Happy Friday babes! If you live in the Boston area, Spring has finally arrived and I couldn't be more excited. Warm weather, sunshine, and it's officially farmers market season, which means fresh fruit + veggies! The Functional Food of the week is the beautiful Bell Pepper. Just to give you a little background on them (in case you're a nutrition nerd like me), they are botanically considered a fruit, however, nutrition-wise, they are found to be a nightshade vegetable. Due to a recessive gene found within them, Bell Peppers are the only type of peppers that do not contain Capsaicin and therefore, are NOT spicy. They come in a variety of colors - Red, Yellow, Orange + Green being the most common. However, you may also find Brown, White + Purple Bell Peppers as well. There ARE nutritional differences between the colors of bell peppers, we'll chat more about that later.
Let's chat about the health benefits these babies have to offer:
1. Antioxidant Rich (They naturally contain extremely high levels of vitamins, minerals + antioxidants, most notably Vitamin A and C. When we eat fruits or vegetables that naturally contain vitamins our bodies don't have to work as hard to absorb and digest them.)
2. Brain Food (Another term I like to use is "good mood food", meaning, Bell Peppers help nourish our brains, keep our cognitive functions working properly and make us happy. This is thanks to Vitamin B6 found in peppers, which, when consumed, increases serotonin and norepinephrine levels within the brain. These hormones have been shown to improve mood, energy and concentration levels.)
3. Eye Health (Bell Peppers naturally contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are HUGE when it comes to maintaining healthy eyes. Lutein is already being used as a holistic treatment for macular degeneration. It helps protect the cells within the eye and can help improve vision as well.)
4. Immune System Booster (As I mentioned above, Bell Peppers contain high levels of Vitamin A and C. Meaning, they can help fight short term sicknesses such as the common cough or cold and even long term chronic illnesses or diseases. Studies on Vitamin A supplementation have shown vast improvements in the overall health of the people included in the study. Bell Peppers also help reduce inflammation within the body. Win-win!)
5. Healthy Skin (People sometimes forget that the foods you put INTO your body are just as important as the products you put ON it. Vitamin C is not only great for your immune system, but it works wonders on you skin as well. Bell Peppers contain high levels of Vitamin C and carotenoids - what gives fruits, veggies + plants their color. The combination of these two compounds supports collagen production and healthier skin overall.)
6. Disease Fighting Food (Like I mentioned above, Bell Peppers naturally contain carotenoids, which help reduce oxidative damage within the body. If you regularly eat foods that contain carotenoids, there will be less inflammation and free radical activity occurring in your body. In turn, this means less risk of developing chronic illness or disease.)
7. Weight Management (This pretty much goes without saying, but if you eat more REAL food - like fruits and vegetables, you WILL lose weight. Bell Peppers are low in calories, despite being super-nutrient dense. Meaning, they are good for you and will help keep you full for longer. Sliced peppers with hummus make a perfect snack!)
8. Healthy for Moms + growing babies (Any of the Mamas out there know the importance of Folate during pregnancy. It can help prevent birth defects and supports the development of a healthy neural tube. Bell Peppers naturally contain Folate, meaning they're not only healthy for Mamas, but they're super important for their growing babies.)
Not only are Bell Peppers freakin delicious, but, for all the reasons listed above, they will absolutely benefit your overall health. They can be used in a variety of ways - chop them up and toss them into stirfry or even an omelette. One thing that is important to consider is buying conventional vs. organic Bell Peppers. I check the EWG's Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list to help me decide. These lists will tell you which fruits + veggies have high or low levels of pesticides found on them. Either way, purchasing produce at your local farmers market is always a great option. That way, you'll know where it comes from and can even ask the farmers or employees about their farming process!
As always, if you babes have any fruits, vegetables or spices you want to learn more about - send me over a message!