Red Pepper: Health Benefits, Nutrition, and Uses

Red pepper—also called bell pepper, red bell pepper, capsicum, or sweet pepper—has a mildly sweet yet earthy taste. These peppers are fully mature versions of the more bitter green bell peppers. 

The red pepper is a variety of Capsicum annuum, a family that also includes cultivars like jalapeño, cayenne pepper, chili pepper, and a few other hot peppers. While you'll see other types of peppers that are red in color, only the red bell pepper is colloquially known as "red pepper." 

Capsicum annuum is native to Central and South America, and it likely began its domestication in central Mexico about 7,500 years ago. Over time, several varieties took shape and continue today as cultivars. Bell peppers were one of those varieties and were actively cultivated before Spanish exploration in the 1400s.

Red peppers, now grown around the world, remain popular for the way their sweet flavors liven up many dishes.

Health Benefits

Technically a fruit, red peppers are more common as a staple in the vegetable produce section. They're also an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Each half cup of raw red pepper provides you with 47 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A and 159 percent of your vitamin C.

Some of the other health benefits of red peppers include:

Immune System Support

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that fights cell damage, boosts immune system response to microbes, and has an anti-inflammatory effect. Red peppers are rich in vitamin c, though roasting them reduces their vitamin C content by up to 25 percent. 

Improve Eye and Skin Health

The vitamin A and beta-carotene in red peppers offers good support for your overall vision and eye health. Vitamin A is also helpful in supporting skin cells, healing wounds, and boosting white blood cell growth.

Nutrition

Red peppers are a rich source of several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds. Interestingly, red bell pepper is also the only Capsicum variety that contains little to no capsaicin—the compound responsible for spiciness.

Red peppers also contain:

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Nutrients per Serving

Half a cup of fresh, sliced red pepper contains:

  • Calories: 23
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Sugar: 3 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
  • Sodium: 3 milligrams 

Things to Watch Out For

Most people have no difficulties eating red bell pepper. However, some people get a stomach ache or even diarrhea when they have trouble breaking down the tough, outer skin. For these people, roasting red peppers and removing the skins may help them be more easily digested.

How to Use Red Pepper

Red peppers are widely available throughout the U.S. and you can find them in supermarkets and farmers markets around the country. These vegetables are popular, colorful, and easy to grow. Their bright, sweet flavor makes them an excellent addition to a variety of dishes. 

Consider trying some of these red pepper recipes:

  • Slice red peppers in half, stuff with quinoa and pistachios, and roast.
  • Create a roasted vegetable medley with cauliflower, red peppers, onion, and sweet potato.
  • Make vegetarian fajitas with black beans, broccoli, and sliced and roasted red pepper.
  • Top pizza, chili, or linguine with red pepper.
  • Add red peppers to an omelet or frittata. 
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 18, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Bosland, P.W. Progress in new crops, ASHS Press, 1996. "Capsicums: Innovative uses of an ancient crop."

World's Healthiest (WH) Foods: "Bell peppers."

Pharmacological Reviews: "Unravelling the Mystery of Capsaicin: A Tool to Understand and Treat Pain."

USDA Department of Agriculture: "Peppers, sweet, red, raw."

Nutrients: "Vitamin C and Immune Function."

Preventive Nutrition and Food Science: "Effects of Different Cooking Methods on the Antioxidant Properties of Red Pepper (Capsicum annuum L.)."

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Vitamin A."

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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