Healthy ingredients: Perfect peppers

Red, yellow, green or orange...whichever colour of pepper is your favourite, there's no denying that these sweet, crunchy vegetables pack a real punch in the health stakes. Known as bell peppers in the USA, adding peppers to your diet can provide you with some serious health benefits.

Low in calories, peppers are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and they're also packed with potassium, fibre and folic acid. Green peppers are the least ripe, whilst red peppers have been on the vine longer, meaning they're loaded with the most nutritional benefits; they're also the sweetest and juiciest! Compared to green peppers, red peppers contain almost eleven times more beta-carotene (essential for healthy skin and vision) and 1.5 times more vitamin C. Adding a red pepper to your salad can provide you with almost 35% of your daily carotenoid needs. Research published in the International Journal of Cancer in 2009 revealed the premenopausal women who ate two or more servings of foods packed with carotenoids every day reduced their risk of breast cancer by 17%.

Some sweet peppers contain a compound called CH-19 sweet, which has similar properties to the capsaicin found in chillies, which can help boost metabolism (1). It can also help protect against the buildup of cholesterol in the blood. The B vitamins and folate in peppers (red peppers contain 35% of RDA of vitamin B6 and 7% RDA folate) could help to keep your heart healthy, reducing your risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.

Recipe ideas

With all these health benefits, you might be wondering how you can add peppers to your diet. They're an incredibly versatile vegetable and can be used in a variety of recipes from meat-packed dishes to vegetarian and vegan recipes. We're here to give you a little inspiration to include peppers in your diet.

Healthy Cous Cous and Feta Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers are seeing a revival lately, and what was once a retro dish has become popular again. Good thing too, as stuffed peppers are a great way to enjoy this healthy vegetable. Loaded with onions, courgettes, butternut squash, tomatoes and protein-packed chickpeas, these are sure to delight even your non-veggie friends, or you can serve them as a side dish. We like to swap out the cous cous for quinoa for a bit of a change - it goes perfectly with the salty feta cheese!

Scrambled Eggs with Peppers

Protein-packed eggs make the perfect breakfast on those days when you have loads to do - they'll fill you up and provide you with the energy you need! Paired with red and green diced peppers, immune-boosting garlic and tomatoes, this healthy breakfast scramble is loaded with vitamin C, and it's delicious!

Red Pepper and Potato Soup

This hearty soup takes on a wonderful colour from the red peppers - you can peel the peppers before making the soup or simply strain the soup afterwards, which saves you the trouble of peeling off the papery skins. With peppers, carrots and onions, this is a great way to get more vitamin A in your diet, as well as vitamin C, and a bowl of soup counts as one of your five a day!

Spanish Stuffed Peppers

A recipe for meat-lovers everywhere, this Spanish-style take on stuffed peppers is loaded with rich, spicy chorizo, baby tomatoes, garlic and good fats from the olive oil. The sweet sherry vinegar dressing turns this simple dish into something special - perfect for serving when friends come over, perhaps with a glass or two of red wine (it's packed with antioxidants!)

Fennel and Red Pepper Salad

This tasty marinated vegetable salad is perfect served as a side dish for chicken or salmon. Fennel has a sweet, refreshing flavour and is a great source of vitamin C, fibre, potassium and folate. Combining it with red pepper and a home-made viniagrette just enhances its flavour, and this has to be one of our favourite red pepper salads!

Red Pepper and Tomato Salsa

Who doesn't love a bowl of salsa? Forget tortilla chips, which can be loaded with salt, fat and additives, and make your own home-made pitta chips by cutting pitta bread into triangles, drizzling with a little olive oil and salt and baking in the oven. Or serve this antioxidant-packed salsa with raw crudites such as carrots, celery and cucumber for an easy way to eat more vegetables. The recipe suggests using roasted red peppers from a jar, but we prefer to roast our own peppers in the oven before combining them with the tomatoes and spices - this gives them a delicious smoky flavour.

Roast Pepper Pesto with Pasta

This easy to make red pepper pesto uses almonds, roasted red peppers, garlic, cayenne pepper, olive oil and parmesan cheese to create a tasty pesto that's as good with pasta as it is fish or chicken. We like to top salmon with a generous spoonful before baking in the oven and serving with a green salad, or stirring through hot pasta for a quick dinner dish.

Chickpea and Red Pepper Dip

Looking for a healthy dip that's packed with protein and vitamins? Forget supermarket dips which can often be loaded with fat and artificial additives. We recommend making your own, and this chickpea and red pepper dip is a great place to start! Roast your own red peppers for the freshest flavour, then it's just a case of blitzing the ingredients in a food processor - serve with toasted pitta bread.

We're always on the lookout for new ways to use peppers - whether that's adding them to a salad, topping a healthy cauliflower pizza with them or more complex recipes. So we'd love to hear about some of your favourite ways to add peppers to your diet!

READ THIS NEXT: Healthy ingredients: Marvellous mushrooms

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Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 26th Mar 2015 at 09:29

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