Peppers have so many advantages associated with their consumption. They have a lot of good nutrition and are low in calories thereby making them a good dietary component. All the various varieties peppers come in act as an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C, folic acid, fiber, and potassium. In addition, they spice up the food and make it more tasty and satisfying.
They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors as well as tastes. They can also be found in various forms such as whole, grounded, dried, fresh, canned or frozen. Some add heat to the dish while others are sweet. The bell pepper, for example, can be found in green, yellow, red or green.
The red peppers are the richest in nutrition because they have been on the pepper vine for the longest period, unlike the green ones which are harvested earlier before they ripen and change color.
They are very versatile in preparation and can be added to quite a good number of dishes to obtain the nutritious benefits and also to add some taste to the meal. This article will focus on some of the health benefits associated with peppers according to science and some delicious pepper recipes you might want to try out.
1. Boosts Metabolism
Cayenne peppers have a component substance known as Capsaicin which gives them they hot spicy flavor. The Capsaicin has metabolism boosting properties. Pepper increases the body’s metabolism by increasing the amount of heat produced by the body and thus increasing the number of calories burnt per day (1).
This is achieved through a process known as diet-induced thermogenesis which results in increase of the body metabolism.
However, it is important to note that regular consumption of dietary spices such as cayenne pepper over time results in the body adapting to their effects and thus the consumer is not able to gain the same benefits anymore (2).
Bottom Line: The Capsaicin that is found in cayenne peppers contributes in boosting the body's metabolism through thermogenesis. However, it has a small effect and overuse may lead to building up of tolerance.
2. Regulates Blood Pressure
Over 40% of the world's adults above 25 years old are suffering from high blood pressure (3). It is therefore evidently big health risk worldwide.
Studies on animals have shown the same Capsaicin found in cayenne peppers may aid in reduction of blood pressure.
Potassium is also found in plenty in bell peppers. A great amount of evidence links potassium to lowering of blood pressure and reduction of hypertension occurrence by as much as 17%.
Bell peppers also contain a substance known as quercetin which is also associated with lowering blood pressure in people with hypertension (4).
Bottom Line: Capsaicin, potassium, and quercetin found in peppers have been linked to a reduction of blood pressure in people with hypertension.
3. Aids Digestive Health
Dietary spices added to foods as well as their active components may avail many benefits for the stomach. For instance, cayenne pepper helps boost the stomach’s defense against infections, increases the production of digestive fluid and helps to deliver digestive enzymes to the stomach thus helping in digestion (5). This is achieved through stimulation of the nerves in the stomach which signal for anti-injury protection.
Quercetin, which is a major constituent of the yellow bell peppers has been shown to prevent ulcers. The flavonoid is able to do this by protecting the body against attack by Helicobacter pylori and increasing gastric mucus production which shields the body from excessive secretion of gastric acid (6).
Unlike popular belief that spicy foods cause stomach ulcers, a paper review showed that the Capsaicin in peppers may actually aid in stomach ulcers risk reduction.
Bottom Line: Peppers can aid in improving digestive health and also reduce the risk of stomach ulcers.
4. Reduces Cancer Risk
Cancer is typically characterized by abnormal and uncontrolled cell growth. Pepper helps in prevention of cancer by attacking many various channels in the process of the growth of the cancer cells. Research has shown that the Capsaicin in pepper can actually slow the growth of cancer cells and even kill the cancerous cells for the different cancer types – prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and skin cancer among others (7).
Bell pepper has folic acid, lycopene, alpha-carotene, and luteolin. All these compounds help in protecting the body against a variety of cancers. Luteolin, for instance, has been shown to induce the death of cells and also prevent metastasis, cell proliferation, and angiogenesis, all of which contribute to the growth of cancerous cells. Also, the same luteolin was found to prepare the cells which are cancerous to cytotoxicity, preventing their growth and multiplication.
