Beverley has a degree in science and additional certifications in nutrition and aromatherapy. She's published on and offline.
Japanese shishito peppers are enjoying popularity. Everybody loves them, even the occasional spicy one. The claim is that there’s a spicy shishito pepper in every ten. I wouldn’t know the difference because I’ve eaten spicy food, including hot peppers, all of my life (part of having a Caribbean heritage). Bell peppers, with which most of us are familiar, are also called sweet peppers. They and shishito belong to the same Capsicum annum family, and contain a wealth of nutrition and flavor. But which has more?
A Brief Description of Shishito and Bell Peppers
Shishito peppers are slender, wrinkled, deep-grooved, twisty, bent, thin-skinned chilis that are between two to four inches in length. The bright, glossy green version we are accustomed to is not their only color. Fully-ripened peppers are bright, glossy red or yellow with slightly thicker skins. We see mostly green because the preference is to pick them while they’re still immature. The word shishito translates to “Chinese lion” or “head of a lion.” Not sure why they’re so called. Unless, their appearance gives one the impression of a lion’s mane.
Bell peppers are commonly-found in North America, Mexico, and Britain, among other countries. They are plumper with four lobes and flattened ends, roughly two to five inches in length and girth, and resemble a bell. Like shishitos, they are harvested as young, vibrant, green fruits. When mature, they turn brilliant reds, yellows, oranges, browns, purples, even blues and blacks, depending on cultivar. The green, red, yellow, and orange varieties are the ones we most often find in shops and in recipes.
Nutrition by Color
The nutritional constituents of both shishito and bell peppers depend on color. The article will detail the constituents and health benefits in the colors and varieties we encounter the most.
All shishito peppers contain vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 (folate) C, E, and K; minerals calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, manganese, selenium, molybdenum, and chromium; Biotin; phytonutrients, dietary fiber, protein, and carbohydrates. They are especially rich in vitamins A, B3, B6, B9, C, and E; minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and molybdenum; anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, and dietary fiber. They are also low in carbohydrates.
Green shishito peppers, like other green peppers, have more dietary fiber. But their color and immaturity prevent them from having as much nutrients (quantity and type) than their red and yellow counterparts.
Red shishito peppers contain a higher quantity of carotenoid pigments. The beta-carotene is converted into a usable form of vitamin A by our body. So, red shishitos also gives us more vitamin A. Other carotenoid pigments such as lycopene act as antioxidants.
Overall, bell peppers contain vitamins A, B1, B3, B5, B6, B9 (folate), C, E, and K; minerals calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, manganese, selenium, and molybdenum; phytonutrients; dietary fiber; protein; and carbohydrates. They are considered rich in vitamins A, B1, B5, B6, B9, C, and K; minerals magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and molybdenum; antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, and dietary fiber. They too are low in carbohydrates.
Green bell peppers have more dietary fiber than the other cultivars. They are also abundant in the phytonutrient xanthophyll lutein. Like shishito peppers, their immaturity limits nutrient-type and quantity.
Red bell peppers have the most vitamin A, more dietary fiber than yellow peppers, and the least amount of the phytonutrient lutein. But they make up for it with richer pools of beta-carotene, lycopene and capsanthin.
Yellow bell peppers have less vitamin B6 than green and red bell peppers, but are super rich in lutein and two other phytonutrient xanthophylls, zeaxanthin and violaxanthin. They also have more vitamin C.
Orange bell peppers have more vitamin C than the green and red varieties, are a great source of beta-carotene and lutein, and of the four cultivars, they have the most zeaxanthin.
Which Pepper Is More Nutritious, Shishito or Bell?
The nutrients in shishito peppers and bell peppers are similar. It makes sense since they are members of the Capsicum annum family. Addressing the question which pepper is more nutritious, the answer lies in the compilation of data from online sources Calorie Slim and Durable Health* (see Sources). It details specific types and quantities of the nutritional components in the frequently-purchased green shishitos, and green, red, yellow, and orange bells. The compilation table below is based on 100 grams (g) of peppers and an 1800 – 2000 calorie-per-day diet. Overall comparison indicates that shishito peppers are more nutritious.
Note: 1 IU (International Unit) = 0.06 ug or mcg (micrograms)
Nutrient Comparison between Shishito Peppers and Bell Peppers
|Nutrients||Shishito Peppers||Green Bell Peppers||Red Bell Peppers||Yellow Bell Peppers||*Orange Bell Peppers|
187.9 ug (3131 IU x 0.06)
Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol)
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Which Pepper Provides More Health Benefits, Shishito or Bell?
