Pick a peck of colorful peppers to punch up the flavor and nutritional content of your meals. Bell peppers come in a palette of colors -- green, red, yellow, orange, purple and chocolate brown -- and all varieties are excellent sources of the antioxidant vitamins A and C. The spicy-crunchy green pepper is a less mature version of the red pepper, which is not only sweeter than its emerald-hued cousin, but it also contains 11 times more cancer-fighting beta carotene.
A whole cup of chopped sweet red pepper has about 39 calories and packs more vitamin C than a medium-size orange. Hot peppers also boast a higher vitamin C percentage than oranges, but their nutritional impact may be compromised because it is difficult to eat optimum amounts of the mouth-burning veggie. You can get a healthy dose of vitamin E from sweet red peppers, a phytonutrient scientifically proven to be protective against macular degeneration. Often, sweet red peppers are dried and ground into a powder to produce the spice paprika.
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Reach for any color of bell pepper for a significant source of iron, vitamin B6 and protein. These 30 to 40-calorie treats also contain dietary fiber, which promotes feelings of satiety on fewer calories. If you crave something crunchy, raw bell pepper strips can satisfy this urge to snack without adding fat or salt to your diet. Bell peppers are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant believed to lower the risk of certain cancers, such as prostate, bladder, cervical and pancreatic.
Choose vibrantly colored, unblemished peppers that feel firm and heavy in your hand. A few small ripples and lumps on the skin are normal, but the best peppers possess the classic four-lobed bell shape. Dark spots and softness around the stem indicate a bell pepper past its prime. Store peppers unwashed in the refrigerator up to a week; green bell peppers may last longer than the riper red and chocolate variety.
Tasty raw, bell peppers add crispness and flavor to dishes when sauteed or quickly stir-fried in a little olive oil. For a light and luscious entree, top fish fillets or steaks with julienned green, red and yellow bell peppers, a squirt or two of lime juice, a sprinkle of your favorite herbs and crumbled low-fat Feta cheese. Bake in foil or parchment paper packets for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Roast bell peppers to bring out their sweetness and juiciness. Char thick-skinned peppers either under the broiler or on the grill. You can also use a long handled-fork to char the peppers over the stove-top burner. Whatever method you choose, the skins should be black and blistered on all sides. Using gloves or mitts, place the hot peppers in a paper bag for 15 minutes. The steam allows the peppers to sweat, loosening the charred skin. Once the peppers are cool, peel away the outer skin and enjoy the soft, sweet inner flesh on sandwiches, salads, and pureed in dips and sauces.