Peppers are an indispensable ingredient for savory meals. These juicy fruits of the Grossum cultivar group go well as side veggies for dinner, a sweet or spicy ingredient in salads, are great vials for stuffing meat and cheese, or as a replacement for bread. Whether you are vegetarian, vegan, or eating animal products, peppers are delicious foods to include in your meal plan.
However, are red peppers healthy? Do they change their pH and nutritional values based on their colors? And last but not least, are red peppers a trigger for acid reflux?
A simple answer, in this case, won’t do. So let’s develop the topic and offer some context. This being said, here is a comprehensive article about red peppers’ acidity, with a close-up of their particularities.
Are Bell Peppers Acidic or Alkaline?
Since hot red peppers do have a thing or two to say when it comes to acid reflux, I think that we should leave them aside and discuss the red bell peppers since, at first glance, they appear to be 100% innocent.
Anyhow, bell peppers are famous as “sweet peppers” or “capsicum,” and they are a type of pepper from the species Capsicum annuum (Latin). The plant varies in colors, from yellow to green, red, white, chocolate, and purple.
Bell peppers are the least irritating of all the different peppers, considering they lack capsaicin (2), a chemical that triggers the intense burning sensation.
Chemically, bell peppers generally are alkaline. Their pH levels fluctuate from 4.65 to 5.45. Now, regardless of their color, all bell peppers contain 211 mg of potassium per 100g. In addition, these fruits are rich in carotene pigments, alkaloids, flavonoids, capsicum, and volatile oils. The capsicum element helps the organism stay alkaloid and fight against neurological disorders (3). Quite fascinating, isn’t it?
In other words, bell peppers are more alkaline than acidic. Therefore, they can be consumed even if you have some acid reflux issues.
Bell Peppers and Heartburn
Heartburn is the principal symptom of acid reflux, a condition where acid travels back up in the esophagus. It creates an uncomfortable burning sensation in the lower chest or the back of the mouth.
The American College of Gastroenterology (4) claims that 15 million American people have daily heartburn symptoms. And the harsh truth is that bell peppers can cause acid reflux in some of these cases.
What is funny is that even though they can trigger acid reflux problems, bell peppers are not commonly on the list of foods to avoid when dealing with heartburn. Actually, there is no research out there that claims that bell peppers are directly connected to acid reflux symptoms.
On the contrary, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends that patients with heartburn eat antioxidant-rich foods. And bell peppers are some of them.
But you know as well as I do that each individual is different from the next one, so each of our metabolism reacts differently to the food we ingest. And because of that, people who have a harder time metabolizing red bell peppers can present acid reflux after consuming them, cooked or raw.
Do The Bell Pepper’s Color Affect Its Acidity?
No, the acidity level is dictated by the bell pepper’s color. While peppers suffer some changes as they mature, including tasting sweeter and being more nutritious, the pH does not change.
This happens due to the potassium and alkaloid levels. The potassium level remains constant, while the alkaloids may modify once the bell peppers ripen.
Red Bell Peppers
All peppers have nutritional benefits, regardless of their color. However, red peppers are richer in antioxidants and phytonutrients (5). This is mainly due to the fact that they are riper than green and yellow ones.
Red bell peppers have the sweetest taste, representing the mature green peppers.
These fruits contain more beta carotene. And this is the primary element converted into Vit A by our bodies.
So, remember that even though they taste sweeter than the other peppers, this has nothing to do with their pH.
Even though their acidity is the same as the red peppers’ acidity, green bell peppers are more challenging to digest when they are not ripped.
Consequently, people who struggle with acidic reflux and indigestion should opt for yellow and red bell peppers. Another option would be to remove the fruit’s skin.
Yellow peppers are more or less ripe and also low in acidity. So, you should not have too many problems with them.
Are Bell Peppers Healthy?
Bell peppers are 92% water and contain lots of minerals, vitamins, and essential antioxidants for the body.
This is the primary benefit of red peppers. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that red pepper provides 95 milligrams of Vitamin C. (6) Our body cannot produce Vitamin C by itself, so people need to take this vitamin through diet.
Half a cup of raw red pepper provides 13% of the daily dose of vitamin A we need. Furthermore, red and orange peppers contain lots of beta carotene, essential for good vision, communication between cells, cell growth, reproduction, and immune function. (7)
Bell peppers are a great source of fibers, which help in various stomach issues, like indigestion and acid reflux.
