Sweet peppers are a common staple of the backyard garden. But did you know that the different colors of peppers often indicate different nutritional content?
Red bell peppers are higher in potassium and vitamin C than green bell peppers. The red ones also have more beta-carotene and more beta-cryptoxanthin — two carotenoids that are associated with better health. Beta-carotene is used by the body to produce vitamin A; beta-cryptoxanthin is not. But both are important antioxidants.
Orange bell peppers are high in zeaxanthin, another carotenoid and anti-oxidant. Zeaxanthin and a related compound called lutein are important for good eye health. Lutein is found in kale, spinach, scallions, pistachio nuts, egg yolks, and yellow corn. Zeaxanthin is highest in goji berries and orange bell peppers, but it’s also found in egg yolks and yellow corn.
Superfoods for Preppers: Colorful Sweet PeppersGreen bell peppers have a good amount of potassium and vitamin C. They are also higher in certain bioflavonoids (luteolin, quercetin) than other color bell peppers. Bioflavonoids are not essential nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, but they are associated with a lower risk of heart disease and cancer.
Purple bell peppers (not found in supermarkets, but available to grow from seed) contain bioflavonoids of the subclass “anthocyanidins”, which is what gives them a purple color. Other foods high in anthocyanidins include blueberries, strawberries, radishes, red or purple grapes, red cabbage, and radicchio.
Other peppers that are good sources of bioflavonoids: ancho peppers, hot yellow wax peppers, and Serrano peppers. Most of the bioflavonoids are destroyed by heat, so peppers are healthier when eaten raw.
Growing peppers is easy, as long as the weather is warm. To get a head-start on your spring garden during winter, start pepper seeds indoors about 6 weeks before the last spring frost in your area. Peppers are perennials; they will continue to grow year after year, without replanting — if you live in an area with frost-free winters. Otherwise, they can be replanted each year like any annual.