Are Banana Peppers Good For You? A Dietitian’s Take

In the world of peppers, banana peppers are a staple in many cuisines and diets. Their mild, sweet flavor intensifies when pickled, making them a popular topping for sandwiches, pizzas, and salads.

Banana peppers can be found on the shelves of nearly every supermarket in the United States. But you might be wondering — are banana peppers actually good for you?

This article will delve into the health profile of banana peppers, providing a dietitian’s perspective on their nutritional value, potential health benefits, and ways to incorporate them into your diet. 

What are banana peppers?

Banana peppers, which are part of the Capsicum annuum family along with bell peppers, jalapenos, and pepperoncini, are sweet peppers that somewhat resemble bananas. 

These slender peppers are around 4 to 6 inches long with a slightly curved shape, and thin, bright yellow-green skin.

While they’re crunchy and mildly sweet when eaten fresh, banana peppers are commonly enjoyed pickled, providing a stronger, sweet and tangy flavor with a slightly softer texture.

Banana peppers are considered very mild, scoring between 0 and 500 on the Scoville scale — this means that some peppers have no spiciness at all (1).

You can typically find banana peppers in the pickled goods section of most supermarkets, and occasionally fresh at farmers’ markets and specialty produce stores. 

Due to their sweet and tangy flavor, banana peppers are a versatile ingredient that adds zest to salads, sandwiches, and pizzas, and even serves as a vibrant garnish for cocktails.

Banana peppers nutrition

Banana peppers are low in calories, fat, and protein, and they provide a moderate amount of carbohydrates, most of which are fiber.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of banana pepper nutrition:

Calories and macronutrients

Here’s the calorie & macronutrient content for 1 cup (150 grams) of raw banana pepper (2):

  • Calories: 41
  • Protein: 2.5 grams
  • Fat: <1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 8 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Sugars: 3 grams

Vitamins and minerals

Here’s the vitamin and mineral content for raw banana peppers based on a 1-cup (150-gram) serving size (2):

  • Vitamin C: 124 mg (138% DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.5 mg (29% DV)
  • Niacin: 2 mg (13% DV)
  • Vitamin K: 14 mcg (12% DV)
  • Copper: 0.1 mg (11% DV)
  • Folate: 44 mcg (11% DV)
  • Thiamin: 0.12 mg (8% DV)
  • Potassium: 384 mg (8% DV)
  • Vitamin E: 1 mg (7% DV)
  • Riboflavin: 0.08 mg (6% DV)
  • Magnesium: 26 mg (6% DV)
  • Zinc: 0.4 mg (4% DV)
  • Phosphorus: 48 mg (4% DV)
  • Iron: 0.7 mg (4% DV)
  • Vitamin A: 26 mcg RAE (3% DV)
  • Calcium: 21 mg (2% DV)
  • Choline: 11 mg (2% DV)
  • Sodium: 20 mg (1% DV)
  • Selenium: 0.5 mcg (1% DV)
  • Vitamin B12: 0 mcg (0% DV)
  • Vitamin D: 0 mcg (0% DV)

Excellent source of vitamin C: Like other peppers, banana peppers are an incredibly rich source of vitamin C. A 1-cup serving of raw banana peppers offers 138% of the Daily Value (DV).

Good source of B vitamins, vitamin K, and copper: Banana peppers also provide nearly one-third of your daily needs for vitamin B6, along with at least 10% of the DV for niacin, vitamin K, copper, and folate. 

Watch the sodium content on pickled peppers. Pickled banana peppers are nutritionally similar to fresh banana peppers, except that they are much higher in sodium, with around 300 mg (13% DV) in each ¼-cup (30-gram) serving (3).

Are banana peppers good for you?

Yes, banana peppers are good for you due to their high nutrient content and potential health benefits. However, pickled banana peppers carry a few health risks that need to be considered.

Health benefits of banana peppers

While there isn’t much research on the effects of banana peppers themselves, certain nutrients in banana peppers are linked with health benefits.