Research has also shown that vitamin C, which is found in high concentrations in pepper, reduces significantly the risk of developing several types of cancers such as stomach cancer, oral cavity cancer, breast cancer, rectum cancer, esophagus cancer, cervical cancer, and pancreas cancer and also non-hormonal cancers (40).
Although the effects of pepper on cancer are quite promising, it should be noted that these findings are based on research conducted on animals and in the laboratory. Its effects on humans are yet to be studied and therefore this is not very reliable.
Bottom Line: Pepper has shown promising effects on cancer despite the fact that the effects on humans have not been studied yet and need to be explored before any conclusions can be made.
5. Improves Psoriasis
An autoimmune disease is a condition which occurs when the body attacks itself. One such disease is psoriasis which is characterized by red patches on the skin which are usually itchy and scaly.
There is no cure for psoriasis at the moment but application of capsaicin cream is considered a remedy. It helps relieve itching and improves the appearance of psoriasis-affected patches (8).
Capsaicin helps to reduce the amount of substance P in the body which is associated with psoriasis. A study showed that patients suffering from psoriasis who applied capsaicin cream experienced a more significant reduction in the scaling, patchiness, and redness than those who applied placebo cream.
Bottom Line: Capsaicin found in pepper has been shown to reduce the intensity of the psoriasis condition through application of the cream on the affected area by reducing itchiness, scaling and the redness.
6. Skin Health
It has been scientifically shown that bell peppers are essential in the maintenance of collagen due to their rich ascorbic acid concentration. Collagen is the main protein constituting the skin. Deficiency of ascorbic acid has been shown to affect the synthesis of collagen in the body negatively (9).
The presence of lutein and zeaxanthin in pepper also contributes to skin health and they also help in fighting against skin cancer as well. These carotenoids are found in the skin and protect the body from light damage especially the one caused by UV light.
Quercetin found in pepper also helps in prevention of dermatitis and also the effects of photosensitivity by inhibiting the release of mast cell cytokines which are the causative agents when produced in excess.
The piperine content of black pepper has also been shown by researchers in London to stimulate production of melanocytes pigment by the skin. Treatment of piperine coupled with UV light therapy is a much better and less harsh than the other chemical based vitiligo treatment.
Bottom Line: Through a variety of mechanisms and by the use of the constituents of the pepper, it is able to maintain proper skin health and prevent possible skin diseases and disorders.
7. Chronic Pain Relief
Capsaicinoids found in pepper have been shown to act as pain relief agents (10). According to several scientists, the pain relief is achieved through the heat sensation and also the inhibition of the production of substance P which is the neuropeptide that sends messages to the brain about pain. Repeated use of the capsaicinoids diminishes the substance P thus reducing the pain sensation in the affected area.
Additionally, consumption of pepper which contains capsaicinoids triggers release of more endorphins by the brain, which are natural painkillers (10).
Quercetin, the flavonoid found in bell peppers is important in inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokine production and preventing oxidative stress. Research has shown that excess cytokines and oxidative stress are the main causes of conditions which bring about inflammatory pain.
Bottom Line: Pepper helps to reduce pain by inhibiting production of substance P which sends pain signals to the brain, triggering production of endorphins which are natural painkillers and inhibiting excessive cytokine production and prevention of oxidative stress.
8. Cholesterol Reduction
Peppers reduce the amount of cholesterol through the activity of the richly present vitamin C. The vitamin C reduces the amount of cholesterol stored in the liver and the arterial walls and other parts of the cardiovascular system by conversion of the cholesterol into bile acids (11).
Deficiency of vitamin C may lead to hypercholesterolemia, a condition characterized by excessive cholesterol in the liver.
Bell peppers also contain a considerable amount of soluble fibers which have been proven by several studies to reduce the levels of LDL, also referred to as cholesterol (12).
Bottom Line: Consumption peppers, which are rich sources of vitamin C, helps in lowering the cholesterol levels as it has been shown by many studies that vitamin C reduces the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
9. Weight Loss
It has been shown that the capsaicin in pepper positively affects weight loss by helping in appetite control (13). The increasing of the body metabolism by the capsaicinoids in pepper after one consumes a meal is also vital in proper weight management.