Many studies claim fiber-rich foods help absorb stomach acid and alleviate reflux symptoms. Fibers represent 2% of bell pepper’s content, making these fruits one of the best healthy carbohydrate sources.
Other vitamins and minerals
In addition, bell peppers come with lots of other minerals and vitamins, like vitamin K1, B6, and potassium, which help keep healthy gums, form red blood cells, and blood clotting.
Bell peppers contain many antioxidants, essential in removing free radicals from our organism. These magic compounds keep the body healthy and help strengthen the immune system.
Specific antioxidants, such as the ones present in bell peppers, can even prevent certain types of cancer and heart disease.
Bell peppers are low in calories, making them ideal for low-carb diets. Consequently, bell peppers are generally excellent to eat regardless of your diet. This is especially true in low-calorie food plans.
Paprika – A Trigger For Acidity?
Now, I want to take some of the most common questions people have and provide them with answers. Let’s start with the first – using paprika in your cooking will trigger your acid reflux?
First of all, paprika is a world-known spice that comes as a powder. It is made from crushed bell peppers, usually red dried ones.
Paprika has a lower pH level than raw fruits. As a consequence, paprika is even more alkaline. This means that people struggling with acid reflux and GERD can safely consume paprika and add it to their meals.
The explanation is simple: raw bell peppers are more challenging to digest than ground spice. So by eating paprika instead of raw red peppers, you consume less and, therefore, keep it light for digestion.
However, you should be very careful which kind of paprika you buy. There is sweet paprika, spicy paprika, and smoked paprika. And this is just a general description of the diversity of this spice. You should only stick to the sweet version if you have stomach problems.
Are Chilies Causing Heartburn?
The next in line – will chili give me stomach pains?
You don’t need me to tell you that people use chilies to spice up their meals in almost every cuisine. Unfortunately, if you know that you have heartburn issues, it would be advised to leave out the chili peppers.
Why? Because chilies are acidic. If you really need to add some fresh chili to your meal, then choose green ones as they have a slightly smaller acidity level (pH around 5.50) compared with the red ones (pH of 4.50).
Are Cooked Bell Peppers Less Acidic?
Finally – if I cook my bell pepper, will I still have acid reflux issues?
There is no correct answer to this. As I previously said, each of us responds differently to the food we eat. And yes, naturally, we want to add bell peppers to our meals since they add vibrant color to your meals, as well as a delicious sweetness to beef, chicken, or veggie stir-fry.
Now, if you do cook the red pepper, you might discover that you don’t have issues eating it. However, as a tip, try and roast your peppers before using them. By doing so, you will remove the skin, which is quite fibrous, and therefore, minimize the acidity. Plus, you enhance the taste 100 times more.
But there are cases in which people can eat raw red peppers but simply can’t tolerate them being cooked. You need to test and see what suits your body as there is no exact rule to guide you on the matter.
Clinical Guidelines for Heartburn. Dietary Recommendation
Specific foods usually aggravate or cause heartburn. However, you should always remember that even though some recipes may cause you acid reflux, the American Journal of Gastroenterology does not recommend eliminating groups of foods for good. It is better to identify those ingredients that harm your stomach and eliminate them step by step.
Other great tips that may help in eliminating the acid reflux symptoms are:
- Losing some weight;
- Avoiding large meals, and instead go for tiny snacks;
- Not lying on the sofa immediately after eating or smoking;
- Eating ginger;
- Sipping apple cider vinegar;
- Wearing loose clothes;
- Chewing gum for diluting the acid;
- Considering licorice supplements;
- Elevating the upper part of the body;
- Eat food slowly and chew it multiple times before swallowing;
- Mix water with soda powder;
- Avoid acidic beverages like lemonade, soda water, grape juice, pineapple juice, apple juice, or beer.
However, if heartburn persists and turns severe, causing a lot of pain, you should go and see a doctor. If you present other symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain, or bad breath, it is a clear sign you might need medication. A doctor will recommend lifestyle changes and constant acid reflux medication to suppress GERD.
In a Nutshell
Bell peppers are alkaline fruits, and their pH does not differ based on their color. Red peppers are a great supplement to your diet and should not give you problems even if you deal with acid reflux.
They have lots of vitamins, antioxidants, and few calories. However, it is wise to remember that each person responds differently to certain foods, so try to see how your body reacts to each ingredient before adding or removing it from your diet.