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Eating Well with Whole Foods: Bell Peppers

by Suzann Pileggi Pawelski

Bell peppers, also known as sweet peppers, come in a variety of brilliant colors including red, green, yellow, orange, purple and even brown and black. They are part of the nightshade family, which include eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes. Like their relatives, the chili peppers, bell peppers originated in South America with seeds of a wild variety dating back to 5000 BC. Today, the main producers of sweet peppers are China, Turkey, Spain, Romania, Nigeria and Mexico. Peppers are an adaptable and versatile food. They have become a staple in Eastern Europe where they are commonly dried for paprika. They are also integral ingredients in Mexican and Portuguese cuisines.

Bell peppers pack a colorful and nutritious punch. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A, two powerful antioxidants that have been shown to help protect against free radicals in the body. A pepper rich diet may help lower the risk of cancers of the prostrate, cervix, bladder, pancreas, and colon due to its abundance of nutrients and cancer fighting ingredients such as lycopene, fiber, and folic acid. Peppers may also help prevent heart attacks and stroke in part due to its cholesterol lowering fiber content as well as its strong source of vitamin B. Research suggests that lifelong smokers may be able to help protect their lungs from damage by eating a vitamin A rich diet that includes peppers.

When shopping for bell peppers choose ones with deep, vivid hues and taut skin. Avoid ones with bruises and soft spots. They will keep for up to one week when stored unwashed in the refrigerator. Remember to wash them thoroughly before eating and scrub vigorously if they contain a wax coating.

Peppers are refreshing alone or eaten with some of your other favorite summer vegetables. Chop them up and add to sandwiches or to chicken or tuna salad for a nutritional boost. For a simple snack substitute the versatile vegetable for crackers when enjoying hummus or another dip. Steam peppers whole and stuff with whole grain rice and bake for a hearty entrée.

Pepper and Black Bean

Salad Medley

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (15 ounces) corn, rinsed and drained

1 medium red onion, peeled and chopped

3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced

3 tablespoons fresh, flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine bell peppers, black beans, corn, garlic and parsley in a large bowl. Add olive oil and red wine vinegar. Toss. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss again. Enjoy as a main meal or side dish. Serves approximately 6-8.

Suzann Pileggi Pawelski is a freelance wellness writer who specializes in the science of happiness and how it affects our health. She is also a certified health coach who works with clients on nourishing their bodies and souls by helping them make better food and lifestyle choices. She uses food to naturally increase energy, control cravings and create a balanced lifestyle. Suzann holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) from the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Visit her website at www.suzannpileggi.com, or email her at suzannpileggi@aol.com  for a discounted phone consultation.

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