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Last updated July 24, 2016 (originally published October 22, 2014)

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist










Paprika is an orange-red spice made from the fruit of the pepper
plant, Capsicum annuum. It adds a vibrant red-orangey color
and a rich, pungent flavor to your meals. The pepper plants used
to make this spice range from the sweet Bell pepper to the
milder chili peppers. Originally a “hot” spice, over time, this spice
has taken on a milder taste though certain hot varieties still
exist, especially in Hungary. The most commonly produced
paprika hails from the sweet red pepper also known as the
tomato pepper.

Used for its flavor and color, it is the fourth most consumed
spice in the world. According to the CRC Handbook of Medicinal
Spices, the US imported 9,000 metric tons of paprika in 2000
worth nearly USD 18 million. A major producer of paprika is
Hungary, which considers paprika its national spice – it appears
in the country's most well-known dish, the goulash. The first
pepper plants from the Americas arrived in Europe in the 17th
century, where it became a hit in the Balkan country by the end
of the 18th century. Today, most paprika hails from Hungary,
California, Spain or South America, and is sometimes mixed with
other chilies like cayenne.

At only 19 calories per tablespoon, paprika contributes very little
to your daily calorie intake, but comes packed with nutrients. A
single tablespoon can provide you with several beneficial
nutrients, particularly carotenoids – a family of nutrients that
includes vitamin A.

In fact, paprika is unique among plants which contain
carotenoids, according to a 2015 study led in part by Dr. Takeshi
Takaha from Fukushima University in Japan. Paprika, unlike
other vegetables which contain carotenoids such as carrots and
spinach, is rich in  anti-oxidants called xanthophylls. Two such
xanthophylls, capsanthin and capsorbin, are only present in
paprika and lily pollen. Another xanthophyll, cucurvitaxanthin A,
is found only in paprika and pumpkins.

Here are seven health benefits to consuming this bright, flavorful
spice:






























Lowers Cholesterol

A December 2009 study published in the British Journal of
Nutrition found that paprika was especially good for the heart.
In the animal study, scientists found that capsanthin, the
carotenoid antioxidant in paprika, boosted levels of high-density
lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol while not affecting the
levels of triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or
“bad” cholesterol in the blood. Capsanthin also spurred on the
activity of an enzyme involved in the production of “good” HDL
cholesterol.

Weight Control   

Paprika may play a role in weight loss, noted an animal study
published in the November 2009 Journal of Agricultural and
Food Chemistry.

In the study, animals that drank a paprika beverage instead of
water for six weeks lost weight significantly.

Paprika is known to activate genes that promote the production
of glycogen – the short-term form of glucose that is stored in
the liver – which releases the use of glucose for energy and
promotes weight loss.

Cancer Prevention  

Capsanthin was also found to prevent cancer by scientists. This
discovery was revealed  in the October 2011 issue of the Journal
of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

In the tissue-culture study, capsanthin and similar compounds
checked the growth and spread of human pancreatic cancer cells
and those of mouse skin cancer tumors.

Additional studies are needed to confirm these first, preliminary
results before paprika and its active components can be
recommended in the treatment or prevention of cancer.

Improves Eyesight

Paprika is loaded with carotenoids – the pigments that give the
spice its deep orange-red color. According to the Institute of
Medicine, its zeaxanthin and lutein content helps your eyesight
by preventing harmful light rays from damaging your eye
tissues, while its vitamin A content helps you to see at night
while also playing a role in healthy cell development.

A tablespoon serving of paprika contains 3,349 international
units of vitamin A – more than 100 percent of the daily take
recommended for men and women by the Institute of Medicine.

While the latter institute has yet to establish a recommended
daily intake, taking 12 milligrams of paprika daily improves
eyesight, the American Optometric Association considers.

Each paprika serving contains 1.3 milligrams of lutein and
zeaxanthin, or 11 percent of this target goal.

Blood Pressure

Capsaicin is another component found in paprika – it is famous
for providing chili peppers with its famous fiery burn.

A 2010 study published in “Cell Metabolism” discovered that
capsaicin causes blood vessels to relax.

And an animal study conducted by Zhiming Zhu from the Third
Military Medical University in Chongqing, China found that
capsaicin activated a certain receptor in the lining of blood
vessels. When this happens, the body produces more nitrous
oxide, which guards against inflammation.

Epidemiological analysis confirms the study's conclusions. In
parts of the world where spicy food is popular, hypertension is
rarer than in areas where spicy food is not consumed as much.

Counters Inflammation

Because of capsaicin, paprika can really help in reducing
inflammation.

Capsaicin is typically used to treat arthritis pain and joint
inflammation. Paprika's anti-inflammatory properties also
prevent heart disease by limiting the production of something
called "substance P", a transmitter responsible for swelling and
the transmission of pain. A March 2013 research study published
in the International Scholarly Research Notices (ISRN) found
that paprika suppressed chronic inflammation, even in people
regarded as obese.

[Update:

Other studies have found that capsaicin actually depletes the
body of substance P, robbing it of the compounds it needs to
produce pain. A 1983 study led by Dr. C.J. Dalsgaard and Dr. S.
R. Vincent published in the Journal of Autonomic Nervous
Systems found that capsaicin "induced" the depletion of
substance P-like compounds in the nerve cells of guinea pigs.]

A Good Source of Iron

Adding paprika to your meals will help you get more iron. The
trace amounts of iron you consume supports your cellular
metabolism – it induces your cells to carry out a series of
chemical reactions, known as the electron transport chain, that
lead to energy production.

Iron also aids in the function of hemoglobin and myoglobin –
two proteins that work to transport and store oxygen that your
body needs to function. A tablespoon of paprika contains 1.4 mg
of iron, which accounts for 18 and 8 percent of the
recommended daily intakes for men and women, respectively,
the Institute of Medicine has determined.

A July 2012 Canadian Medical Association Journal study found
that symptoms of fatigue considerably decreased by about 47%
in pre-menopausal non-anemic women as a result of them taking
iron, found in paprika.  

























































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Paprika lowers cholesterol and can improve your eyesight.