Peppers pack powerful health punch

Published 9:21 am Friday, May 31, 2013

Well, now warmer weather’s here and many folks, including myself, have planted vegetable gardens.

Today, I’d like to share information on one of my favorites … peppers.

There are literally thousands of types and varieties. Peppers come in a wide range of sizes, flavors and colors. Some pepper plants can be tiny, while others can reach almost 10 feet.

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Peppers are actually fruits, not vegetables, but whether spicy or sweet they provide many healthful benefits. Peppers contain compounds called phytochemicals, which help protect our bodies from free radical damage. Each color of pepper is associated with its individual family of phytochemicals. Peppers are nutrient-dense and rich sources of vitamins A and C. In fact, just one cup provides more than 100 percent of the daily need for these nutrients.

Peppers are low in calories and rich in water, so they’re great for those trying to lose weight. Red peppers contain lycopene, a carotenoid many health experts believe helps prevent cancers of the prostate, bladder, cervix and pancreas. Beta-cryptoxanthin, another carotenoid found in red pepper, shows much promise in preventing lung cancer. They contain vitamin K (if you’re on blood thinning medication consult your doctor before consuming vitamin K-rich foods), which helps promote proper blood clotting. Peppers help reduce inflammation like that found in asthma and arthritis.

The heat from spicy peppers comes from a compound called capsaicin which actually acts on the mouths pain receptors, not taste buds. Heat from spicy peppers can measured on the Scoville pepper heat chart. Mildest hot peppers are pimento, pepperoncini and banana peppers (100-900 units), jalapeno peppers (3,500-8,000 units), Habanero peppers (1,000,000-350,000 units), Bhut Jolokia chile peppers (855,000-1,463,700), and the hottest rating in heat units are Trinidad Moruga scorpion peppers and law enforcement grade pepper spray, both at 1,500,000-2,000,000 units.