Bell peppers, or ‘poivrons’ in French, are loaded with vitamins and minerals that are essential to our health.
The common ones found in local markets are of green colour, though bell peppers are also yellow, red and orange.
Joseph Uwiragiye, the head of nutrition department at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), says bell peppers have a lot going for them.
He says they are low in calories, loaded with good nutritional value and are an excellent source of vitamin A and C, potassium and fibre.
They also have antioxidants (that remove potentially damaging agents), making them ideal for one’s diet, he says.
You have probably heard about peppers helping in weight loss; this is true, according to nutritionists.
Uwiragiye explains that this is because of the capsaicin found in them which has been shown to boost metabolism as well as suppress appetite, at least slightly.
Over time, he says, this effect can boost weight loss.
Erick Musengimana, a nutritionist at Rwanda Diabetes Association in Kigali, says bell peppers also help when it comes to improving eyesight.
He points out that the most common types of visual impairments include macular degeneration and cataracts, and the main causes are ageing and infections.
However, consuming bell peppers, he says, helps cut the risk of this.
He says this is due to lutein and carotenoids found in relatively high amounts in bell peppers, which help improve eye health, especially when consumed in adequate amount.
“They protect the retina, which is the light-sensitive inner wall of the eye from oxidative damage,” he says.
Musengimana adds that a number of studies indicate that regular consumption of foods rich in these carotenoids may cut the risk of both cataracts and macular degeneration.
Therefore, he says, adding bell peppers to your diet may help lower your risk of visual impairments.
Another condition that can be prevented by consuming bell peppers, Musengimana says, is anaemia.
He says that anaemia is a common condition characterised by a reduced ability of one’s blood to carry oxygen.
“One of the most common causes of anaemia is iron deficiency, the main symptoms being weakness and fatigue. Bell peppers are also exceptionally rich in vitamin C, which increases the absorption of iron from the gut,” he says.
He says dietary iron absorption increases significantly when you consume fruits or vegetables high in vitamin C, which include bell peppers.
For this reason, Musengimana says, eating raw bell peppers alongside iron-rich foods such as meat or spinach may help increase the body’s iron stores, cutting the risk of anaemia.
Uwiragiye says that when it comes to immunity, bell peppers can help boost the immune system.
“The immune system performs important functions such as warding off infections in order to protect the body. To improve the condition of the immune system, one needs to incorporate foods that are rich in vitamin C,” he says.
Uwiragiye says one of the foods that should be consumed to ensure this are bell peppers because they are abundant in vitamin C and so regular consumption will strengthen the immune system.
When it comes to improving the digestive system, bell peppers help ensure that.
Studies indicate that improper digestive functioning results in diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting which is draining.
Musengimana advises that incorporating bell peppers into your daily diet is important because of the high niacin content found in them, which is vitamin B that is essential to improve the condition of the digestive system.
“Proper digestion of foods will allow the body to absorb minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients that one can consume on a daily basis,” he adds.