; toss sliced pepper into stir-fries and green salads; dip slices into hummus or low-fat ranch dressing for a healthful snack or appetizer.
Did You Know?
Bell peppers come in a palette of colors—green, yellow, orange, red—and the difference in their hue is, for the most part, a matter of maturity. Crunchy green peppers are harvested before they are fully ripe. When left on the vine, they usually turn yellow-orange and then red. Since red peppers spend more time on the vine before being picked, they’re sweeter, have a higher nutritional content and are more expensive.