Even before Peter Piper picked them, peppers provided a plethora of potential positives. The health benefits of peppers, both hot and sweet, is surprisingly long. They have been linked to metabolism, insulin levels, natural cold remedies, pain control, weight loss, and endorphins. Capsaicin is the active ingredient that gets the most recognition. Though it is only found in hot peppers, the sweet peppers share the other nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
The hot pepper family includes chile, cayenne, and jalapeño. Hot peppers are the way to go when looking for an energy boost. Capsaicin levels in hot peppers are high, and this is the pepper ingredient acknowledged for raising endorphin levels and improving mood. The health benefits of peppers are almost always linked to capsaicin, which is a vasodilator, meaning it causes blood vessels to widen. This enhances circulation and increases body temperature, which then raises metabolism. The effect also reduces body fat accumulation.
The capsaicin in hot peppers reduces pain by depleting substance P, which is a chemical that transmits pain signals to the brain. Because of this, capsaicin can be found in many topical pain relieving creams. Red chiles have the most vitamin A, and all chile peppers provide fiber, potassium, folic acid, and iron. Studies have shown that subjects who ate a hot pepper with a meal had lower insulin levels when the meal was finished. Though the particulars are yet unknown, the effect was most dramatic in subjects with the highest weights, which suggests peppers may have a significant impact on weight loss.
The health benefits of peppers can also be found in sweet varieties. This group includes bell peppers in red, green, orange, and yellow. The sweeter the pepper, the lower the levels of capsaicin. While hot peppers with capsaicin are used in small quantities as spice, sweet peppers are used in larger quantities and served as vegetables. Though lacking in capsaicin, the sweet peppers still offer a big nutritional boost. They're full of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium.
The riper the sweet pepper, the sweeter the taste and the more concentrated the nutrients. Red is the ripest, and therefore the sweetest, and green is a bit more bitter and not ripe. Sweet peppers also contain lycopene, which is said to protect against prostate cancer. Red sweet peppers contain beta-cryptoxanthin, a substance being studied to lower the risk of lung cancer. The health benefits of peppers are still being studied, but with all the benefits already uncovered, they're a sure bet for healthy choice.