Naturopathic Kitchen: Bell Peppers

Yellow, red, green, and orange bell peppers on a wood surface

Bell peppers have a sweet or savory taste, and come in red, green, orange, and yellow, making them a great way to add color to a dish. They can be eaten raw or cooked, and because of their mild flavor, they are generally a hit with kids and picky eaters. Bell peppers are also highly nutritious, making them an easy addition to boost the health factor of any meal!

The Health Benefits of Bell Peppers

May Help Prevent Anemia

Anemia is a disease that occurs when the body’s red blood cell count is too low. In 50% of anemia cases, this is caused by iron deficiency. 1 Bell peppers contain both iron and vitamin C, which is needed for iron to absorb into the gut. 2 Because of this, eating bell peppers significantly increases the body’s ability to absorb dietary iron. 3 Try eating bell peppers alongside iron-rich foods such as red meat, leafy greens, tofu, and lentils. For best results, eat the bell peppers raw.

Improved Eye Health

Eating a diet rich in the carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein may significantly reduce the risk of vision impairment caused by macular degeneration and cataracts. 4 5 This is because zeaxanthin and lutein help protect the retina (the inner nerve lining of the eye) from oxidative damage. 6 Bell peppers are an excellent source of both zeaxanthin and lutein. 7

Good Source of Fiber

Bell peppers have a high dietary fiber content. There are 2.5 grams of fiber in just one cup of raw chopped bell pepper. 8 Consuming fiber-rich foods supports digestive function by reducing constipation and contributing to healthy bacteria in the gut. 9 Research shows that increasing your consumption of dietary fiber may reduce your risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colon cancer. 10 11

Try adding more bell peppers to your diet today! They can be chopped and added to salads, wraps, stir fries, curries, or simply eaten raw with some hummus as a snack. Peppers make up the basis for sofrito and the ‘holy trinity’ in cooking and are a staple in many cultural cooking practices. Bell peppers are easy to add to almost any dish, but we love this simple ratatouille recipe.

Ratatouille

This dish uses classic ratatouille vegetables and transforms them into a one-pot wonder. Use it as a light meal with some crusty whole grain bread, as a ragu for pasta or polenta, or as a delicious side dish. Be creative and add your favorite veggies, adapting with the seasons.

Recipe courtesy of Bastyr University.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 24-ounce can of organic diced tomatoes
  • 1 small yellow onion, medium dice
  • 1 small eggplant, medium dice
  • 1 medium zucchini, medium dice
  • 1 medium red pepper, medium dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 thyme sprigs or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Crushed black pepper
  • ½ cup fresh basil, chiffonade

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the olive oil and half of the canned tomatoes to a casserole dish with a lid. Layer the diced vegetables, garlic, herbs, and half the salt and pepper in the dish. Cover with the remaining canned tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

Cover the dish and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, mix gently, remove the lid and bake for an additional 10–15 minutes. Mix in the fresh basil and serve.

 

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