Bell peppers – also called sweet peppers – are a fruit that belongs to the nightshade family. In popular cuisine, they are usually considered a vegetable, though. Bell peppers are said to be very healthy and nutritious. Of course, you may want to share this healthy snack with your rats when it’s feeding time.
But can rats eat bell peppers and are they good for them? Which type of bell pepper can they have, and how is it best prepared?
Green, yellow, orange, and red bell peppers are all perfectly safe for rats to eat. Here’s a rundown on how to best prepare them (including the question of removing the seeds or not).
Rats & Bell Peppers
Can I Feed My Rat Bell Peppers?
Raw bell peppers mainly consist of water (92%)1. They contain virtually no fat, and negligible amounts of protein1. The rest is carbohydrates – mainly sugar. The riper peppers (orange and red) contain more sugar than green and yellow peppers.
Bell peppers also contain some fiber, which aids digestion and is good for the gut microbiome2.
Bell peppers are packed with minerals and vitamins. They are one of the richest dietary sources of vitamin C, a vitamin essential for skin and connective tissue health as well as the immune system3.
Next, vitamin K1 contained in bell peppers is crucial for blood clotting and bone health4. The fruit is also a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin A, potassium, and folate.
Antioxidants are also plentiful in bell peppers. These compounds combat the oxidative damage that free radicals cause to the DNA in the cells. They are therefore crucial to fight and prevent inflammation, cancer, and a host of chronic illnesses5.
Bell peppers contain the antioxidants vitamin E, lutein, luteolin, and quercetin. The latter has been shown in various studies to be especially important in the prevention of cancer6. Red peppers also contain large amounts of capsanthin7.
If this list hasn’t been convincing yet, let me spell it out:
Bell peppers are some of the healthiest vegetables (well, technically fruit) out there. This doesn’t only hold true for humans – bell peppers are very good for pet rats, too, and should absolutely be a staple of your mischief’s diet.
How Much Bell Pepper Can I Give My Rat?
In theory, there is no limit on how much bell pepper your rats can have. You can offer this veg daily and in large amounts.
The only thing to look out for is diarrhea, as fresh foods with high water contents can sometimes cause this in rats. If you notice loose stools, cut back on the fresh food portion a bit.
Bell peppers are featured on the “dirty dozen” list of the most pesticide-laden produce, unfortunately8. This means that it’s best to opt for organic peppers whenever possible.
If conventionally grown bell peppers is all you have available, soak them in a mixture of water and baking soda before serving them to your rats to remove pesticide residues as much as possible9.
Can Rats Eat Raw Bell Peppers?
Raw peppers are actually the way to go, as this ensures that your rats get the maximum of all the nutrients.
A study that looked at antioxidant contents in red bell peppers with different cooking methods showed that the best way to retain antioxidant content was to stir-fry or roast the peppers.
Boiling and steaming resulted in the greatest loss of antioxidant compounds. Still, even stir-fried and roasted peppers had lower antioxidant levels than raw peppers, so it’s best to feed this veg without cooking it first.
Can Rats Eat Green Peppers?
Green peppers the same fruit as red peppers, they are just at a less ripe stage. They tend to be less sweet than red peppers and can have a slightly bitter taste. For these reasons, your rats will probably prefer red peppers whenever given a choice.
Green bell peppers are perfectly fine for them to eat, though. They are just as nutritious as the other colors of bell pepper – and they even contain higher levels of some of the healthy bioactive components such as phenolic acids10 and antioxidants11.
Can Rats Eat Chili?
Chilis are closely related to bell peppers. They are, however, known for their spiciness, which is due to the active component called capsaicin.
Spicy food should not be a part of your rats’ diet, as it can cause gastrointestinal issues. It’s therefore advised not to feed chili peppers to your mischief.
Can Rats Eat Bell Pepper Seeds?
Many fruit seeds and pips are toxic to rats, as they contain cyanide12.
Bell pepper seeds, however, do not contain cyanide or any other toxic components. They are fine for rats and humans to eat.
So, if you usually discard the bell pepper tops with the seeds, you can now offer them to your rats instead!
What Vegetables are Good for Rats?
You should offer your rats a daily selection of fresh vegetables (and some fruit to go with it) to accompany their pellet food.
Some vegetables should not be offered raw – these include beans, artichokes, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Raw cabbage is fine in moderation but can cause bloating in gas in large amounts.
To Sum Up
Bell peppers are an amazing food for rats, packed with nutrients and vitamins. They are best offered raw and can be fed with the seeds.
You can feed bell peppers daily if your mischief likes them. Whenever possible, opt for organic peppers.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central – Peppers, bell, orange, raw. 2022. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2258591/nutrients.
2. Slavin J. Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients 2013;5:1417-1435. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23609775
3. Sorice A, Guerriero E, Capone F, et al. Ascorbic acid: its role in immune system and chronic inflammation diseases. Mini Rev Med Chem 2014;14:444-452. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24766384/.
4. Bügel S. Vitamin K and bone health. Proc Nutr Soc 2003;62:839-843. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15018483/.
5. Neha K, Haider MR, Pathak A, et al. Medicinal prospects of antioxidants: A review. Eur J Med Chem 2019;178:687-704. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31228811/.
7. Matsufuji H, Ishikawa K, Nunomura O, et al. Anti-oxidant content of different coloured sweet peppers, white, green, yellow, orange and red (Capsicum annuum L.). International Journal of Food Science & Technology 2007;42:1482-1488. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2621.2006.01368.x.
8. EWG. Dirty Dozen – EWG’s 2021 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. 2021. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php.
9. Yang T, Doherty J, Zhao B, et al. Effectiveness of Commercial and Homemade Washing Agents in Removing Pesticide Residues on and in Apples. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2017;65:9744-9752. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jafc.7b03118.
10. Thuphairo K, Sornchan P, Suttisansanee U. Bioactive Compounds, Antioxidant Activity and Inhibition of Key Enzymes Relevant to Alzheimer’s Disease from Sweet Pepper (Capsicum annuum) Extracts. Preventive nutrition and food science 2019;24:327-337. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31608259.
11. Blanco-Ríos AK, Medina-Juárez LÁ, González-Aguilar GA, et al. Antioxidant Activity of the Phenolic and Oily Fractions of Different Sweet Bell Peppers. Journal of the Mexican Chemical Society 2013;57:137-143. http://www.scielo.org.mx/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1870-249X2013000200011&nrm=iso.
12. Salkowski AA, Penney DG. Cyanide poisoning in animals and humans: a review. Vet Hum Toxicol 1994;36:455-466. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7839575/.
Nina has a degree from the Veterinary School in Zurich, with a special focus on microbiological research. Nina has a passion for sports, nutrition and the outdoors and she loves all pets, but rats have a special place in her heart. When she’s not working or reading and writing about all things related to pet health, she loves to travel and surf.
As a small animal veterinarian, Nina is your go-to expert on pet health and nutrition.