Did you know that bell peppers, a.k.a. sweet peppers, belong to the nightshade family, which includes eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes? And, they’re a fruit, not a vegetable. Christopher Columbus is the one responsible for naming these tasty treats “peppers.” He took the plants to Spain from the New World.
The reason bell peppers aren’t spicy like other peppers is they contain a recessive gene that prevents capsaicin from being produced. Fun fact: red and yellow bell peppers are actually green bell peppers that have been ripened on the vine and that’s why they are sweeter, too. Green bell peppers are technically unripened but they’re totally good and fun to eat, especially grilled with onions and toppped on fajitas!
Bell peppers can come in other colors, too, including orange, brown, purple, and black. Some are even multi-colored! Whatever their color, they are chock-ful of healthy nutrients, including vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, and fiber.
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Here are some of the many health benefits of bell peppers:
- They help lower the risk of certain cancers, such as prostate, cervical and colon cancers.
- One small red, yellow, or orange pepper provides three times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
- They contain high concentrations of vitamin A and beta-carotene, which help prevent vision loss.
- They fight free radicals and boost the immune system.
- Red bell peppers contain lycopene, which is also a known cancer fighter.
Bell peppers make great additions to countless number of dishes. Just get creative. Make sure to choose peppers that have deep vivid colors, taut skin, and that are free of soft spots, blemishes and darkened areas.
Chicken Stir-Fry with Tri-Colored Peppers
- 1 pound lean chicken breast*
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1 cup onion − slivered
- 3/4 cup green bell pepper
- 1 cup red bell pepper
- 1 cup yellow bell pepper
- 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- Trim fat from chicken breast, and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices.
- Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over high heat until hot.
- Add chicken, soy sauce, garlic powder, ginger and cumin then stir fry 4 minutes or until chicken is done.
- Remove mixture from skillet, set aside and keep warm.
- Place skillet over medium-high heat, add onion and bell peppers, and stir fry 5 minutes.
- Return chicken mixture to skillet, add vinegar, and cook 1 minute.
*Substitute chicken for lean beef if you’d like.
By LaRue Giillespie