Research found out that consuming bell peppers greatly reduced body weight and prevented the accumulation of fat. The effect of reduction of body weight and the prevention of body fat accumulation is attributed to some of the compounds like capsanthin found in the bell peppers which enhance the oxidation of fat (14).
A constituent of bell peppers, quercetin, has also been known to prevent obesity in humans.
Black pepper also helps in weight loss since it promotes breakdown of fat cells aided by the outer layer of peppercorn. Consumption of pepper is, therefore, a good way of losing weight naturally since when fats are broken down, they are more easily processed in the body and applied to other healthier processes and metabolic activities rather than being retained in the body and making one look overweight.
Bottom Line: The capsaicin and quercetin in pepper help in weight loss. Bell peppers also greatly reduce body weight and prevent accumulation of fat. Black pepper promotes breakdown of fat cells and therefore prevents weight gain.
10. Improvement of Eye Health
Due to the high amount of vitamin C contained in pepper, it is able to protect the eyes from diseases such as cataracts. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties which protect the body fluids including the fluid found in the eyes. Studies have shown that regular consumption of diet rich in vitamin C helps the eyes to reduce the risk of developing cataracts (15).
It has also been shown through research that regular consumption of diet rich in vitamin C in aged people delays the development of cataracts and also reduces its severity if it develops (15).
A particular study showed that women who had a prescribed vitamin C intake amount daily had a greatly lowered risk of developing cataracts by the time they were 60 as opposed to women who had a daily vitamin C intake of lower than 140 mg.
The vitamin C is also important because it prevents age-related macular degeneration (16).
Bell peppers contain vitamin E, zeaxanthin, and lutein which are all important for proper eye health and the prevention of age-related eye problems (17, 18, 19). Lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin E are particularly good in fighting the development of cataracts due to the vitamin’s antioxidant properties and the properties of the carotenoids of filtering light (18).
Vitamin A, a constituent of peppers, has also been associated with boosting night vision and preventing corneal xerosis and ulceration of the cornea, which are problems caused by vitamin A deficiency (20, 21).
Bottom Line: Vitamin C found in pepper helps in prevention of the development of cataracts and reduces their severity in case they occur. It also helps prevent age-related macular degeneration. Vitamin E, zeaxanthin, lutein and vitamin A are also important pepper components which help to maintain good eye health.
11. Possesses Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties
There is the presence of flavonoids in plenty in peppers which makes the pepper have antioxidant properties. Flavonoids such as luteolin and quercetin are important in the inhibiting of LDL oxidation (22, 23).
The antioxidants are vital in preventing several diseases like atherosclerosis. The flavonoid luteolin has been shown to be very effective in scavenging radicals and has also displayed great anti-inflammatory properties (23).
The high content of vitamin C in pepper also gives them antioxidant properties. Vitamin C is a renowned antioxidant with the ability to scavenge radicals and preventing them from damaging body tissues.
Additionally, vitamin E is abundantly present in pepper and assists in enhancing the antioxidant properties of pepper. It is considered as the first defense line in fighting radicals on cell membranes. This vitamin is vital in preventing the production of new, harmful radicals as well as the neutralization of the existing ones.
It should be noted that the highest amounts of vitamin C and vitamin E are found in the red, orange and yellow bell peppers as opposed to the green and purplish brown varieties (24, 25).
Bottom Line: The flavonoids found in pepper, as well as vitamin C and vitamin E, have been shown to possess strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and therefore pepper helps to fight against radicals and to prevent inflammation.
12. Eradicates Iron Deficiency and Promotes Bioavailability
It has been shown by studies that the deficiency of vitamin C is one of the major causes of iron deficiency anemia. Therefore, an increased vitamin C intake through regular pepper consumption can help to eradicate the deficiency of iron in the body (26).
Studies have also shown that vitamin C increases the bioavailability of iron from the diet and therefore increases its absorption. This greatly increases the level of iron in the body (26).
