People use paprika to add a distinct smoky, sweet, or spicy flavor to their dishes. It is great in deviled eggs, stews, pasta, and soups. People also add it in barbecue sauces and marinades to elevate the flavors of their grilled food. What many people do not realize is that paprika also happens to be nutrient- and antioxidant-rich. This makes paprika one of the culinary world’s most versatile ingredients. It is great in the kitchen as it is in promoting overall health.
Nutrition Profile of Paprika
The many benefits associated with paprika are due to the presence of nutrients. These molecules work alone or together to bring about a number of physiologic effects on the human body.
One tablespoon of paprika contains 19.5 calories. What many people find surprising is that a tablespoon of this spice is also equivalent to a gram of protein and 0.9 grams of fat. Most of its fat content are polyunsaturated fats. When it comes to its carbohydrate content, a tablespoon of paprika can provide 3.8 grams of carbohydrates. It does not contain starch, although it has modest amounts of sugar at about 0.7 grams. This is because paprika comes from bell pepper, also known as sweet pepper.
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Many people do not know that paprika is a good source of Vitamin A. A tablespoon of paprika is enough to provide an average person about 70 percent of his or her daily Vitamin A requirements. This spice is also rich in Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E. It also provides moderate amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, riboflavin, and niacin. Betaine, choline, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B12, folate, and thiamin are also present in trace amounts.
Almost everyone knows that the best source of elemental iron are organ meats. What many people fail to realize is that paprika is also a good source of this element necessary for hemoglobin formation. Adding a tablespoon of paprika to your dish can supply 9% of your need for iron every day. There are other minerals as well. Paprika contains moderate amounts of potassium, manganese, and magnesium. It also contains calcium, selenium, phosphorus, copper, sodium, and zinc.
Paprika comes from sweet varieties of pepper that have been ground to a very fine, powdery consistency. This makes the spice a good source of fiber. A single tablespoon of paprika can provide the human body with 2.5 grams of dietary fiber. This already accounts for about 10 percent of an average person’s daily fiber needs.
- Essential fatty acids
More than two-thirds of the fat content in paprika are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Most of them are omega-6 fatty acids. It also contains omega-3 essential fatty acids that can give you a number of benefits, too.
- Other nutrients
There are 11.8 milligrams of phytosterols in every tablespoon of paprika. These phytosterols can have a range of physiologic properties that can include anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, and painkilling. Two of the most important compounds found in paprika are capsaicin and lycopene.
Benefits of Paprika
As we have already mentioned, the various nutrients found in paprika give this spice amazing benefits.
- Helps protect cells and fight diseases
There are different research studies showing the effects of antioxidants in protecting cells. When free radicals interact with the cells of the body, they can produce different results. Most of the cells get damaged by these free radicals. Some die because of such interactions.
Antioxidants act by binding to these free radicals so that they will no longer be able to interact with the cells. The different cells of the body are able to function at optimum levels. They grow healthier and stronger, too.
Lycopene is one of the antioxidants found in paprika. It is also the substance that gives paprika its bright color. Lycopene not only helps to protect cells against the effects of free radicals; it also helps fight certain health conditions. Studies show the potential benefits of lycopene in lowering the risk of heart disease. It also reduces one’s risk of high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol.
- Aids in digestion
One of the effects of paprika is an increase in the production of saliva. This secretion is essential in the initial stages of digestion occurring in the mouth. Saliva contains enzymes that break down starchy foods into their component carbohydrates. This makes it easier for the stomach to continue digesting the food particles.
At the same time, paprika can increase the production of gastric acids. These serve to continue the digestion of carbohydrates that the mouth started. These acids also start breaking down proteins and fats. As they get broken down into smaller molecules, these nutrients move to the small intestines for the final phase of digestion. Once broken down into the smallest possible subunits, these nutrients get absorbed through the intestinal wall.
Paprika also contains dietary fiber. This can also help improve digestion by facilitating the more efficient movement of digested food material through the intestinal tract. It promotes the absorption of water back into the system, while also facilitating the removal of wastes.
- Helps reduce pain
Capsaicin is a type of neuropeptide. It acts on certain substances present in the nervous system. One of the substances that capsaicin affects is substance P. This substance activates pro-inflammatory compounds that produce swelling and pain. Capsaicin depletes the number of substance P present in sensory nerves. Because of substance P depletion in the sensory nerves, they will not be able to convey pain impulses to the brain.
This is one of the reasons why many athletes who may have sore muscles often apply products that contain capsaicin. The heat from the substance can provide instant relief for the soreness. As the substance gets absorbed into the body, it works to reduce the number of substance P molecules in the nerve endings.
Since paprika is also a rich source of capsaicin, then it should also provide you with analgesic benefits.
- Boosts energy levels
A tablespoon of paprika provides 14% of your daily requirements for Vitamin B6. This is a vitamin that functions as a co-enzyme. It combines with other enzymes to improve the performance of their functions. Many of these enzymes facilitate metabolic reactions to produce energy.
Paprika is also a good source of iron. This element is necessary for the more efficient production of hemoglobin. Oxygen molecules attach to hemoglobin for distribution throughout the body. Since all cells need oxygen to execute their metabolic processes, improving the amount of hemoglobin in the body also boosts energy levels.
This makes paprika as a great ingredient for addressing lethargy, weakness, fatigue, and depression.
Uses of Paprika
There are many potential uses of paprika. However, we can classify them into 3 broad categories:
- As an ingredient in many dishes
Most chefs use paprika to add a more vibrant color to their recipes. Some will also use paprika to give their dish a subtler “heat”, while other savor the smoky flavor of some types of this spice. People use paprika in almost every other recipe in the culinary world. From seafood dishes to meats and sauce to salads, salsas, and goulash, the possibilities are endless.
- As an adjunct to conventional treatments
Paprika can serve as an adjunct to conventional treatments. For example, people who have high blood pressure often have to take antihypertensive medications. Paprika is also known for reducing blood pressure. Hence, it can work side by side with conventional antihypertensive drugs.
People who may have inflammatory disorders often complain of pain and swelling. The conventional treatment for such conditions is the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In severe cases of inflammation, doctors often prescribe corticosteroids and other immunosuppressant drugs. These are effective pharmaceutical agents. They also come with some serious side effects.
Adding paprika in the treatment of inflammatory conditions can help reduce the amount of anti-inflammatory drugs that one has to take. The reduction in the amount of these drugs can also lead to a reduction in the number and severity of side effects.
- As a food supplement
The antioxidants present in paprika make it a good supplement. It can help lighten one’s complexion and allow a person to have a more vibrant and young-looking skin. It can help to slow down the aging process, so people will look younger than their chronological age.
Paprika can also help prevent acne, spider veins, and other skin problems. It can maintain the natural color of the hair, too while also preventing hair loss. Paprika can enhance the health of the eyes. This is one of the benefits that the various carotenoids in paprika provides.
As a food supplement, paprika can promote better quality of sleep, prevent anemia, and enhance the health of the heart. It can also facilitate the more efficient production of clotting factors, allowing the body to heal wounds a lot faster.
Paprika can also be a good supplement for athletes and other individuals who lead very active lifestyles. Its ability to boost energy makes paprika a good alternative to energy drinks. At the very least, you are not only getting a boost in your energy; you get other health benefits as well.
Paprika not only makes your dish taste magical. It can also give you a number of benefits, owing to its rich nutrient profile.