Bell peppers are among the most popular produce items grown and sold around the world as they are commonly used in culinary, and personally, I use them extensively, especially when prepping Mexican dishes.
To me, bell peppers have always served the same purpose as vegetables, so I’ve never dared to question whether they’re fruits or veggies. But we will get to the bottom of that question.
Are bell peppers fruits or vegetables? While most people think of bell peppers as vegetables due to how they are used in the kitchen, they are seeded fruits that are botanically classified as berries.
We all look at fruits as something sweet to our palate, but that’s not how they’re technically described.
In this article, I’ll share additional information concerning bell peppers, including why they’re differently classified based on botanical and culinary terms, their benefits, and how you can introduce them to your diet.
What are bell peppers?
Also known as sweet pepper, pepper, or capsicum, bell peppers are fruits that belong to the nightshade family.
They are native to Mexico, Central America, and Northern South America but now are available throughout the world as a result of their importation to Spain.
Size and color can vary based on the variety, but bell peppers are best known for their large bell-shaped appearance. Their colors vary between green, red, yellow, orange, purple, brown, and black.
Depending on the color, bell peppers will vary in taste and nutritionally. Red peppers are sweet and pack more nutrients while Green peppers are more bitter and not as nutritionally-rich.
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Botanically considered fruits
Though many consider bell peppers as vegetables, the botanical or scientific literature indicates that they are a type of fruit. This distinction is based on the biological function of the bell peppers themselves.
Botanically, fruits are formed from the ovary that exists within a flowering plant and houses the seeds that will eventually grow into new plants.
Conversely, vegetables are the other parts of the flowering plant such as leaves, stems, bulbs, or roots.
Bell peppers grow from flowering plants and contain many seeds that can be used (if the bell pepper was given the chance to fully ripe) to cultivate future generations of bell peppers.
According to science, this is what defines bell peppers as fruits — not vegetables.
Used as vegetables in culinary
The widespread confusion around the classification of fruits and vegetables often arises from how they are applied or used in the kitchen.
The culinary definition of a fruit or vegetable is typically based on flavor profile, texture, and how it is best served on a dish.
Fruits are sweet, tart, or tangy, and they have a more soft texture. They are more likely to be in desserts, pastries, syrups, sauces, and smoothies that require that flavor profile and texture.
Vegetables usually have a rough texture and are bitter, so they’re suitable for savory dishes such as entrées, soups, salads, and main dishes.
In terms of flavor, bell peppers are somewhere in the middle, though you can argue that some bell peppers are significantly sweeter than others.
Still, they are used as vegetables because of their texture, not overwhelming sweet nor bitter taste, which makes them an essential element in many savory dishes.
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Why you should add bell peppers to your diet
Fresh, raw bell peppers are mostly comprised of water, with a little amount of protein, carbs, and fat.
The main nutrients you will find in 100 grams of raw bell peppers are:
- Calories: 31
- Protein: 1 gram
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Sugar: 4.2 grams
- Fiber: 2.1 grams
- Fat: 0.3 grams
However, what is truly impressive about bell peppers is the different vitamins and minerals they contain.
Many of these vitamins and minerals are essential to many bodily functions, including defensive mechanisms that prevent potential diseases.
Vitamins and minerals
Bell peppers are loaded with the following vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin C: 100 grams of bell peppers provide you with 212% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI), making it one of the richest sources of vitamin C across the board.
Vitamin A: Bell peppers (particularly the red-colored) are tremendously rich in beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A.
Vitamin B6: Although not in the same amounts as the other vitamins, bell peppers also contain a decent amount of vitamin B6, which is important for the formation of red blood cells.
Folate: Also referred to as vitamin B9, folate serves many functions in the body. It’s particularly important during pregnancy.
Vitamin E: This vitamin is essential for both nerves and muscles, and is also considered a powerful antioxidant.
Magnesium: Magnesium is important for many processes in the body, including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, as well as creating protein, bone, and DNA.
Potassium: This mineral is associated with possible health benefits, namely with improving heart health.
Other plant compounds (antioxidants)
Bell peppers also contain other plant compounds or antioxidants, more specifically carotenoids, which are abundant in more ripe species of bell peppers.
The main compounds in bell peppers are:
Capsanthin: This compound is especially high in red bell peppers and is a powerful antioxidant that provides red bell peppers with their bright, red tone.
Violaxanthin: This carotenoid is most commonly found in yellow bell peppers.
Lutein: This compound is abundant in green bell peppers and paprika, but is absent from ripe red bell peppers. Some evidence suggests it may be beneficial for eye health.
Quercetin: Some studies suggest that quercetin may be beneficial for preventing certain chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
Luteolin: Also similar to quercetin, luteolin may have a variety of beneficial health effects.
What are the health benefits of bell peppers?
If you want to boost the nutrient intake in your diet (particularly of vitamin C), bell peppers are a wonderful food packed with lots of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other plant compounds like antioxidants.
Their nutritional content will support your well-being by providing you specific health benefits.
The reason why bell peppers are efficient in the prevention of anemia is due to two things:
- They contain some amount of the mineral iron;
- And they also contain lots of vitamin C.
Bell peppers contain roughly 200% of the RDA for vitamin C, which significantly potentiates the absorption of iron.
Eating raw bell peppers alongside iron-rich foods helps increase your body’s iron stores, reducing the risk of anemia.
Eye health improvement
The most common forms of visual impairments include macular degeneration and cataracts with the main causes being aging and infections.
However, nutrition may also play a role in these diseases.
Some of the carotenoids present in bell peppers (lutein and zeaxanthin) are touted to improve eye health when consumed in adequate amounts. Apparently, they protect your retina from oxidative damage.
Additionally, the regular consumption of foods rich in these carotenoids may also reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, according to extensive evidence.
How to eat more bell peppers
Eating bell peppers is a must — the same goes for many other fruits and vegetables.
However, unlike some fruits and vegetables, adding bell peppers to your diet is not that difficult since they can be culinarily applied in different ways, including:
- Sliced and eaten as a colorful side;
- Grilled and sprinkled with some salt and olive oil;
- Added to a pizza before baking, or into a pasta sauce as it cooks;
- Sizzled in a stir-fried mix of vegetables;
- Stacked in wraps and sandwiches;
- Tossed in a beautiful salad;
There are many ways in which you can introduce bell peppers to your meal routine and you don’t have to be particularly knowledgeable about cooking.
Bell peppers are fruits that belong to the nightshade family. They are cultivated worldwide and are a nutritious addition to any diet due to their high vitamin C content.
Bell peppers are seen as vegetables because of how they are used in the culinary world, but because they grow from flowering plants and contain seeds, they are botanically considered fruits.