What would your guess be? Is a Bell Pepper a fruit or vegetable?
Would you believe me if I told you that bell peppers are both a vegetable and fruit? It actually depends on who you ask to classify the bell pepper, because it can be classified as both.
This article will take a look at how the bell pepper can be classified as a fruit and as a vegetable.
Bell Peppers Are Vegetables – Culinary
Most people know bell peppers as vegetables in their everyday lives. They use them for salads, soups, stews, stir-fries, etc.
Professional and home chefs will often use the culinary classification system to call bell peppers vegetables as these peppers are used in cooking.
“Vegetables” are classified as having a tougher texture, while “Fruits” have softer textures. The tough texture of bell peppers makes them suitable for many types of dishes such as soup, stew, chili, casseroles, etc.
The softness of fruits make them ideal to eat raw and for desserts like pies, cakes, ice cream, smoothies, jams, jellies, sauces, dips, etc.
Bell peppers can also be eaten raw if you want, but more often used in dishes and stews. Since they’re often cooked, they are more often classified as vegetables.
Culinary classifications do not always match up with botanical classifications.
Bell Peppers Are Fruits – Botanical
Botany studies plants based on what part of the plant is being studied. This includes leaves, stems, flowers, roots, seeds, tubers, bulbs, rhizomes, and so forth.
Each part has its own characteristics which help scientists identify each type of plant. In this case, we will look at the botanical classification of “fruits” and “vegetables.”
A “fruit” is defined by the presence of an ovary containing seeds. A “seed” contains DNA from two parents. Seeds contain all the information needed to grow into another plant.
If you open up a bell pepper, there are many small seeds in the middle of the pepper. You can save the pepper seeds and grow your own peppers.
Because of the seeds, botanists and others will classify bell peppers as fruits. Like apples and oranges, your bell peppers would be ‘allowed’ to be in your ‘fruit’ salad.
In contrast, a “vegetable” is defined by whether or not the plant and its parts are edible. Edible parts can include the roots, stems, bulbs, and leaves.
Health Benefits of Bell Peppers
There are several health benefits associated with eating bell peppers because they contain many vitamins and antioxidants. Some of these include:
- Antioxidants – These antioxidants protect cells against damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals cause cell damage when they react with other molecules within our body. Eating foods rich in antioxidants helps prevent cancer and heart disease.
- Vitamin C – Bell peppers provide vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a role in helping us fight off infections and diseases.
- Fiber – Fibrous vegetables like bell peppers give us fiber. Fiber keeps things moving through out our digestive tract. Fiber also helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
- Potassium – Potassium is vital for proper kidney functioning and heart health. Kidneys filter waste products from the bloodstream. If potassium levels become too low, kidneys cannot properly remove toxins from the body.
- Vitamin B6 – Vitamin B6 is involved in protein synthesis and energy metabolism. It may play a role in preventing certain types of cancers.
- Vitamin E – Vitamin E protects cell membranes from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when reactive chemicals called free radicals attack cell walls. The result is that the cell wall breaks down and eventually leads to death. Antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin E help reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer.
- Calcium – Calcium is required for bone growth and maintenance. It also assists in muscle contractions.
- Potassium – Potassium is vital for proper kidney functioning and heart health. Kidneys filter waste products from the bloodstream. If potassium levels become too low, kidneys cannot properly remove toxins from the body. This results in high amounts of sodium being excreted in urine. High salt intake increases the chances of having hypertension.
- Vitamin A – Vitamin A aids vision development and immune system function. It’s important for healthy skin and mucous membrane tissue.
Bell Peppers are Both a Fruit and Vegetable Final Thoughts
Bell peppers are one of my favorite vegetables (and fruits) to eat! They’re delicious on their own, but I love them even more when combined into dishes.
In addition to all the above-mentioned health benefits, bell peppers have an amazing flavor profile, which makes them perfect for adding variety to any dish. So next time you see a bell pepper at the grocery store, pick it up and enjoy!
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