Capsicum is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family Solanaceae, native to the Americas, cultivated worldwide for their chili pepper or bell pepper fruit. The genus, it is reported, comprises all the varied forms of fleshy-fruited peppers, including the mild bell peppers that are used as a vegetable and the hot peppers, such as habanero and tabasco, which are used as relishes, pickled, or ground into a fine powder for use as a spice. The bell peppers, which are red and yellow in colour, are locally used in different dishes and go for Rwf800 to Rwf1, 000 apiece depending on where you buy them. The bell peppers are known to be low in fat and a source of carotenoids like beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and lutein, and rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Health benefits Erick Musengimana, a nutritionist at Rwanda Diabetes Association in Kigali, says based on studies, consumption of bell peppers is perhaps the easiest way to immunity as they have four times the daily value of vitamin C. This, therefore, is a good remedy for stomach issues, backbone troubles, and cancer. They also contain vitamin A which is available at 23 per cent per serving. This is a good enough margin for eyesight improvement. Musengimana says the vitamin B-6 margin stands at 15 per cent, essential for metabolism functions. If you are trying to cut some weight, Musengimana says the peppers could be one of the best foods to include in your diet. He says they help in fast metabolism as its low in fat, thus lowering triglycerides to increase metabolism. “Eating these peppers will help you burn fat and lose weight. They also improve digestion at the same time,” he says. Musengimana also says that the peppers are rich in antioxidants, which protect the body against free radicals and the damage caused by them. The body contains free radicals that cause damage to blood vessels and cellular damage. By fighting these free radicals, these foods help in curing diseases like cataract and osteoarthritis. Emmy Ntamanga, a Kigali-based nutrition consultant, says the peppers are also known for their role in improving immunity. He says that this is so because the vitamin C decreases the risk of arthritis and improves immunity. It also helps reduce inflammation. Capsicum also has vitamin K, which is important for blood clot formation. He says vitamin C also plays an important role in the absorption of iron by the body. It contains around 300 per cent of the daily requirement of vitamin C, thus helping in curing iron deficiency. The peppers also contain a compound called capsaicin and it is believed that it blocks the pain transmission to the spinal cord. It is effective in treating pain related to herpes zoster and neuralgia. Ntamanga adds that the peppers lower the risk of cancer as they contain anti-inflammatory nutrients and antioxidants. He says this is due to the presence of carotenoid lycopene which is effective in lowering the risk of cervix, prostate, pancreas, and bladder cancer. The enzymes also help in the prevention of oesophageal and gastric cancer as well.