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Scientifically termed as Capsicum annuum, capsicums are also known by a variety of names such as bell peppers, cayenne, paprika and chillies. Capsicum or sweet bell peppers belong to the Solanaceae family of plants and come in a variety of colours ranging from green to purple. While the green and purple peppers are slightly bitter in taste, the red, yellow and orange ones are sweeter. Capsaicin, a phytochemical is responsible for the spicy taste of capsicum .
Capsicums are rich in Vitamins A, C and E. The antioxidants present in them provide many health benefits. Certain minerals like cobalt, zinc, copper, molybdenum, manganese and potassium are also present in the fruit-vegetable  .
Other healthy reasons to eat capsicum would be that it is low in fat and calories and hence does not increase the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. Apart from these, capsicum possesses health benefits such as providing relief from stomach problems, muscle spasms, menopausal issues, diabetes and many more  . Cooked and eaten raw, capsicums can be used fresh or dried as a culinary spice, added to teas or taken in capsules.
Nutritional Value Of Capsicum
100 grams of raw capsicum has 20 calories of energy, 0.17 g fat, 0.86 g protein, 0.057 mg thiamine, 0.028 mg riboflavin, 0.48 mg niacin, 0.099 mg pantothenic acid, 0.224 mg vitamin B6, 0.37 mg vitamin E, 0.34 mg iron and 0.122 mg manganese.
The remaining nutrients in 100 g of capsicum are as follows  :
- 4.64 g carbohydrate
- 2.4 g sugar
- 1.8 g dietary fibre
- 93.9 g water
- 18 mcg vitamin A equiv.
- 208 mcg beta-carotene
- 10 mcg folate
- 80.4 mg vitamin C
- 7.4 mcg vitamin K
- 10 mg of calcium
- 10 mg magnesium
- 20 mg phosphorus
- 3 mg sodium
- 175 mg potassium
Health Benefits Of Capsicum
1. Boosts metabolism
Consumption of capsicum increases metabolism by lowering triglycerides, (which are stored fats in blood corpuscles). This helps in burning calories and keeping cholesterol in control. Therefore, weight gain from a high-fat diet is reduced. Capsicum also prevents indigestion by causing the secretion of digestive juices .
2. Prevents cancer
Some studies have asserted that the compound capsaicin is capable of treating cancer by preventing carcinogens from binding with DNA. Simply put, capsicum has the ability to starve cancer cells and thereby, kill them. It has been found that eating capsicum provides some protection from cancer if consumed as part of regular dietary intake  .
3. Relieves pain
The compound capsaicin found in capsicum is believed to block the transmission of pain from the skin to the spinal cord. This effectively aids in treating neuralgia, pain associated with herpes zoster and postoperative amputation trauma, by providing relief from the pain .
4. Improves immunity
Capsicum is rich in vitamin C and this stimulates the white cells to fight infection. This leads to the strengthening of the body's immune system. Vitamin C and flavonoids present in capsicum also prevent respiratory problems like lung infections, asthma, emphysema and wheezing  .
5. Prevents cellular damage
The free radicals present in the body are responsible for causing cellular damage, damage to nerves and blood vessels. Capsicum is a rich source of vitamin A and C, which are both powerful antioxidants  . These antioxidants help in fighting free radicals in the body and help in treating heart diseases, osteoarthritis, bronchial asthma, cataract etc.
6. Treats gastrointestinal disorders
Capsicum contains tannins that play a central role in treating gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhoea, dysentery, and other microbial disorders. These tannins form mucilage, which helps protect the gastric lining and prevent the development of peptic ulcer  .
7. Improves heart health
The flavonoids present in capsicum are asserted to be beneficial in preventing coronary heart disease. Being vasodilative, the fruit-vegetable aid in bettering hypotension and decreased heart rate. This in turn help improve the blood flow, resulting in better oxygenation of organ tissues  .
Apart from these, capsicum has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, hypoglycaemic property, help treat fibromyalgia and diabetic neuropathy, and help relieve menopausal symptoms.
Some of the common side effects reported with over-consumption of capsicum are as follows  :
- Stomach upset
- Burning sensation in throat, mouth and in skin
Some people can have allergic reactions, which can cause swelling in lips, tongue, hives or face and problem in breathing and while closing the throat.
Healthy Capsicum Recipes
1. Beetroot & greens with capsicum
- 4 beetroots, with leaves
- 2 capsicums
- ½ tsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- salt & pepper
- ¼ cup Macadamia nuts, quartered
- Preheat oven to 200°C.
- Cut the greens from the beets, carefully wash the leaves and set aside.
- Place the beets on a large sheet of aluminium foil, drizzle with 2 tsp olive oil, and fold the foil over to make a little foil packet.
- Place in oven and roast until tender, about 30 minutes
- Cut the capsicums in two, remove the seeds and stems.
- Place face-down onto a baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes.
- In a dry frying pan, roast the Macadamia nuts over medium-low heat.
- Slice the beet leaves into inch-wide strips.
- Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
- Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, then add the greens.
- Place a stream of capsicum coulis on each plate, and arrange beets and greens.
- Top with Macadamia nuts.
2. Vegan stuffed bell peppers
- ¾ cup whole grain brown rice, uncooked
- 6 medium capsicum
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small onions, diced
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
- 2 small carrots, sliced
- 1 small zucchini, cubed
- ¾ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- ¾ cup tomato purée
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- A pinch of chilli
- Preheat the oven to 220°C.
- Bring salted water to a boil over medium heat and cook the rice according to the package instructions.
- Drain and set aside.
- Cut off the tops of the bell peppers, scoop out the inside and discard the seeds.
- In a large pan heat olive oil, add onion and fry for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 5-8 minutes.
- Add carrots and zucchini, fry, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes and remove from heat.
- Add cooked rice, 1/3 cup parsley, tomato purée, and stir until well-combined.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of chilli.
- Place the stuffed peppers in a greased baking tray.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.
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-  Vegangela. (n.d.). Category: Appetizers & Starters [ Blog post]. Retrieved from, https://vegangela.com/vegan-recipes/vegan-appetizers-starters/