1. Rich in vitamin C

Banana peppers are exceptionally rich in vitamin C, a nutrient and antioxidant that plays important roles in collagen production, immune function, and iron absorption (4). 

Just one cup of raw banana peppers provides 124 mg of vitamin C — which exceeds the recommended daily intake for healthy adults (2, 5).

Consuming enough vitamin C helps maintain healthy skin, protects against infections, and lowers the risk of cancer and heart disease (6, 7, 8).

2. Protects against oxidative stress

Banana peppers can help protect the body from oxidative stress, which damages cells and increases cancer risk, due to their high antioxidant content (9).

Vitamin C is the primary antioxidant found in banana peppers, but they also contain smaller amounts of other antioxidants, including vitamin E and beta carotene (2). 

By incorporating banana peppers and other antioxidant-rich foods into your diet, you can enhance your body’s defense against oxidative stress and promote overall well-being.

3. Promotes optimal gut health 

Banana peppers are delicious and contain fiber, which helps regulate digestion, protect against constipation, and promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

With 5 grams per 1-cup (150-gram) serving, banana peppers are a great source of dietary fiber, providing almost 20% of the Daily Value.

Fiber plays a crucial role in digestion by adding bulk to the stool, easing its passage through the digestive tract, and thus, helping to prevent constipation (10).

Regular consumption of fiber-rich foods, like banana peppers, also results in a healthier, more diverse population of bacteria in the gut (11, 12).

Potential health risks of pickled banana peppers

While fresh banana peppers aren’t linked with any negative outcomes, there are some potential health risks to consider with pickled banana peppers.

1. Sneaky source of sodium

A ¼-cup (30-gram) serving of pickled banana peppers contains around 300 mg of sodium. Most health organizations recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day (13, 14).

Consuming too much sodium may increase blood pressure, especially if you don’t eat many fruits and vegetables high in potassium, a mineral that helps counteract the effects of sodium (15, 16, 17).

Keep in mind that many of the foods often paired with pickled banana peppers, such as olives, feta cheese, and cured meats, are also high in sodium and can quickly add up.

People with high blood pressure or other conditions that need to restrict sodium may want to avoid pickled banana peppers or use them in smaller amounts.

2. May increase stomach cancer risk

Some research has linked pickled vegetables, like pickled banana peppers, to higher rates of stomach cancer (18, 19).

It is thought that the salt and other compounds in pickled vegetables may damage the lining of the stomach and promote the growth of H. pylori, a type of bacterial infection that can increase the risk of developing stomach cancer (19).

In one review, each 40-gram (a little over ¼ cup) increase in daily pickled vegetable consumption was associated with a 15% higher stomach cancer risk (19).

Keep in mind that consuming moderate amounts of pickled vegetables hasn’t been shown to be harmful (18). Ultimately, more research is needed to fully understand the risks.

Final Verdict

Fresh banana peppers are rich in nutrients that help lower oxidative stress, promote gut health, and protect against chronic diseases. 

On the other hand, pickled banana peppers are higher in sodium, and regular consumption of pickled vegetables has been linked with a slightly higher risk of stomach cancer. Some people may choose to avoid or limit pickled banana peppers because of this.

Banana peppers and special diets

If you’re following a special diet, you may be wondering whether banana peppers are a good choice for you. 

Dairy-free diet

Banana peppers do not contain any dairy and can be freely consumed on a dairy-free diet.

Gluten-free diet

Fresh banana peppers are naturally gluten-free. However, pickled banana peppers may include natural flavors or other ingredients that contain gluten.

Choose brands like Mezzetta, which offers pickled banana peppers that are certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group

Ketogenic diet

Banana peppers are low in carbs and can be consumed on a ketogenic diet, which restricts carbohydrates to less than 50 grams of carbs per day (20).

