It always makes me happy to write about foods that pregnant women can eat, rather than the things that should be avoided. Happily, lots of delicious, nutritious fruit and veg fall under the ‘can definitely recommend’ category, and it’s nice to talk about the benefits for your baby, too!
Are Bell Peppers Good For You in Pregnancy? Bell peppers (also called capsicum) are a good, nutritious option in pregnancy. They’re high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and folate. On the whole, red bell peppers are the most nutritious of all the colors available.
If you’re eating bell peppers during your pregnancy and you want to know about the differences between colors and how beneficial they are, read on.
Bell Pepper Nutrition For Pregnancy
Bell peppers, also sometimes called sweet peppers or just ‘peppers’, come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. This article covers the large, sweet peppers that aren’t hot. If you want to know about chili peppers, you can read about those in the spicy food section.
It might interest you to learn that bell peppers of different colors aren’t from different plants – they’re just at various stages of ripeness. Green peppers are picked the earliest. Yellow and orange come later, then at full ripeness, the pepper turns red.
The stage the pepper is picked alters its nutritional profile. 100g / 3.5oz of any pepper (on average, since they’re all different sizes) contains approximately:
- 92 – 93 g of water
- 20-30 calories
- 1g protein
- 0.2 – 0.3g of fat
The main differences are in vitamins and minerals. You might be interested to learn that red peppers are higher in fiber, contain more vitamin C than the other colors, and are higher in beta carotene, too (source: USDA).
Does this mean you should favor red peppers in pregnancy? Not necessarily. Yellow, green or even purple peppers are all pretty high in vitamin C, which keeps your cells healthy (source: NHS). It all depends on which you prefer. Eating only one color, or a mixture of them is absolutely fine.
Overall, bell peppers are a great, low-calorie, nutrient-dense food, which is exactly what you should be eating more of in pregnancy.
Can I Eat Bell Peppers Raw When I’m Pregnant?
Raw bell peppers are safe to eat when you’re pregnant, so long as they’re washed thoroughly beforehand.
Check out my article on how to wash produce, fruit, and veg during pregnancy for some extra tips and tricks.
Vitamin C breaks down when exposed to heat, so eating raw bell peppers is a good way to get a decent amount of this vitamin. Bell peppers also contain other nutritional compounds, such as carotenoids (source: Psychology Today). This is best retained by stir-frying peppers (source: Journal of Preventative Nutrition and Food Science).
The conclusion? Eating bell peppers raw OR cooked when you’re pregnant are both excellent options. There’s no benefit of one vs the other. There are some ways of cooking that are better, though:
How You Should Cook Bell Peppers When You’re Pregnant
If you’re eating bell peppers raw, then that’s fine, but they’re so versatile you might have wondered how to get the most nutrition out of pepper when you’re cooking them. Here are some tips:
- Stir-Frying bell peppers – ie. cooking them at an intense heat for a short time, preserves a lot of their nutrients and also makes them taste delicious. I like mine with a dash of sesame oil and soy sauce, over rice, with some lean chicken…
- Roasting or oven-baking peppers is another great option. Stuffing them with other healthy foods is even better. Peppers take on a sweet, dense flavor when they’re roasted, which can be a delicious, Mediterranean-style way of cooking them.
- Boiling peppers is probably the least preferable way of cooking bell peppers (and many other vegetables), as nutrients tend to leech into the boiling water, which is often thrown away. If you’re using a slow cooker or will keep the liquid (e.g. in a soup), then this is fine.
- Grilled peppers are OK in small amounts, but grilled food – especially over open flames – can coat the food with undesirable chemical compounds that should be kept to a minimum in pregnancy. See this article on grilling and BBQ for why that is.
Is It Safe to Eat Capsicum (as an extract) in Pregnancy?
This article deals with bell peppers, also known under their scientific name: Capsicum annuum. These are safe to eat during pregnancy.
However, capsicum can also come as an extract or oil, which is derived from other members of the pepper family, including very hot peppers.
If you are eating ‘normal’, culinary amounts of peppers, you have nothing to worry about, and it’s safe in pregnancy.
However, extracts can contain a super-concentrated dose of capsicum. This is possibly safe in pregnancy (source: WebMD) but not enough medical trials have been conducted to draw any meaningful conclusions. The conclusion? You can safely eat capsicum as a food, but it might be safer to avoid it as an extract.
Spicy food itself is usually safe in pregnancy, though you might want to read more about how hot, spicy foods affect pregnant women here.
If you’re increasing your intake of healthy fruits and veggies during your pregnancy, you might also be interested in: