As fall arrives and we begin to spend more time indoors, it becomes even more important for us to strengthen our immune systems.  Not only are we getting less sunshine and vitamin D, but there is also a greater opportunity for spreading cold and flu viruses in closed indoor spaces.  The ability of our immune system to protect us against infection is highly dependent on the foods we eat, and one of our best options is the highly versatile bell pepper.

Vitamin C is one of the key nutrients our body uses to fight off illness.  It facilitates the production of white blood cells which your body needs to attack and fight off infectious invaders.  It is necessary for healthy skin, which is an infection barrier, and also helps with wound healing.  Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, containing more than three times the amount of C in a medium orange, with a whopping 190 mg per cup chopped.

Also critical for immune function is vitamin A.  It helps maintain the mucous barriers in your eyes, lungs, gut, and genitals to keep bacteria and other infectious organisms from entering your body.  It also plays a role in the production and functioning of the white blood cells that fight off infection.  Bell peppers are very high in beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A.

The nutritional value doesn’t stop there though.  Bell peppers are also excellent sources of vitamin K for blood clotting and bone health, potassium for heart health, folate for healthy cell growth, vitamin E for healthy nerves and muscles, and manganese for brain, nervous, and enzyme system function.  They are packed with antioxidants including lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health.

You can eat bell peppers raw or cooked, from breakfast to dinner.  Add them to scrambled eggs or omelets; put them in sandwiches, wraps, or salads; stuff them, roast them, grill them, stir fry them, use them in dips and sauces, or add them to meat, fish, or vegetable dishes.  They come in green, yellow, orange, or red with each color offering flavor variations, so try them all and eat them often for excellent immune support.

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