5 Reasons to Eat More Peppers
Peppers, one of my favorite foods in the entire nutritious biosphere! Eat them raw, boiled (not recommended), grilled, steamed, stuffed, or cooked in your favorite stir-fry. Peppers are healthy and delicious, adding flavor and color to any recipe.
Peppers come in all shapes and sizes, from Bell Peppers ranging in color from yellow to black, including my personal favorite purple, to literally hundreds of varieties of hot peppers, all of which provide a host of nutritional and dietary benefits, along with the added bonus of just being down right tasty.
Those of you who love them know what I mean, those that have yet to try them, get on it! But start slowly, don’t just run down to your local farmers market and chomp into the first pepper you see. I’ve included a pretty decent recipe (of my very own, I must say) that can get you started, or if you are a raw foodie, use a favorite dip or hummus as a starter.
Now let’s go to the boards!
2. Nutritional Benefits
Considered a fat burning food, peppers are high in fiber and water content, low in calories, and contain a host of vitamins and minerals. Bell peppers have two times the amount of vitamin C of an orange (red peppers have three times the amount!), and the vitamin A is off the charts. The folate and Vitamin B6 help combat heart disease and the abundant antioxidants helps fight various cancers.
3. Chili Peppers
Chili peppers have some very interesting nutritional benefits. They increase quality of sleep, and actually help us get to sleep easier. They also lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and, most importantly, they fight inflammation. And no, not the kind from an injury—chili peppers help lower the kind of internal inflammation that results from arthritis and diabetes. It’s also been noted, by some health professionals, that cayenne pepper can reduce or kill off the bad bacteria that causes stomach inflammation, pain and heartburn.
4. Spice is Nice!
Have you met/seen/know those people who can take on a barrel of habanero peppers and roll away from the experience with little more than an eye twitch? I know some of these people, and they drive me crazy (mostly because I’m jealous). My last real interaction with a spicy pepper was during a happy hour event a few years ago (or perhaps several years ago, who can keep track these days?).
We had set up camp at our local joint on Friday night, ordered our beers, and included a celebratory shot because of a great and very successful week. I was quickly on the fast-track to loopiness when our nachos arrived. With giant, pulsingly hot habanero peppers perched challengingly around the pile of chips, cheese, salsa and sour cream like guardians protecting a castle, a “friend” of mine, whom I’m still to this day trying to track down for some payback, dared me to eat one whole. Those of you familiar with my previous articles know that I am not a very smart person, and immediately accepted the challenge.
I now know what a nuclear fireball feels the moment of its inception. My mouth was aflame, and no amount of beer chugging would allay the molten lava that was forming in my mouth cavity. I spent 15 minutes in the bathroom, um, recovering, and it was so bad that for the rest of the night my teeth hurt, which I didn’t even know was possible with spicy foods (not just my mouth, but my actual teeth).
So here’s the point, it turns out that those individuals who regularly partake in spicy foods (including Dad and Uncle Doug in California, the avocado growers), build up a natural tolerance to the spiciness, which I kind of already knew, but had wrongly chalked up to building a numbness, rather than what the real definition of “tolerance” means in the food capacity.
It turns out that there is a natural endorphin release when hot peppers are consumed, which is part of the subtle reason people flock back to these spicy little devils so frequently.
5. Important Safety Tip!
Quickest way to eliminate the “heat” in your mouth from a hot pepper: Immediate consumption of dairy products like milk, sour cream or ice cream. The more fat in the product the better. Also, starchy foods tend to absorb the heat!
Why does water not help? (I mean, we all know that water doesn’t help with hot peppers, but WHY) Pure capsaicin (the compound giving peppers their pungent flavor) is a whitish powder, which is insoluble in cold water, which is why drinking water won’t help ease your burning mouth.
Bet You Didn’t Know:
Peppers are fruits, not vegetables.
The seeds of chili peppers are NOT the hottest part of peppers. It is at the point where the seed is attached to the white membrane inside the pepper that the highest concentration of capsaicin is found.
Green and red bell peppers come from the same plant. As bell peppers mature, their color changes from green to red as they ripen and become sweeter. That’s why red peppers are sweeter than green peppers.
Those of you who love peppers and know how good they are for both health and welfare, go out and grab a bag of them from your local farmers market and bring them to your next foodie gathering in their raw form with some great home-made dip and hummus. If you are new to peppers and are uncertain how to begin your experience, go to that party. Kidding. Seriously though, if you are new to peppers, I would actually try my personal recipe below. While I do enjoy patting myself on the back, in this case, I think it’s a light and enjoyable way to experience peppers, both as a newcomer or a connoisseur.
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- (your favorite stir fry sauce concoction)
- 1 lb chicken, beef or tofu
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup water
- Brown or white rice
- Dice raw meat/tofu into bite-sized pieces. Put aside. Slice peppers into bite-sized pieces, discarding the internal seeds and membranes inside the peppers, along with the tops and bottoms. Set aside.
- Prepare your personal stir fry sauce (I find this varies, greatly, from person to person, which is why I’m leaving it to you to pick one you like). In a large sauce pan, heat oil to medium, add stir fry sauce, briefly heat again. Add meat/tofu. Add water, and cook until firm (approximately 10 min for chicken/beef, tofu slightly less), stir constantly. Add diced peppers, cover and let sit for four minutes. Remove lid, stir for another minute. Remove pan. Serve with over brown or white rice.