Peppers (Capsicum annum), also known as Green or Red Peppers are in the Solanaceae (Nightshade) Family and relatives of chilies and paprika. The genus name, Capsicum comes from the Latin. Capsa, meaning, “box” referring to its hollow interior. They were named by Spanish explorers, who found chili peppers in the Americas and assumed its peppery taste made it related to black pepper, though they are unrelated.
Bell peppers are sweet, alkaline, warm and pungent. They are antioxidant, and a circulatory stimulant. Peppers are high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and bioflavonoids, with some vitamin E, B6 and folic acid. Bell peppers are considered useful in warding off angina, atherosclerosis, constipation, colds, high blood pressure, obesity, respiratory ailments (asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, sinus congestion), cataracts and macular degeneration. Their high silica content makes them an excellent beauty food for skin, hair, teeth and nails. Peppers also contain lycopene, a carotenoid believed to help reduce the risk of prostate, cervical, bladder and pancreatic cancers.
Most of the sweet peppers on the market are green, however red is considered riper, sweeter and more nutritious. Green peppers will not become riper once picked. Shiny peppers are often waxed. Look for firm, unwrinkled, brightly colored peppers that are heavy for their size. Crooked shapes do not adversely affect quality of taste. Store peppers in a cool area. Use peppers in salad, sauces, crudités, and soups, stuffed or as a garnish.
Those that suffer from arthritis may benefit by avoiding Nightshade Family members (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers), as they contain solanine, an alkaloid that if overused, can inhibit calcium absorption. The heat of a pepper is due to the pungent substance capsaicin, which is not highly present in bell peppers. With over a hundred varieties of pepper on the market, about half are grown for their heat.