We’re almost done with our Brain Food series, and I’ve saved the best for last. Red Peppers!
There are a lot of people who won’t eat peppers because they think they’re too pungent. Bell peppers, however, are the only member of the Capsicum family that doesn’t have any zest! They lack the gene that makes capsaicin, the chemical that gives chiles their characteristic zing.
Most authorities talk about how good red bell peppers are for you. The don’t say much about spicy peppers, though. I think they’re caving under to their constituency, rather like a cheaper version of Rod Blagojevich. Here’s the dirty little secret: Hot red peppers have the same brain-boosting nutrients, and in about the same amount per pound, as ripe bell peppers.
Now that you know that, you can continue to be a raging chilehead and claim it’s for your health. (If you’re not a chilehead, start now!)
What are the nutrients in these peppers, exactly? How about vitamin C? A cup of sweet red peppers has three times the recommended daily amount of this key vitamin. There’s also vitamins A and K in abundance. Although nobody’s proven a direct benefit to the brain from fiber, there’s plenty of that too, and your overall health will certainly benefit from that stuff.
Items that are especially good for your brain health include vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), molybdenum, and the colored species lycopene and beta-carotene. Most of these are antioxidants, and we’ve already seen how important that class of chemicals is to memory function and disease prevention. As a side benefit, you can get an immune system boost, reduce inflammation (if you suffer from arthritis or asthma), and even get stronger bones.
Not a bad package, eh? There’s only one small caveat: If you’re on a blood-thinner (like after surgery), talk with your doctor before eating these veggies. Vitamin K improves blood clotting, so you might mess up your doctor’s plan for your recovery if you do.
Folks who enjoy bell peppers of all colors often use them in salads. That’s certainly one way to get them into you diet! We like them in stir-fry dishes, and I’m sure you’ve heard of stuffed peppers. Red ones work just as well as green ones, and I think they taste better.
Slice some red peppers (hot or mild) and grill them to put into sandwiches, like an Italian sausage sandwich. Or even your own version of the Philly Cheese Steak. Include them on skewers of grilled vegetables, a great side for summer meals that you’ll fix on the barbie. Naturally, you can include them in all kinds of Italian meals, or simply roast them with garlic, basil and tomatoes.
Don’t stay away from the zesty peppers either! You can use milder versions if you don’t like much heat, like red Fresnos or ripe jalapeños. If you enjoy a big zing on your tongue, use some slivered cayennes or even Thai chiles. Take the seeds out and you can eat more of the tasty outside. Just remember: You probably can’t eat as much of these tasty chiles as you can a sweet red pepper. So mix and match.
Your tongue will thank you. Your doctor will thank you. And most importantly, your brain will thank you…
Enjoy the (Red Pepper Brain Superfood) Heat!
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