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As a group, peppers may be one of the most diverse vegetables on the planet, with options ranging from mild and sweet bell varieties to fiery hot habaneros. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll reap nutrition and health benefits. Here are four reasons to make peppers a go-to ingredient, and easy ways to incorporate them into meals and snacks.

ALL ABOUT PEPPERS

1. BOOSTED IMMUNITY

Peppers are one of the richest sources of immune-supporting vitamin C. In fact, one medium sweet red bell pepper packs nearly twice as much vitamin C as a whole navel orange. Peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin A, which helps form the mucous membranes in your respiratory tract, and digestive system. Stronger membranes form better protective barriers, to keep germs you’re exposed to out of your bloodstream. Recent research has also shown that hot peppers help kill bacteria that cause ulcers. And if you’re already under the weather, adding a dash of dried cayenne pepper to a cup of hot tea will help open up your nasal passages, so you can breathe easier.

2: ANTIOXIDANT PROTECTION

Peppers contain an impressively long list of antioxidants, including those known to help fend off age-related vision problems, certain types of cancer, and overall aging. The vitamin C in peppers is just one potent antioxidant that plays a key role in defending your body against free radicals, unstable molecules that attack the DNA in healthy cells, which may cause cells to function improperly, die off, or become diseased.

3: WEIGHT CONTROL

If you enjoy the heat of hot peppers, like jalapenos and habaneros, you’ll be happy to know they’ve been shown to have slimming effects. Hot peppers help increase calorie burning, improve satiety, and curb cravings for salty, fatty, and sweet foods. But even mild bell peppers can be waist whittlers. One whole medium bell pepper contains fewer than 40 calories, and research shows that higher blood levels of vitamin C - which bell peppers are loaded with - increase fat burning, both during exercise and at rest.

3: WEIGHT CONTROL

In addition to fighting inflammation, a known trigger of heart disease, research shows that hot peppers protect the heart by boosting circulation, lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol, and upping "good" HDL. Capsaicin, the natural substance that gives hot peppers their heat, is currently being studied for its ability to treat circulatory problems, hardening of the arteries, and irregular heart rhythm.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

In addition to adding bell peppers to your Sabrosa dish, or choosing a hot pepper sauce, there are many ways to incorporate more peppers into meals at home. Add them to omelets and frittatas, garden salads, veggie, whole grain, bean, or protein dishes. Peppers are also fantastic grilled, whole, or as kabobs, stuffed, or sliced, to scoop up guacamole, bean dip, or hummus. What are your favorite ways to enjoy them? Share your ideas with us through Twitter or Facebook