The array of colors brightening the produce aisle is more than just decorative – the different pigments each represent a unique nutritional profile.
When it comes to bell peppers, the best advice is to “Taste the Rainbow.”
Red, green, yellow and orange bell peppers have similar macronutrient content (calories, fiber, protein, carbs and fat) and all are a great source of vitamin C, says Jamie Allers, RD, a registered dietitian with Hartford HealthCare’s Digestive Health Institute.
What does differ among the colors is the type of phytonutrients (natural plant compounds that are beneficial to human health and help prevent various diseases) in each variety that are beneficial for our health.
Allers explains that fruits and vegetables that are red or orange have high amounts of beta-carotene – a potent antioxidant that can benefit your brain, skin, lung and eye health. As a result, opting for a red or orange pepper might provide an extra boost.
Allers counsels her patients to include a variety of colors in their diet to ensure maximum health benefits. “The deeper and darker the color, the higher the concentration of these phytonutrients,” she notes. “You want to choose a variety of colors to maximize the vitamins and beneficial plant compounds that you consume.”
Loaded with phytonutrients including lutein and zeaxanthin, dark green vegetables are known to protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age-related problems.
Blue and purple fruits and vegetables, conversely, are rich in anthocyanins and resveratrol. These have been studied extensively for their anticancer and anti aging properties.
As for how to best use this rainbow of peppers, Allers says, “Red, yellow and orange peppers are a bit sweeter than green peppers so they work nicely to balance recipes that might have some spice. For instance, adding sliced red peppers to spicy tacos or diced into a chili works well. Green peppers are slightly more bitter and less sweet, but can still be used in all of the same ways. Try roasting them with different vegetables, as the roasting process can concentrate flavors making them seem sweeter naturally.”