Bell peppers also contain folic acid which can also help in prevention of iron deficiency in pregnant women (27).
Black pepper also helps in transporting the benefits of other dietary components to the various body parts thereby maximizing the efficiency of the other healthy diet which the individual consumes. Due to this, adding pepper to food does not only make the meal delicious but also ensures that the nutrients in the food reach the destined body parts and are beneficial.
Bottom Line: Vitamin C helps in iron deficiency eradication as well as increasing the bioavailability of iron from the diet and thus helps to prevent diseases like iron-deficiency anemia. Folic acid in bell peppers prevents iron deficiency in pregnant women. Additionally, black pepper increases the bioavailability of nutrients in the diet.
13. Improves Immunity
Vitamin C, which as mention is found in plenty in pepper, contributes a lot in boosting an individual's immunity. The vitamin activates the immune cells among other roles. It also boosts the immune system by promoting the production of proinflammatory cytokines which are vital in carrying out effective immune responses.
Additionally, the consumption of bell peppers which are rich in vitamin E can also help to boost the immunity of an individual. Like vitamin C, research has shown that vitamin E also activates the immune responses of the body and also enhances the performance of the white blood cells, a crucial component of the immune system. It has also been proven that intake of vitamin E from dietary sources improves the body’s antibody response to several different vaccines. It has also been shown that vitamin E strengthens the ability of elderly people to resist viral infections (28).
More so, vitamin A which is also another component of peppers has been shown to boost the immunity of the body. One particular study demonstrated that preschool children whose diet was supplemented with vitamin A had reduced risk of measles, malaria, diarrhea and HIV infections (29).
The quercetin found in pepper and particularly in bell peppers is known to improve the body’s immunity through its antiviral and antibacterial properties (30).
Bottom Line: Peppers contain vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and quercetin, all of which have been proven to boost and enhance the body's immunity.
14. Prevents Birth Defects in Unborn Children
Peppers have a high folate content and therefore helps prevent the birth of underweight babies (31). Researchers have shown that an increased folic acid intake during pregnancy benefits the individual with a great reduction in the risk of giving birth to an underweight baby.
As much as folate is important for everyone, it is particularly essential for women as it is involved in the development of the growth of the unborn child. Other related studies have shown that high intake of folate before and after conception can help in prevention of miscarriages.
Folate intake during prenatal stages has also been linked to a reduced autism risk in children and also a reduced risk of language delay in children. Other researchers also found a strong correlation between low folic acid intake during pregnancy and austere emotional problems in the born child.
Additionally, several studies show that intake of folic acid is crucial in prevention of preterm births which is when the baby is delivered before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Scientific studies carried out in relation to the matter have linked low folate intake and lack of folic acid during pregnancy and shorter pregnancy durations (33, 34).
Bottom Line: The peppers have high folate content which makes them ideal for pregnant women since folate has been shown by research to have loads of benefits for them such as prevention of miscarriages, preterm births and several other birth defects in children.
15. Improves Cognitive Function.
A component of black pepper, piperine, has been associated by many studies with reduction of memory damage and cognitive malfunction.
Early research shows the possibility of pepper benefiting Alzheimer’s patients and also those who suffer from dementia and other age-linked or free radical-linked cognitive problems since it appears that the chemical pathways are stimulated by this organic compound.
Bottom Line: The compound piperine which is found in black pepper has been shown to alleviate the condition of people with cognitive malfunction or memory impairment either due to age or due to the effect of free radicals.
Delicious and Healthy Pepper Recipes
Although pepper is popularly taken in the diet as a spice in small proportions, some people prefer to take it a notch higher and have the pepper as a main part of the dish. Hot cayenne pepper is used to make sauces and add the heat to the meal. The following are some recipes which can help to have a great taste of your meals as well as enjoy the many health benefits of pepper.
1. Hot Pepper Sauce
This is one boisterous sauce which is loaded with flavor and heat and which you are sure to love. It uses fresh ingredients and is spiced with curry, garlic and five different types of pepper to give the whole bundle in one eating. It is with a lot of hot flavors and some disguised sweetness in it too (35).
