Red capsicums (aka red peppers, red bell peppers or red sweet peppers) are just green capsicums that have been allowed to fully ripen before being picked, which means they contain a higher amount of valuable nutrients. (Orange and yellow capsicums are halfway-ripened.)
“Green capsicums are harvested before they are fully ripe, whereas red capsicums are more mature and have a much higher carotenoid content,” nutritionist Susie Burrell, founder of weight loss program Shape Me, told Coach.
Carotenoids are essentially antioxidants found in brightly coloured vegetables such as squash, carrots and oranges. They fight free radicals, boost the immune system and also have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
One carotenoid in particular – beta-carotene – is used by the body to make vitamin A, which is critical for good eyesight, bone strength and skin health among other things.
Research has revealed promising benefits of regularly eating carotenoid-rich foods.
A 2015 study published in the journal Food And Nutrition Research found a diet high in carotenoids can improve cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
There’s also evidence free radical-destroying carotenoids can reduce the risk of breast cancer and also lung cancer.
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But if you prefer green capsicums over red, or find red capsicums are too expensive, just aim to up your intake of other bright (and therefore carotenoid-rich) fruit and vegetables, like carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
“All fresh fruit and vegetables are good for you,” Burrell says.
“Green capsicums are still a good source of nutrients and fibre. However, red capsicums tick the superfood box when it comes to vitamin and antioxidant content.”
All capsicums, whether red, green, yellow or orange, are packed with vitamin C.
A green capsicum has around 95 milligrams of vitamin C, while a red one has 150 milligrams – in comparison, an orange only has around 50 milligrams of vitamin C, so to boost immunity you’re better off biting into a capsicum than an orange.
To maximize the goodness you get from a capsicum, you’re better off eating it with fat in a meal, and also cooking it rather than eating it raw, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at America’s Oregon University.
“Chopping, puréeing, and cooking carotenoid-containing vegetables in oil generally increase the bioavailability – the ease of which a nutrient can make its way from food into your body – of the carotenoids they contain.”
That’s right – even though it’s often thought eating vegetables raw is better since cooking can kill some nutrients, when it comes to certain vegetables cooking them aids the body’s uptake of the good stuff.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found cooking carrots increased their level of beta-carotene.
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