Plants have not only been a significant source of foods but also of medicines. Understanding the importance of plants to humanity has been helpful in sustaining the global community since time immemorial. Presently, virtually everyone is keen on maintaining and retaining good health - an attribute that is essentially necessary for long life. As a result, there is a need for every one of us to be cautious of our daily intakes in other to foster good health. Despite their rich and numerous health-benefiting nutrients, Capsicum peppers have remained understudied. The Capsicum peppers possess several pharmacologically active compounds that are medicinally beneficial for our well-being. Capsicum peppers are graded as functional foods that contribute high nutritional values and medicinal benefits to humanity.  Capsaicin is the key secondary metabolite found in Capsicum peppers. 
The genus Capsicum has five species namely: Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum baccatum, Capsicum annuum, Capsicum pubescens and Capsicum chinense. One invaluable Capsicum peppers that is of immense importance is the bell pepper. Bell Pepper is botanically referred to as Capsicum annuum L  and it belongs to the family of Solanaceae. It is a vital annual agricultural crop that is mostly grown in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. The bell pepper plant is originally from the North and South America before spreading to other parts of the world. Bell pepper or sweet pepper is a cultivar group of the species Capsicum annuum. The cultivars of the bell pepper plant produce fruits in varying colours namely: red, purple, yellow, orange, green, vanilla white, and chocolate brown. Bell peppers are distinguished by their sweet taste because they lack capsaicin, which is a pungent chemical found in hot peppers. The colourful red appearance of red bell pepper is as a result of the carotenoid pigments present in it. These carotenoid pigments include vitamin A, β-carotene and oxygenated carotenoids (cryptocapsin, capsorubin and capsantine).

Watch this Short Clip on the Distinctive Benefits of Bell Peppers!!!

Bell peppers are richly fortified with natural pharmacological bioactive compounds such as flavonoids (luteolin, quercetin and capsaicinoids), capsaicin, oxygenated carotenoids (cryptocapsin, capsorubin and capsantine), minerals, dietary fiber, micronutrients, phytochemicals, vitamins, phenolic compounds, phytonutrients, natural antioxidants, polyphenols, nutraceutical compounds, essential oils and biotic compounds. Studies reveal that a regular consumption of these bioactive compounds is essential for a healthy body due to their high antioxidant properties.
Their high antioxidant properties are evidenced by their ability to scavenge free radicals, protect the body against oxidative damage of cells, prevention of the oxidation of essential fats in the brain cells and the prevention of the onset of degenerative diseases. These bioactive compounds work synergistically to prevent and treat chronic metabolic diseases such as obesity, cancer, ageing, diabetes, cataracts, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and coronary heart disease. They also possess antioxidizing, anti-tumour, anti-microbial, anti-cancerous, anti-mutagenic and anti-inflammatory properties. Bell peppers are also an excellent source of beta-carotene (pro vitamin A), vitamins (C, B6, B9), β-carotene and ascorbic acid. A significant amount of ascorbic acid is found in fresh bell peppers. Almost every bell peppers change colour from green to yellow, then to orange, red, or purple when fully ripe. Bell peppers can be harvested before they are ripe or after they have ripened. However, it is noteworthy that changes in the maturity of these peppers can affect their phytonutrients contents.
Antibactericidal Effects
Some researchers investigated the antibacterial activities of Capsicum annuum and Capsicum frutescens methanol and aqueous extracts on selected bacteria (Shigella dysenteriae, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella typhimurium, Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae). Both extracts exhibited effective anti-bactericidal powers against Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus and Vibrio cholerae. However, the methanol extracts exhibited the highest effect. The extract from Capsicum annuum exhibited a higher antibacterial activity unlike the one from Capsicum frutescens. Therefore, bell peppers are considered to be powerful natural bactericidal agents.
Anaesthetic Effects
The cytotoxic power of bell peppers makes them effective anaesthesia. They can be herbally prepared and applied as topical agents for relieving various types of pains. The ability of bell peppers to offer relief from pain and inflammation makes them an essential part of diet especially for those suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Cytotoxic Properties
Some researchers obtained the alcoholic and aqueous extracts of red sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) using diverse methodologies to evaluate their cytotoxic properties. Human tumoral cell lines from the breast (MCF-7 and SKBr3), cervix (HeLa), and prostate (PC3) and fibroblasts (as control) were used to determine the cytotoxic properties using the MTT assay. It was observed that red sweet pepper (C. annuum L.) is a source of cytotoxic compounds.
Antioxidizing Properties
Bell peppers exhibit significant antioxidant properties due to the presence of vitamins A, B6, B9, C and phenolic compounds in them. Thus, they are effective for neutralizing free radicals that can potentially cause serious damage to the body cells during their movements. Antioxidants offer protection from oxidative damage caused by reactive oxygen species and free radicals by acting as their substrate, suppressing their formation and acting as scavengers.
Minimizes the Risk of Blood Clots
Green bell pepper is an excellent source of vitamin C and getting enough vitamin C is highly recommended for minimizing the formation of blood clots. It is noteworthy that reducing the formation of blood clots equally helps to reduce the risks of hemorrhagic stroke and heart attack.
Maintains a Healthy Colon
Due to the high dietary fibre in bell peppers, their regular consumption is essential for maintaining a healthy colon by preventing constipation, aiding easy digestion of food and lowering the rate of exposure of colon cells to toxins and bacteria.
Edible Purposes
Bell pepper can be eaten either fresh or cooked. It can be frozen, fermented, processed or sun-dried for future use. It can be used for preparing ayamase stew, soup, stew, sauce or processed into oleoresin. Bell pepper can serve as a flavouring or colourant for adding a colourful appearance to food.
Suitable for Asthma Patients
Green bell peppers are highly recommended for asthma patients as the phytonutrients found in them are helpful for reducing wheezing and relaxing the airways.
Anticoagulant Effects
Bell peppers exhibit anticoagulant effects thus useful for preventing blood clots.
Other Benefits of Bell Peppers
- Bell peppers aid proper nerve functioning.
- Bell peppers help to maintain a balanced pH level in the body.
- The vitamin B6 in bell peppers facilitates the healthy functioning of the nervous and immune system.
- The essential nutrients in bell peppers help to strengthen the bones and teeth.
This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
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- Pixabay (2018), Images via https://pixabay.com/
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