2 fresh orange sweet peppers
2 fresh red sweet pepper
2 fresh banana peppers
5 jalapeno peppers
5 scotch bonnet peppers
5 chili peppers
3 garlic cloves
½ large onion
2 tablespoons of curry powder
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 tablespoons of ginger powder
1 tablespoons of garam masala
2 tablespoons of salt
2 tablespoons of honey
1/3 cup of red wine vinegar
1/3 cup of cider vinegar
1 can tomato paste
Oil the grids of a grill which has been preheated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grill washed peppers and the onion over direct heat until their skin begins to blister whence you remove them from the grill.
Cool the grilled peppers in a container. The steam they produce helps to remove the skin.
Remove the skin from the peppers when they are cool enough to be handled and chop the peppers and onion. Mince the garlic. Remember to wear gloves when handling the hot peppers.
Melt the coconut oil and put it into a saucepan. Add the chopped onion and let it cook until it is translucent. Introduce the peppers into the saucepan, grate in the garlic and let it continue to cook for a few minutes.
Add all the other ingredients, that is, the garam masala, salt and ginger and stir in the honey, both kinds of vinegar and the tomato paste.
Bring the mixture to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
Let the mixture cool down then use a food processor or a blender to blitz it. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and package as a sauce.
2. Stuffed Bell Peppers
This is another recipe which packs the sweetness of bell peppers as well as loads of health benefits. It consists of bell peppers which have been stuffed, just as the name suggests (36).
6 bell peppers of any color
4 tablespoons of olive oil as well as more enough for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. of lean ground beef
1 finely diced onion
2 chopped cloves of garlic
1 finely diced medium zucchini
4 seeded and finely diced Roma tomatoes
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 cup cooked long-grain and wild rice
1 ½ cups of grated pepper Jack cheese
Cut off the tops of the peppers. Remove and dispose the stems and then chop the tops finely; set aside when done. Scoop the seeds out and as much of the membrane as you can. Place the peppers with the cut side up in a baking dish which is just large enough to hold them upright.
The oven should be preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to high heat. Add the beef and cook after seasoning with salt and pepper as preferred. Break the lumps until the meat is cooked through and just beginning to brown, approximately 10 minutes. Remove and place on a plate which has been lined with paper towel so as to get rid of the fat.
Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook the onions and the chopped peppers until they start to soften, roughly 3 or 4 minutes. Add the garlic and zucchini and cook for one extra minute. Add the tomatoes and season with a pinch or 2 of the red pepper flakes and salt then cook until everything is heated through. Stir the beef and the rice to mix them. Adjust the seasoning to preferred taste and stir in 1 cup of the cheese.
Fill the chopped peppers with the mixture and top each of them with a sprinkle of the remaining cheese. Pour a little water into the bottom of the baking dish and drizzle the peppers lightly with olive oil. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
Uncover them and bake until the peppers are soft and the cheese has melted and the color is lightly brown roughly 15 to 20 minutes. The dish is ready to serve.
3. Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
This is an interesting way of preparing pasta with pepper. You will have fun preparing it, enjoy the delicacy and gain from the benefits of pepper at the same time (37).
1 pound pasta of choice
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
2 minced cloves of garlic
½ finely diced large onion
1 16-oz. jar of roasted red peppers, roughly chopped and drained
1 cup of broth (chicken or veggie)
¼ cup of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of finely minced fresh parsley as well as more for serving
Several chopped basil fresh leaves and more for serving
½ cup Parmesan shavings as well as more for serving.
Boil a large pot of salted water. Cook the pasta following the directions which are given on the package.
In the meantime, add the butter and the oil to a large skillet and melt the butter over medium to high heat. Add the garlic and the onions and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until they start to soften.
Add the chopped peppers and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until hot.
Carefully, put the contents of the skillet into a food processor or a blender. Cover with the lid and puree the pepper mixture until it is completely blended although you should expect some texture to the peppers still.
