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Peppers: Good and Good For You

October 31, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANovember is national pepper month, designated to pay tribute to the fiery taste that makes our eyes water and mouth burn but keeps us coming back for more! Pepper is actually good for you with hot peppers particularly mentioned in benefits to those who consume them.

Sweet peppers add taste as well as being low calorie. A cup of chopped raw sweet pepper (bell peppers) has just 30 calories and can add to the taste of everything from soups to hamburger to macaroni and cheese to even a salad.

Most are familiar with the green and red peppers and some with the yellow. Fewer are aware of the orange, purple bell and chocolate peppers. The latter are named for their color – they still have the attributes of peppers! Red bell peppers are simply green ones that were given more time to mature and are often sweeter and milder. The red peppers are also higher in beta carotene than green bell peppers.

Most common in the commercial grocery stores are the green and red bell peppers. The hybrid sweet pepper varieties are typically 70-75 day to mature when growing, with the ‘salad’ peppers sometimes a few days left. These latter include the Gypsy and Sweet Banana peppers.

Hot peppers include common varieties like cayenne, jalapeno, chili and habanero which can vary in ‘heat’. Some believe this can be somewhat ‘tamed’ by watering an hour or so before harvesting or harvesting in the morning – equally evening harvest and not watering is supposed to then increase the firey burn.

If you grow your own they can easily be sliced or diced and dried or frozen. You can also use them fresh, and often the white ‘rib’ inside the pepper and seeds is the source of the heat. Use gloves when handling them and don’t forget what you’re doing and wipe your eyes or nose. The burn will remind you in a hurry!

The peppers are ‘hot’ due to containing capsaicin, a naturally occurring substance. Some studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition credits capsaicin with weight loss, particularly when consumed at breakfast or lunch. This is what gives peppers the ‘burn’ and also has been shown to improve digestion, lower triglycerides, triggers endorphin release and even recommended for a diabetic diet. There are also indications it can help with esophageal cancers and reduce high blood pressure.

The Guinness World Record for ‘hot’ in chili peppers is the Tezpur pepper, also known as Naga jolokia, developed by a chili pepper breeder in New Mexico. This is said to have tested three to five times hotter than the habanero. Since then the Carolina Reaper has gotten a nod for hottest.

Peppers are good and good for you, but do take a certain amount of respect in handling! Many sites have wonderful pepper recipes for not only condiments but main courses and desserts. Some forums are specific to hot peppers while other groups of recipes are for sweet peppers. Stuffed peppers like these in the slow cooker are heavenly to come home to and have a hot meal waiting.

Of course it isn’t just November that we love to eat peppers. In salsas, stuffed with cheese and on pizza they’re a tasty way to enjoy a little spice.

Did you know?

Some report the ideal way to ease the ‘burn’ is drinking milk with your meal. Water will not reduce the effects of the heat, and indeed may add to it! Milk, on the other hand, is credited with lowering the heat.
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