Pepper is as hot and awesomely spicy as it looks. The vegetable is an excellent way of spicing up and adding flavour to dishes. Pepper comes in an array of beautiful colours and apart from being spicy, contains lots of health benefits.
Pepper comes in many varieties — bell pepper, red pepper, cherry pepper, serrano pepper, cayenne pepper and habanero chili pepper which is common in Rwanda among others.
According to Isaac Bikorimana, a nutritionist from Kibagabaga Hospital, pepper contains plenty of vitamin C which powers up the immune system and keeps the skin youthful. The highest amount of Vitamin C in bell pepper is concentrated in the red variety. However for one to achieve healthy results, they should take one gram or half a tablespoon daily.
He says pepper is so low in calories that even if a person ate a lot of it they would get just about 45 calories.
Red bell pepper contains several phytochemicals and carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene, which lavishes you with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Also the capsaicin in bell pepper has multiple health benefits.
Studies show that it reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol, controls diabetes, brings relief from pain and eases inflammation, Bikorimana says.
“If cooked for a short period on low heat, pepper retains most of its sweet, almost fruity flavour and flavonoid content which is a powerful nutrient. The sulfur content in pepper makes it play a protective role in certain types of cancers and they are also a good source of Vitamin E which is known to play a key role in keeping skin and hair looking youthful,” he adds.
Pepper also contains vitamin B6 which is essential for the health of the nervous system and helps replenish cells.
Certain enzymes in peppers such as lutein protect the eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration later in life.
Normally pepper has a chemical product named Capsaicin which is an active component. It is an irritant for mammals including humans and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue it comes into contact with.
According to Joseph Uwiragiye, a nutritionist at the University Teaching Hospital (CHUK), a pregnant woman should refrain from consuming a lot of pepper to avoid possible complications. And for people with diabetes or high blood pressure, consumption of pepper is vital since it helps in blood pressure management.
“Consuming too much of pepper can cause reflux and heartburn because when the pepper reaches the stomach it mixes with the acid which can also result in nausea. Pepper is also believed to cause ulcers but research confirmed that it only aggravates ulcer pain,” Uwiragiye says.