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Until recently, I’ve only know paprika as a topping sprinkled on deviled eggs and potato salad. Honestly, I didn’t think it added anything more than decoration.
After becoming plant based, I noted that several of my favorite recipes include paprika, not as a garnish but as a crucial ingredient. I’ve come to respect and appreciate this spice and use it almost every day.
But what is paprika exactly? And are there any health benefits associated with it?
My curious mind wanted to know.
What is Paprika?
Paprika is a reddish orange ground spice made from dried peppers. Although it can be made from any variety of peppers, red bell peppers, chili peppers and cayenne peppers are most commonly used.
The spice originated in Mexico. Explorers transported it to Europe, Africa and Asia in the 1400s. Currently, Hungary produces the highest quality paprika and chefs there are well known for their Hungarian goulash prepared with the spice.
Paprika is extremely high in vitamin A. It also contains vitamins B6, C, E and K, iron, niacin and potassium. The spicier versions contain capsaicin, which gives peppers their heat. Capsaicin is an important component in the prevention of diseases.
Health Benefits of Paprika
Paprika fights inflammation and disease in the body, offering the following health benefits.
Paprika is rich in carotenoids, a pigment found in the peppers. This compound prevents oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the body and helps to fight disease. Antioxidants protect the skin from aging, improve respiratory health and lower inflammation throughout the body. The high levels of vitamin A decreases inflammation as well, lowering the risk of disease since inflammation is often a root cause.
Hair and Scalp Health
Paprika’s rich source of vitamin B6 helps to prevent hair loss. It’s also involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives color to hair. And the iron in paprika stimulates hair growth by improving the transfer of oxygen to hair follicles.
May Help Prevent and Treat Cancer
The capsaicin in spicy paprika possesses the potential to prevent and/or treat gastric cancers. Capsaicin appears to limit and suppress cancerous tumor growth. This is good news, as gastric cancers are the second most common cancer, world wide, and the second most common cause of cancer related deaths.
Supports the Cardiovascular System
Vitamin B6 in paprika lowers high blood pressure and heals damaged blood vessels. The carotenoid capsanthin can increase good cholesterol. These benefits keep the heart strong and working well.
Improves Eye Health
Paprika’s antioxidants and vitamin B6 keep eyes healthy and slows the onset of eye related diseases such as macular degeneration.
Paprika helps to regulate blood sugar levels, which in turn aids in treating diabetes. Spicy paprika benefits the whole digestive process.
Uses for Paprika
Beyond sprinkling paprika on foods as a garnish, try adding the spice to vegetables, sauces, soups, salad dressings, chilies, salsa, rice dishes, beans, goulash and any tomato based recipe.
I add a heaping spoonful of paprika to the blend of spices coating Easy Oven Roasted Potatoes. My Meatless Dirty Rice recipe includes paprika as well. I’ve played around with a vegan goulash recipe too, featuring green peppers, brown rice macaroni, tomatoes and…paprika. Recipe coming soon.
I’m grateful for curiosity today. Paprika is good for me, contributing to my overall health and wellbeing. As I empty the current spice jar of paprika, I’ll purchase a spicier version, after discovering that capsaicin ups the health benefits considerably. I found this two pack of Hungarian Paprika, containing a sweet version and a spicy one. How perfect!
How will you get your paprika today? Do you have a favorite recipe that contains this important spice? I’d love to know about it!
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