To the skillet, return the pepper puree, add a ½ teaspoon of salt and some pepper to season, the broth and stir until it is heated. Splash the cream in and then stir to mix. Adjust the seasoning to your preferred taste if need be.
Drain the pasta and also add it to the skillet. Add the Parmesan and sprinkle some parsley and basil on top. The pepper pasta is cooked and ready for serving.
4. Pickled Peppers
This is a simple, quick recipe on how to make spicy, sweet, homemade jalapeno and bell pepper pickles. It is easy to make and can be stored in the refrigerator for very long (38).
½ pound jalapenos
1 red bell pepper
1 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons of honey or sugar
2 peeled and smashed garlic cloves
1 teaspoon of salt
First, prepare the pepper. For less spicy pickles, it is recommended to use a paring knife to remove the jalapeno membranes and seeds before slicing. Remember to wear gloves when handling the pepper to prevent your fingers from feeling burned.
Using a chef’s knife or a mandolin, slice the pickles thin. If you still wish to reduce the spiciness of the pickles, you can use running water to run the jalapenos which have been sliced through in a colander. This gets rid of any remaining seeds. Slice off the top of the bell pepper, get rid of the stalk, remove the seeds and the membranes and chop the bell pepper.
Mix the peppers and garlic which has been smashed in a 28-oz. or larger glass jar. Combine the salt, honey, water, and vinegar in a small saucepan. On the stove, bring the mixture close to boiling and occasionally stir so that the sweetener is dissolved in the liquid. Remove from the stove and gently pour the heated liquid over the peppers. Ensure the peppers fit and that there are no hidden air pockets by poking down the peppers so that they fit.
Leave the pickles to cool down at room temperature and then close with a lid and refrigerate them. The time they take to be ready to be eaten depends on how thinly the pepper was sliced, from immediately to a couple of days to taste fully pickled. They are best eaten when fresh but can last for as long as a month.
5. Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
This is a recommendable alternative from the monotonous tomato sauces for pasta, pizzas or just for dipping crunchy bread (39).
16 oz. jar of roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons of butter
4 cloves of garlic
½ tablespoons of dried basil
Freshly cracked pepper
½ cup of heavy cream
Put the roasted red peppers in a blender and also add about 2 tablespoons of the liquid from the jar. Purée the peppers until they are a smooth mixture. You can add about one or two tablespoons of water if need be to assist the blending. However, do not add too much liquid from the jar because it may be very acidic.
Mince the garlic and put it in a skillet with the butter. Sauté the garlic in the butter over medium to low heat for about 2 minutes or just until the garlic is softened and has become very fragrant but do not wait until it browns. Add into the sautéed garlic in butter the puréed peppers and add the dried basil and some freshly cracked pepper then stir to mix.
Leave the sauce to come up to a simmer, turn down the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally or until the mixture becomes thick.
Finally, add the heavy cream to the skillet, stir until the sauce becomes smooth and let it heat through. Taste the sauce and season with salt as preferred. Serve while warm.
With the above-listed benefits of consuming pepper, it goes without saying that this is one thing you cannot afford to miss in your diet for a while now. The importance of pepper cannot be overemphasized. Although there have been many misconceptions surrounding the use of pepper, scientific research has helped a lot in demystifying this spice and showing us its many benefits. It comes with as many benefits as it comes in various varieties and even tastes giving one a diverse experience of taste and delicacy. From hot to sweet, red to green, small to bell-like, it is one of the most diversified spices.
Its benefits range as well from boosting the body’s metabolism to regulation of blood pressure, aiding in digestive health, reduction of the risk of cancer, improvement of conditions such as Psoriasis, good for skin health, relief of chronic pain, cholesterol reduction, weight loss and improvement of eye health. Peppers also contain anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant properties, increases bioavailability of nutrients in the diet, improves the immunity of the body, prevents birth defects and improves cognitive health. All these are achieved through the various flavonoids found in the pepper, vitamins, and loads of other beneficial compounds.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.