Red Bell Pepper Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

red bell pepper nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

High in vitamin C, red bell peppers are not only tasty but may also reduce the risk of certain chronic or aging-related health conditions. Red bell peppers (also called sweet peppers) deliver a large volume of food with few calories, carbohydrates, or fat, and they have the most nutrients of all the sweet peppers.

Red Bell Pepper Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (149g) of chopped, raw, red bell pepper.

  • Calories: 39
  • Fat: 0.5g
  • Sodium: 6mg
  • Carbohydrates: 9g
  • Fiber: 3.1g
  • Sugars: 6.3g
  • Protein: 1.5g
  • Vitamin C: 190mg

Carbs

The non-fiber carbohydrates in red bell peppers are mostly glucose and fructose, both of which are naturally occurring sugars. Raw green bell peppers have slightly fewer carbs and less fiber than their red counterparts with 6.9g of carbohydrate and 2.5g fiber per cup.

The glycemic index of bell peppers has not been studied. They are presumed to have no effect on your blood sugar due to their low carb content.

Fat

Bell peppers are very low in fat, and most of that fat is healthy​ polyunsaturated fat.

Protein

As is typical for vegetables, bell peppers have only a small amount of protein. For a balanced diet, be sure to include a protein source such as legumes, nuts, dairy, meat, or fish in your diet.

Vitamins and Minerals

Red bell peppers are packed with nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin B6. Vitamin C, perhaps one of the best-known antioxidants, offers a variety of health benefits: supporting immune function, facilitating cell repair, aiding in the absorption of folate, and assisting in the production of collagen for healthy bones, skin, and hair.

Vtamin C also facilitates the absorption of iron, so it may help prevent iron deficiency anemia (by building the body's stores of iron) or aid in the recovery from mild anemia. Red peppers also contain some iron.

Red bell peppers deliver other key antioxidants that help protect cells from oxidative damage. These include carotenoids such as lycopene, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Bell peppers are also a source of vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, potassium, and manganese. A large red bell pepper provides 1.3 milligrams of manganese, contributing 55% to 75% of your daily needs.

Health Benefits

Beyond their nutritional value, red bell peppers may play a protective role by preventing or slowing certain health conditions.

May Lower Cancer Risk

Researchers are studying the association between cancer risk and the intake of carotenoid-rich foods, like sweet bell peppers. A comprehensive review of the anticancer compounds in foods, published in 2017, noted the benefits of lutein and cryptoxanthin, found in bell peppers.

May Improve Heart Health

Red peppers appear to reduce cardiovascular risk by exerting powerful antioxidant effects. The antioxidants in the sweet pepper temper the activity of free radicals that cause cellular damage. Free radicals are directly implicated in the development of many human ailments, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, neural disorders, diabetes, and arthritis.

Research shows that the free radical-fighting antioxidants in red bell peppers are activated at different temperatures:

  • At 35oC (95oF), the phenols and flavonoids in red peppers were able to disarm free radicals linked to cardiovascular disease.
  • At 50oC (122oF), the same antioxidants were able to disarm a free radical linked to certain types of cancer.
  • At 65oC (149oF), phenol and flavonoid concentrations were at their highest.

What these findings suggest is that raw bell peppers are heart-protective, but cooked bell peppers may exert stronger antioxidant effects. However, this study was done in a lab, not in humans, so more research is needed to understand how these nutrients behave in humans.

May Protect Eyesight

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States, affecting more than 10 million Americans. It occurs when the central portion of the retina, known as the macula, begins to deteriorate. The macula is mainly composed of a carotenoid, known as zeaxanthin, which is also found in oranges, tangerines, and vegetables like red peppers.

Some research shows that an increased intake of dietary zeaxanthin can help maintain the integrity of the macula. Zeaxanthin is a major component of orange bell peppers but is also found in high concentrations in red bell peppers. 

For its part, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends supplementing with 2mg zeaxanthin per day for people with advanced macular degeneration. 

May Promote Bone Health

The high manganese content in sweet peppers may also help prevent ​osteoporosis (bone loss) because trace elements like manganese, copper, and zinc are characteristically low in people with the disease. 

Allergies

Bell pepper food allergies are rare. However, 50% to 60% of people who are allergic to latex may have latex-fruit syndrome and cross-react to proteins in bell peppers that are similar to those in latex. You might feel a tingling or itch in your mouth after eating bell peppers. Similarly, people with pollen allergies may have cross-reactions to certain foods.

In rare cases, this can be more serious and trigger throat swelling or anaphylaxis. People with this syndrome may also be sensitive to other fruits, including avocado, banana, chestnut, fig, and kiwi. Talk to your doctor about how to manage your diet if you have a latex allergy.

Adverse Effects

Some people find that eating bell peppers causes digestive symptoms, such as gas. These effects, however, are more commonly associated with green peppers instead of red ones. 

Varieties

Bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) come in a variety of colors, including green, red, yellow, purple, orange, white, and even brown, and in sizes from mini to softball-sized. Red bell peppers tend to be the sweetest of the bunch. 

Bell peppers of all colors are, scientifically speaking, the same plant. Their color is determined by how long they stay on the vine, with green first, followed by red or another color. Red peppers contain the most nutrients, making them the healthiest choice among bell peppers.

Peppers can also be purchased frozen, roasted in cans or jars, or dried and ground (as in paprika). Note that jarred roasted red peppers can often have a large amount of sodium and fat if they are stored in oil.

When They're Best

While most bell pepper varieties, especially green ones, are typically available all year, red bell peppers are freshest during the summer and fall. Choose fresh peppers that are brightly colored and plump with smooth, unblemished skin. The more intense the color, the better. The vividness of color is an indicator of ripeness, flavor, and a high concentration of nutrients. Avoid peppers that have soft spots, nicks, wrinkles, or pits. You'll also want to look for a bright green stem, which indicates freshness.

Storage and Food Safety

You can eat bell pepper seeds, but most people cut away the seeds and the core before consuming because the texture and taste aren't usually appealing.

Store peppers whole in the refrigerator. They should last for about a week this way. Once washed and cut, they will begin to deteriorate more rapidly and should be used within a few days. You can freeze them whole or cut them up and put them in an airtight container.

How to Prepare

Red bell peppers can serve as a great snack or an addition to meals. Eat them as is or with your favorite dip, or slice them and add to eggs, salads, or sandwiches. Peppers can be stuffed with meat, beans, and whole grains; baked, grilled, sauteed, pureed for soups and dips; or used in chilis, stews, sauces, and condiments.

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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