The carbohydrates in shishito peppers provide energy and dietary fiber. The dietary fiber makes us feel less hungry, our feel stomachs full, and makes our bowel movements easier. This helps to support weight control and protect our digestive system. The protein provides essential building blocks for all of our body’s tissues.
Vitamin A helps maintain healthy vision, preventing problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts- typical issues of aging. Vitamins B6, C and E protect our immune system and our skin (they help to create collagen). Vitamin B6 also helps to promote a healthy brain and nervous system, the production of hemoglobin and hormones, proper liver function, and improves our mood. Vitamin C also promotes nail and hair growth. Folate or vitamin B9, in its role of copying and synthesizing DNA, helps pregnant women by ensuring the development of healthy babies. All B-vitamins help in the conversion of food to energy. Vitamin K helps with blood clotting.
The calcium in shishito peppers promotes strong, healthy bones, muscles, and good oral health. Potassium promotes a healthy heart, aids in several cellular functions, helps balance body fluids, and supports proper digestion. Phosphorus aids in a number of cellular and hormonal functions. Manganese helps with bone health, maintains hormonal balances, and aids nutrient synthesis. Molybdenum supports enzymatic functions, and a healthy nervous system.
Shishito peppers’ phytonutrients and vitamins C, E, and K aid in protecting and/ or preventing chronic diseases such as cancer, respiratory issues, and cardiovascular diseases. This is due to their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
It has been established that bell peppers, in general, have the same nutrients as shishito peppers. Therefore, we can say that the health benefits they offer us are generally the same. If your diet requires more vitamin K or magnesium, you might choose to eat shishito peppers instead of bells because of nutrient quantity. But lack of nutritional benefits wouldn’t be overwhelming if your taste buds had a preference for bells peppers.
Which Pepper Delivers More Flavor, Shishito or Bell?
Shishito peppers generally have a mild, sweet, slightly-smoky taste. The latter depends on preparation. Flavor notes tend to be more intense in young green shishitos, hence their popularity.
Bell peppers are called sweet peppers for a reason. They are the only Capsicum annum species that do not manufacture capsaicin, the compound responsible for the spiciness/ hotness in peppers. Just as with nutrients, sweetness-intensity depends on variety or color. The younger, least mature, green fruit tends to be on the bitter side. Red, the ripest and most mature, tends to be sweetest. Yellow and orange peppers are somewhere in the middle.
If you’re a spicy food connoisseur like me, you’ll find shishito peppers more flavorful, especially when cooked as a side, just blistering or grilling with a sprinkle of sea salt and some lemon juice.
Carla Makes Grilled Chicken Wings with Shishito Peppers
A Brief Look at Cooking, Purchasing, and Storing Shishito and Bell Peppers
Besides grilling, shishito peppers can be sautéed, stir fried, tempura-ed, baked, added to eggs, meat and seafood dishes, salads, prepared as a condiment, and even eaten raw. Online recipes abound. When purchasing them, look for firm, bright peppers that are blemish- and bruise-free. Store them in the refrigerator unwashed, and in a paper or plastic bag for about one week. Shishito peppers are commonly found in Asian and specialty produce markets.
How To Make Stuffed Bell Peppers
Bell peppers can also be sautéed, added to meat dishes, served on pizza, in salads, soups, or as crudité. As with shishito peppers, online recipes are plentiful. Purchase them as you would shishitos and store them unwashed, without a bag, in the fridge for about a week. Red peppers, the ripest, are more delicate and have the shortest shelf life. Bell peppers can be found in any produce store or supermarket.
This article is simply to provide information and does not suggest you use shishito peppers or bell peppers to treat any of the ailments and health problems mentioned. Always consult your healthcare professional first.
Familiarity with Shishito Peppers
“Shishito Pepper,” https://slism.com/calorie/106093
“Produce of the Month Guide: Shishito Peppers,” https://flavorthemoments.com/produce-month-guide-shishito-peppers/
Ayuningtyas Paramita, Dian. “16 Health Benefits of Shishito Pepper You Need To Know – Dr. Heben,” https://drhealthbenefits.com/herbal/herbal-spices/health-benefits-shishito-pepper, 2/28/18.
*”Orange Bell Pepper Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits, Recipes and When To Pick,” https://durablehealth.net/food-nutrition/orange-bell-pepper-nutrition-facts-health-benefits-recipes-pick/
“What are bell peppers good for?” https://foodfacts.mercola.com/bell-pepper.html
Sweeter, Brandy. “Bell Peppers: Do Different Colors Really Taste Any Different?” https://delishably.com/vegetable-dishes/Bell-peppers-Do-The-Different-Colors-Really-Taste-Any-Different
“Vitamins and Mineral Supplement Fact Sheet,” National Institutes of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-VitaminsMinerals/