A 1-cup (150-gram) serving of raw banana peppers contains 8 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber. This amounts to only 3 grams of “net carbs” — the amount of digestible carbs in food.

Low-fat diet

With less than 1 gram of fat per 1-cup serving, banana peppers are an excellent choice for anyone following a low-fat diet.

Low-FODMAP diet

Unfortunately, banana peppers are not listed in the Monash University FODMAP app, which is considered the best resource on FODMAPs in food. 

However, we do know that similar peppers, such as yellow bell peppers, are high in the FODMAP fructose in servings of ½ cup (75 grams) or larger.

It’s possible that banana peppers are also high enough in fructose to qualify as high-FODMAP, but we can’t know for sure until they’re tested by Monash. For now, it’s best to avoid banana peppers if you’re following a low-FODMAP diet.

Low-sodium diet 

Fresh banana peppers are naturally low in sodium. However, pickled banana peppers often contain up to 300 mg of sodium per ¼-cup (30-gram) serving.

If you’re following a low-sodium diet, which limits sodium to less than 2300 mg, you may want to avoid pickled banana peppers or use them sparingly (21).

Vegetarian diet

Fresh and pickled banana peppers are plant-based and can be eaten on a vegetarian diet.

Vegan diet

Both fresh and pickled banana peppers are considered vegan, because they don’t contain any ingredients obtained from or produced by animals.

Ways to use banana peppers

1. On antipasto platters

Banana peppers make a vibrant addition to any antipasto platter, offering a tangy bite that balances out the rich flavors of cured meats and cheeses. 

Pair them with other vegetables like olives, marinated artichokes, roasted red peppers, and fresh cherry tomatoes, as well as roasted nuts, sliced cheese, and prosciutto.

Additionally, whole pickled banana peppers can be stuffed with cheese, such as goat cheese, cream cheese, or feta cheese, for a tasty and creamy bite. 

2. In salads

Banana peppers can be a delightful addition to your salads, providing that tangy kick that can take the simplest of salads to the next level. 

Freshly sliced banana peppers sprinkled on top of mixed greens offer a satisfying crunch, while pickled banana peppers can give your salad a zesty flair that’s hard to resist. 

Pair banana peppers with romaine lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and black olives for a refreshing salad or mix them in with quinoa, chickpeas, and feta cheese for a protein-packed lunch.

3. On sandwiches and wraps

Banana peppers are a sandwich-lover’s delight, adding a burst of tangy flavor to an otherwise ordinary sandwich or wrap.

For a classic Italian sandwich, layer pickled banana peppers on top of salami, pastrami, sliced turkey, and provolone cheese. Sprinkle in some other vegetables like tomato slices and shredded lettuce before topping it all off with oil, vinegar, and Italian seasoning.

For a vegetarian option, try combining banana peppers with hummus, spinach, roasted red peppers, black olives, and feta cheese in a whole wheat wrap.

4. On pizzas

Banana peppers introduce a unique zest and crunch to pizzas, making them an excellent choice for pizza lovers seeking a twist in flavor. 

They pair wonderfully with a wide array of vegetarian toppings like sweet onions, sautéed mushrooms, bell peppers, and black olives. 

For meat lovers, banana peppers complement spicy Italian sausage, pepperoni, or smoky bacon, balancing the richness with their tangy bite. 

Final thoughts

Banana peppers are a versatile ingredient that can enhance a variety of dishes with their vibrant color and mildly sweet flavor. They’re available both fresh and pickled in a vinegar brine.

Because they’re rich in nutrients, banana peppers offer an array of health benefits, including protection against oxidative stress, improved gut health and a reduced risk of chronic diseases.

However, you may wish to consume pickled banana peppers in moderation due to their high sodium content and potential links to stomach cancer. 

Amy Richter is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Missouri. She is an experienced nutrition writer and medical advisor for Healthline and Medical News Today.  Amy is passionate about all things food-related and enjoys translating complex science into easy-to-understand articles.

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