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Bellpeppers & Differences Between Color Varieties

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April 24, 2019

Amy: Today, we’re talking about bell peppers and the differences between the color varieties. Hello, I'm Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm & Family. Today, we are speaking with Jessica Rice, dietetic intern at Mississippi State University, who is currently in her rotation at MSU Extension Services.

Jessica, can you tell our listeners what the difference is between green, red, and yellow bell peppers?

Jess: Of course, Amy. The most obvious difference is, of course, their color. Bell peppers are in their peak season in July, with their seasonality running from July to October. When growing on the vine, the green colored bell peppers are the first to appear. Then, as they’re left to mature and ripen, their color turns from green to yellow, and then from yellow to orange. Their final stage of maturation is their fully ripe, red color.

Amy: That’s very interesting. If color is the obvious difference, are there other differences between these bell peppers that our listeners should know about?

Jess: Yes, Amy. Bell peppers vary in their nutrition content depending on what color they are as well. In general, bell peppers are a vegetable rich in vitamin C. The vitamin C content of bell peppers is actually more than that found in an orange and, actually, have about 2 and 3 times more of this essential vitamin in green and red bell peppers, respectively. Vitamin C is important for us to consume because it is necessary for the growth and repair of bodily tissues, wound healing, and also in our ability to absorb iron. Bell peppers contain the vitamins B6, K, A, and E, as well and minerals and cancer-fighting antioxidants help pack the nutritional punch the vegetables provide. As bell peppers change color, their antioxidant profiles change as well. In green bell peppers, leutin is the primary antioxidant which, along with zeaxanthin, plays a key role in the health of our vision. Violaxanthin is the antioxidant that becomes more prevalent as the pepper matures to its yellow variety while capsanthin is the antioxidant/ carotenoid responsible for the bright red color of the fully-matured, red peppers. Lycopene is also found in red bell peppers and is known for its cancer-fighting properties when working along-side other carotenoids. Red bell peppers are the most nutrient-dense variety of the bell pepper species.

Amy: Wow! All those vitamins and antioxidants! This makes it seem that red bell peppers are the best option when deciding which bell pepper color to purchase.

Jess: Yes, red bell peppers are a great option at the grocery store, nutritionally. However, they will be the most expensive variety compared the other colors of bell peppers, especially green. Red peppers are left on their vines by farmers to continue to their growth and maturation process, change color, and become more nutrient-dense. In other words, farmers are spending a greater amount of time, space, and effort to care for red peppers compared to the other bell pepper varieties. Green bell peppers, then, are less expensive because less labor and time was expended by farmers to harvest these peppers and their space on the vine was cleared earlier. The earlier harvest of these peppers shortened their growth and maturation process and results in their unripe stages. So, while green peppers may cost less at the grocery store, they also have the least amount of growth and maturation in color and nutrient content, especially compared to red bell peppers.

Amy: That makes a very good point. Is there another difference between bell peppers other than their colors and nutrient-contents?

Jess: Yes, Amy. Bell peppers have different tastes depending on which color variety you choose. Bell peppers, as a species, are part of the capsicum species; they are called sweet peppers because they lack the spicy, capsaicin property that is in other peppers like jalapeños. Red bell peppers are the sweetest of the bell pepper varieties while green peppers will taste more bitter because they are in their less mature and unripe forms. For this reason, slicing and snacking on raw bell peppers may be more palatable if you choose a red bell pepper, or even a yellow or orange color variety. Still, no matter which color you choose, they can all be sliced and diced to snack on, or cooked or sautéd into a healthy, summer meal.

Amy: Thank you for sharing this information on the differences between red, green, and yellow bell peppers with us, Jessica. Is there anything else our listeners should consider when choosing bell peppers?

Jess: Another important concept to remember, especially when planning to cook your peppers is that. like other vegetables, the color and nutrient content of bell peppers can change when heated or manipulated. For example, vitamin C is destroyed by heat like an oven-roast while vitamin A is more readily absorbed when cooked with a bit of fat like olive oil.

Amy: Yes, that is definitely something to keep in mind. Today, we have been speaking with dietetic intern, Jessica Rice. I’m Amy Myers and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day!

Department: Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion

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