My favourite and most used ingredients – Peppers
Each day I am going to share one of my most used and favourite ingredients and tell you why I think they have contributed to my health and well being despite having type 1 diabetes for over 50 years. I don’t think there is one particular ingredient, rather a combination of different ones that work together to keep all parts of the body functioning well.
I use red, green, orange and yellow peppers almost every day in salads, cooked savoury dishes and as a snack. They are also known as bell pepper or capsicum. They are one of my ‘need to shop’ signals. If I am running low on peppers I need to shop. I am no expert but these are the benefits I believe peppers contain:
- Peppers contain vitamin A, C and some of the B vitamins. Red peppers contain flavonoids, which have very powerful antioxidant properties. These are very beneficial for the heart and cardiovascular system. Flavonoids help the inner walls of our blood vessels to regulate blood pressure. Keeping blood pressure in a healthy range is essential for people with diabetes. Flavonoids also help to prevent inflammatory damage to blood vessels which in turn helps to prevent or delay heart disease, which is one of the potential complications of diabetes.
- Peppers, particularly red and orange ones contain a large amount of beta carotene, which gives them their vibrant colour. Beta carotene is the plant source of vitamin A. Beta carotene is also a fat soluble antioxidant, called Carotenoids which protects the body from cell damage and inflammation.
- Red and orange peppers contain a large amount of fat-soluble antioxidant compounds called carotenoids. Carotenoids move into the subcutaneous fatty tissue which contain collagen and elastin fibres which keep our skin in good condition. Carotenoids help to protect collagen from damage and they also contain anti-inflammatory properties which can help heal wounds, eczema and acne. That’s good for everyone but especially people with diabetes whose healing power may be compromised. Hopefully they might help to keep wrinkles at bay too!!
- Carotenoid such as lutenoid and beta-carotene help to maintain good eye health and may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, which are also potential complications of diabetes.
- Peppers are regarded as a non-starchy vegetable. Green peppers contain approximately 3g of carbohydrate per 100g. Yellow peppers contain approximately 5g of carbohydrate and red peppers contain approximately 6g of carbohydrate. They contain some sugar which is offset by dietary fiber.
Peppers are quick to prepare, just cut in half or quarter and remove the core and seeds. I’m not very fussy about getting out every single seed, especially for soups and stews.
I use peppers in:
Raw in salads
In soups and stews
Stuffed with other veg, meat or quinoa
As a snack, on their own or with cheese
With other raw vegetables and hummus
Roasted or stir fried on their own or with other vegetables
Getting a take away? Roast or stir fry chopped peppers and add to the curry!
It’s never too late to start taking care of your health. When I got type 1 diabetes in 1965 I doubt anyone in Ireland had heard of peppers or their health benefits. I was raised on home grown carrots, cabbage, onions, turnips and potato, which was a huge benefit to me. I can’t remember when I ‘discovered’ peppers, possibly 30 years ago. It was only when I started researching the nutritional aspects of food that I realised how many benefits they had for everyone but especially anyone who has diabetes.
My earliest inspirations in food and cooking were Paula Daly (McDonnells Good Food Kitchen), Brenda Costigan whose style was ahead of her time and wrote for the Irish Independent, demonstrated on several TV shows and and the British medicinal health chef Dale Pinnock. I think the name ‘the medicinal chef’ really got my interest. As a type 1 diabetic I have to count every single gramme of carbohydrate I eat so I started to think ‘what if they were good quality carbohydrates’. ‘What if those carbohydrates were benefiting my health and well as being delicious?’
Is everything I eat healthy? No! Possibly 80% is ‘my version of healthy’.
Join me tomorrow for my chat about my next staple ingredient.