Peppers are more than just a colorful addition to salad and stir fry. Peppers of all varieties — sweet bell peppers and hot peppers alike — are very nutritious, adding much-needed vitamins and compounds to your diet. Below, you’ll find a detailed explanation of the health benefits peppers offer, along with a stuffed green peppers recipe to give you something creative to do with your green peppers.
Peppers and Antioxidants
These days, it seems like health food brands everywhere are trying to convince you that their product has plenty of antioxidants. From green tea to chocolate, “antioxidant” is one of the major buzzwords of the health food movement, but what is an antioxidant?
Most people know that antioxidants have something to do with preventing cancer, but that’s the extent of their knowledge. Antioxidants, in short, are molecules that stop other molecules from being damaged through oxidation. The process of oxidation causes a molecule to lose some of its electrons, which in turn produce unstable free radicals. The free radicals can trigger dangerous chain reactions that can damage cells, leading to cancer, heart disease, and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Free radicals are created naturally within the body because they are essentially unstable oxygen compounds, and oxygen is something we take in with each breath. As we get older, the free radicals increase. However, besides the natural production of free radicals, tobacco smoke, too much sunlight, air pollution, and foods with extra fat and/or sugar increase the number of free radicals.
Free radicals aren’t all bad; we do need some of them to stay alive, but the problem is our modern lifestyle means we’ve got more free radicals than we should – which is where antioxidants come in.
Antioxidants balance out our body, culling the extra free radicals and preventing them from damaging our cells. Fruits and vegetables contain many of the vitamins that act as antioxidants, including vitamin A and C. All types of peppers have these vitamins in them.
Other Health Benefits of Peppers
Lycopene is another ingredient within peppers, especially any red-colored pepper. Lycopene has been shown to help prevent a variety of cancers, including prostate cancer, cancer of the bladder, cervical cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Red peppers also contain beta-cryptoxanthin, which can fight the effects of both smoking and second-hand smoke.
When you’re eating a hot pepper of any sort, you’re consuming capsaicin. Capsaicin decreases blood cholesterol, boost immunity, reduce triglycerides, and reduces the risk of stomach ulcers by killing the bacteria that cause those ulcers. In other words, hot peppers are great for the heart, the circulatory system, and even digestion.
Furthermore, there’s some evidence that both hot peppers and sweet peppers might help you lose weight. Within the peppers are compounds that increase body heat and oxygen consumption. More heat can mean more calories being burned.
Which Peppers Should I Choose?
Amongst sweet peppers, the brightly colored peppers have more antioxidants and cartenoids than the green bell peppers. In particular, red bell peppers have the highest concentrations of lycopene, vitamin A, and vitamin K.
However, when it comes to hot peppers, green peppers often have higher levels of certain nutrients, including vitamin A.
Stuffed Green Peppers Recipe
For your enjoyment, here’s a recipe for hot stuffed green peppers.
- 4 or 5 dozen hot green peppers
- 1 egg
- 2 lbs. of sausage
- 1/4th cup of milk
- 3/4th cup of unseasoned bread crumbs
- 1 package of meatloaf mix
First, wash the peppers and remove their seeds. Mix all the other ingredients together well, adding salt, garlic, and any other spices to taste. Stuff the peppers with the mixture, and lay them into a baking pan. Fill the pan with a quarter inch of vegetable oil, then bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn the peppers over and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Serve while hot.
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