Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vegetable Spotlight: Bell Peppers!

Why should you eat Bell Peppers?

Let's find out!

Colorful Protection Against Free Radicals

Want to color your life healthy? Brightly colored bell peppers, whether green, red, orange or yellow, are rich sources of some of the best nutrients available. To start, peppers are excellent sources of vitamin C and vitamin A, two very powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants work together to effectively neutralize free radicals, which can travel through the body causing huge amounts of damage to cells. Free radicals are major players in the build up of cholesterol in the arteries that leads to atherosclerosis and heart disease, the nerve and blood vessel damage seen in diabetes, the cloudy lenses of cataracts, the joint pain and damage seen in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and the wheezing and airway tightening of asthma. By providing these two potent free radical destroyers, bell peppers may help prevent or reduce some of the symptoms of these conditions by shutting down the source of the problem.

Promote Optimal Health

Red peppers are one of the few foods that contain lycopene, a carotenoid whose consumption has been inversely correlated with prostate cancer and cancers of the cervix, bladder and pancreas. Recent studies suggest that individuals whose diets are low in lycopene-rich foods are at greater risk for developing these types of cancers.

Promote Lung Health

If you or someone you love is a smoker, or if you are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke, then making vitamin A- rich foods, such as bell peppers, part of your healthy way of eating may save your life, suggests research conducted at Kansas State University.

While studying the relationship between vitamin A, lung inflammation, and emphysema, Richard Baybutt, associate professor of nutrition at Kansas State, made a surprising discovery: a common carcinogen in cigarette smoke, benzo(a)pyrene, induces vitamin A deficiency.

Seeing Red May Mean Better Eyesight

Bell peppers appear to have a protective effect against cataracts, possibly due to their vitamin C and beta-carotene content. Italian researchers compared the diets of hospital patients who had cataracts removed with patients who had not undergone the operation. Certain vegetables, including sweet peppers, reduced the cataract operation risk. The red variety of bell peppers also supply the phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been found to protect against macular degeneration, the main cause of blindness in the elderly.

Protection against Rheumatoid Arthritis

While one study suggests that high doses of supplemental vitamin C makes osteoarthritis, a type of degenerative arthritis that occurs with aging, another indicates that vitamin C-rich foods, such as bell and chili peppers, provide humans with protection against inflammatory polyarthritis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints.

How can you enjoy bell peppers? Here's a great recipe for orzo stuffed peppers!

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees

- 4 large red, yellow or purple bell peppers
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup Orzo
- 2 spicy chicken sausages, casings removed
- 3 tablespoon organic virgin olive oil
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped and drained
- 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 Jalapeno pepper, roasted peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

- Cut the tops off of the bell peppers and discard seeds. Rub bell peppers with 1 tablespoon of olive oil coating both the inside and the outer skin. Set aside in a baking dish. Bring 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock to a boil (reserve remaining 1/2 cup of chicken stock for later use), add Orzo, cover and simmer for 20 minutes without removing lid during the cooking time.

- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, break up sausage into small pieces. Saute until browned, draining any excess oil when completely cooked. Add organic olive oil, onion, diced chili, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, celery seed, cilantro, Orzo and remaining chicken stock. Cook until heated and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and salt and pepper to taste.

- Stuff peppers with orzo mixture and place back in the baking dish. Sprinkle tops with Parmesan cheese. Add 1/2 cup boiling water to the dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the peppers are hot. Serve immediately with a side of sour cream.


* Information taken from

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