Diet & Exercise: Some spicy facts about peppers

Published 8:00 am Friday, May 18, 2018

Well, it’s that time of year, when folks are planting their vegetable gardens, and just so you know, Crocker farms is in and doing quite well.

Today, I’d like to share some information about one vegetable in particular — peppers.

The word pepper looks similar in many old and modern languages, for instance, Old English pipor, Middle English peper, piper, Old Norse pipari, piparr, Latin piper, Dutch peper, Old Frisian piper, French poivre, Old High German pheffer, and Greek peperi.

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Anyway you say it, peppers are great for us and are truly fascinating.

Here are a few pepper facts.

• Despite the name, bell and chili peppers are not related to the plant that produces the popular condiment  black pepper.

• Bell peppers are a great source of vitamin A. Red bell peppers top the list of foods with the highest levels of vitamin C. One large red bell pepper provides more than 300 percent of your daily value of the nutrient.

• Peppers are actually fruits, because they are produced from flowering plants that contain seeds.

• There are thousands of types of peppers; over 140 different kinds grown in Mexico, alone.

• Peppers can be yellow, red, green, orange and even purple. Most bell peppers are green; their colors change as they mature.

• Most Green bell peppers taste more than their counterparts, because they lack the phytochemicals, vitamins and sugars that make them sweeter as they mature.

• Capsaicin is the compound found in chili peppers that makes them hot. This irritant only affects mammals though. In fact, birds are completely immune to it, which is why they are largely responsible for helping wild peppers spread by eating them and excreting their seeds.

• There is a scale that measures a pepper’s hotness.  Called the Scoville scale, it’s titled after a pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville. Mild bell peppers fall within the 1-100 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) side of the scale, while hotter peppers like cayenne are more like 30,000-50,000 SHU.

• The hottest pepper known to man is called the Carolina Reaper (first bred in Rock Hill, South Carolina), which can be 2.2 million SHU.

• Also, hot peppers don’t generate heat until the weather they’re grown in gets hot (my friend and master gardener, Lillie Stott, taught me that).

• Bell peppers don’t contain the compound capsaici, so they’re referred as “sweet” peppers.

• When it comes to diet, peppers are low in calories and loaded with good nutrition.

Here are a few of pepper’s healthful benefits:

• One cup of bell pepper has only 45 calories, and that cup will provide more than your daily allowance of vitamins A and C.

• Bell peppers contain phytochemicals and carotenoids that act as antioxidants and relieve inflammation. 

• The capsaicin in peppers has been shown to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, control diabetes and bring relief from pain and inflammation.

• The sulfur content in bell peppers helps them play a protective role in certain types of cancer.

• Peppers are good sources of vitamins E and B6. 

• Vitamin E help keep skin and hair looking youthful, and B6 keeps the nervous system healthy and helps renew cells.

• Enzymes like lutein, found in bell peppers, protect the eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration later in life.

For maximum benefits, it’s best to eat peppers raw, since cooking destroys their nutrients. 

Diet or exercise question? Email me at or text to 864-494-6215. David Crocker, of Landrum, has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 30 years.