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Continuing with the theme of using specific vegetables to increase your intake, this week I am talking about peppers.

Peppers are native to Central and South America, and are available in several colours: green, orange, yellow and red. As peppers move through the colour spectrum from green through yellow and orange to red, their phytonutrient content increases, so red peppers contain up to 5 times the nutrients as green ones. Peppers are a member of the nightshade family, which includes potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines. The spices pimento and paprika are prepared from red peppers.

Peppers are low-calorie and nutrient-dense, and are a great source of fibre, vitamin C, beta-carotenes, vitamin K and vitamin B6. They also contain many different phytochemicals, which confer antioxidant activity, such as lycopene, which may be protective against cancer, and zeaxanthin, which may confer benefits for eye health.

Peppers are usually available all year round and are more abundant during the summer. Peppers should be bright, fresh and firm. They will keep well in the fridge for one week.

Peppers are a very versatile vegetable. They are great chopped and served raw – a great snack for when kids get home from school – they can dip pepper sticks into hummus or cream cheese. They can be chopped into salad or slices can be added into sandwiches.

I like to roast them in the oven on a tray with other vegetables such as courgette, red onion, fennel and aubergines. Roast vegetables make a great side dish or can be made into a light meal of their own when accompanied with a hard-boiled egg and some hummus.

For those people who are not keen on visible vegetable pieces, peppers can be used in soups and sauces and blended till they can’t be detected!

And for those who like to display their peppers, how about slicing the top off the pepper, stuffing it with cooked mincemeat and baking it in the oven until the pepper is soft – now that puts your pepper right at the centre of the meal!

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