Cheerful and tasty, peppers are a very versatile ingredient in the kitchen. And at the greengrocer you can really find them in quite all the colors of the rainbow. In fact, peppers, in their sweet variety, can be green, usually harvested before reaching full ripeness, yellow, orange and red. Often the choice falls on the classic red pepper, but, in fact, within a varied and balanced diet, a good idea would be to include them all. The point is that it is not just an aesthetic question, in fact, while sharing some characteristics such as the content in water, fiber, potassium and vitamin C, each color also corresponds to different active ingredients and health properties! Let's take a closer look at this aspect in order to understand why it is important to vary the colors of the peppers, so as to guarantee a wide spectrum of beneficial substances.
Red peppers are characterized by a high content of vitamin C, carotenoids and quercetin (Thuphairo et al, Prev Nutr Food Sci, 2019 - Sun et al, J Food Sci, 2007). These substances give the pepper anti-free radical, anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective properties, also capable of keeping body weight and blood sugar under control (Nishimuro et al, Nutrients, 2015). Not only that, red peppers contain high levels of folate, which are essential substances for cell replication as well as being cardioprotective (Philips et al, J Agric Food Chem, 2006 - Li et al, J Am Heart Assoc, 2016).
Green peppers abound with chlorophyll, with an anti-aging and anti-inflammatory action, and phenolic acids, among which p coumarin acid stands out. This substance is a powerful antioxidant, has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties and is also capable, as shown by scientific studies, of helping to reduce LDL bad cholesterol as well as the risk of diabetes and obesity (Shen et al, Biomed Pharmacother, 2019 - Pei et al, J Sci Food Agric, 2016). These peppers prove to be neuroprotective thanks to their high ability, even greater than in red and yellow peppers, to counteract free radicals and inhibit those enzymes that would degrade neurotransmitters. The latter action is particularly important in the fight against Alzheimer's disease (Thuphairo et al, Prev Nutr Food Sci, 2019). Not only that, green peppers, thanks to contained polysaccharides, are anticancer. In fact, extracts of this type of pepper, placed in contact with breast cancer cells, have shown their ability to inhibit them. Certainly green pepper should not be seen as a cure in cases of cellular degeneration, the research does not want to affirm this, but as a healthy ingredient to keep in mind within a diet that aims to strengthen the body against threats, even in the form of cellular degenerations (Adami et al, Int J Biol Macromol, 2020). Instead, green peppers contain low levels of folate, especially when compared to red peppers (Sun et al, J Food Sci, 2007).
Of all types of peppers, yellow peppers contain the highest amount of flavonoids. Flavonoids are considered protective to combat chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, tumors and neurodegenerative disorders (Kozlowska et al, Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig, 2014). As regards this last point, in fact, even yellow peppers have proved to be interesting in a preventive diet for Alzheimer's, as they have shown an action capable of inhibiting the enzymes that degrade acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter (Thuphairo et al, Prev Nutr Food Sci, 2019).
They are the only peppers to contain both lutein and zeaxanthin (Thuphairo et al, Prev Nutr Food Sci, 2019). Lutein and zeaxanthin are two carotenoids that cannot be synthesized by the human body but that must be introduced with food and then conveyed to the various parts of the body, especially in the retina, where they represent the main pigments in the macula, which is the central part of the retina. These pigments have been observed to protect the retina from blue light damage, improve visual acuity, and counteract free radical damage that could lead to retinal degeneration such as maculopathy (Jia et al, Molecules, 2017).