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Ask Tufts Experts January 2016 Issue

Q. My local supermarket sells bell peppers in four different colors - green, red, yellow and orange. Do the different colors of peppers have different nutritional benefits?

A. Elizabeth J. Johnson, PhD, a scientist in Tufts' HNRCA Antioxidants Research Laboratory, answers: “No matter the color of your pepper, the macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) and fiber content won’t differ much. Red, yellow and orange bell peppers are simply the ripe forms of different green peppers, which is why they tend to cost more. However, there are some differences in vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content, though not enough to warrant one being better than another. For example, according to the USDA Nutrient Database, green peppers contain 80 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams (about 3 ounces), whereas yellow peppers contain 184 milligrams per 100 grams. Given that the RDA for vitamin C is 75-90 milligrams per day, either will be a good choice as a dietary source of vitamin C.

"Peppers will also differ in content of carotenoids, which are plant pigments (thus the different colors), with red peppers being loaded with beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A) and yellow peppers having nearly none. Orange peppers have about 10 times the amount of lutein and zeaxanthin; there is strong scientific evidence that these carotenoids are important for eye health.

"The bottom line is the more colorful your diet, the better off you may be. One should choose a variety of fruits and vegetables to get the individual benefits from each."

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