Paprika is widely recognized as one of the best mild-flavored spices to date, as it has been used to beautify dishes with just a sprinkle of its bursting bright colors. The spice comprises dried peppers from Capsicum annum (a type of plant). It comes in various colors, levels of heat, and categories (hot, sweet, and smoked). This makes it a favorite and exciting spice to enhance the dish’s look and taste.
Now you may be wondering: “But does it do any good for my health, though?” or “Are there any side effects I should be aware of?” Don’t worry. In this article, we’ll be digesting everything you need to know about paprika’s health benefits, potential side effects, possible alternatives, and how to store your paprika. Without further ado, let’s get those facts sizzling!
Paprikas are not only great spices, but they also offer various health and nutritional benefits. Here are the main health benefits that you need to know about that make it more of a worthy dish spice.
For every tablespoon (about 7 grams of paprika), paprika packs in 19 calories, less than a gram of protein and fat, 4 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, vitamins (A, B6, and E), and iron. Apparently, a single tablespoon is enough to fulfill 20% of your body’s daily vitamin A requirement!
In addition, paprika is also enriched with various antioxidants, which helps combat damage to body cells caused by free radicals (reactive molecules). These free radicals are the culprits linked to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Potentially promotes healthy eyes
Paprika doesn’t just pack in the extravagant taste but also healthy-eye-promoting nutrients. These nutrients include vitamin E, beta carotene (converted to vitamin A by your body), and antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin.
High consumption of this specific variety of nutrients has been associated with mitigated risks of developing AMD or age-related macular degeneration (causes blurring to central vision) and cataracts. The main contributors to these disease-fighting capabilities are lutein and zeaxanthin, which are potent antioxidants that fight against cell damage in the eyes.
May mitigate inflammation
There are specific varieties of paprika that contain a compound known as capsaicin. According to developing studies, researchers suggest that capsaicin binds to the receptors of the nerve cells, which in turn decreases inflammation and pain.
In turn, this enables paprika to help the body fight off various inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, such as nerve damages, digestive upsets, and arthritis. Another study conducted on 376 adults with gastrointestinal diseases stated that capsaicin supplements aided in preventing damage and inflammation to their stomachs.
May raise levels of good cholesterol
Capsanthin, a carotenoid found in paprika, has the potential to boost HDL (good) cholesterol levels. High levels of HDL cholesterols are linked to a mitigated risk of developing heart diseases. However, extensive research on this field is still necessary.
Additionally, capsanthin can also reduce levels of overall and LDL (bad) cholesterol, a primary contributor associated with higher risks of heart disease. A 12-week long study stated that the adults who took 9 mg of paprika carotenoids in the form of supplements on a daily basis had significantly reduced levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol than that of the placebo group.
Has cancer-mitigating effects
Carotenoids such as beta carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein have proven to be able to combat oxidative stress (that has been thought to increase the risks of some types of cancer). To top that, research suggests that capsaicin has the potential to inhibit the growth and survival of cancer cells.
A study on 2,000 women concluded that those with the highest concentrations of nutrients in their blood, such as beta carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, and total carotenoids were less likely to develop breast cancer by a staggering 25 to 35 percent!
May improve blood glucose management
For anyone who may have diabetes, paprika might just be the spice for you! The primary component of paprika that enables this is capsaicin. This compound has the potential to influence genes in blood sugar control and inhibit enzymes that break down glucose, which, as a result, can also improve your insulin sensitivity.
Critical for blood health
Paprika makes an excellent source of iron and vitamin E, both of which promote healthy blood. Iron is the main component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that aids in oxygen transport around your body. Vitamin E complements this process by creating healthy membranes to enable these cells to function correctly.
A lack of either iron or vitamin E may cause lower red blood cell counts and may result in serious health issues. These include anemia (when your body has lower-than-normal red blood cells), commonly indicated by symptoms such as pale skin, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
Note: If you experience any of the listed symptoms, immediately seek medical assistance from your local health provider to get prompt treatment.
Potential Side Effects from Eating Paprika
Don’t push your panic button just yet, because paprika is deemed as a generally safe spice to use to sizzle up your homemade dishes, as long as you use typical amounts of them. Despite this, it doesn’t mean you should throw out the possible side effects spices (in general) may cause.
The reactions towards this spice can be either allergic or non-allergic, and this varies to different people. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology emphasizes the importance of being able to distinguish the two reactions as allergic reactions can be fatal if left untreated. Contrastingly, non-allergic reactions don’t pose any threat as they typically resolve on their own without the need for medical care.
To differentiate the two, here are some symptoms or indicators you should be aware of:
- Have trouble breathing or
- Anaphylaxis (the severe form of a reaction)
- Rashes on skin
- Itching in the mouth
- Coughing from inhaling air
Note: These are some of the generally known symptoms of the two reactions. If you have another known reaction towards eating paprika or any other spice, please consult with your local health care provider on how to promptly neutralize the reaction.
Alternatives to Paprika
Whether it be due to wanting to try to switch up the tones of your dish or simply because you may have gotten some of the potential side effects, substituting paprika isn’t a bad idea at all. This comes down to what you initially used paprika for; to spice up your dish or to give it that smoky flavor going.
To heat up dishes, you may want to try using cayenne, red chili powder, or crushed red pepper flakes. For a smoky dish, go for a chipotle powder, and it should pack quite the flavor punch just as much as paprika.
How to Store Paprika
Just like how you usually store your other collection of spices, you can keep paprika in two ways. One way you can store them is in an airtight container and have it concealed in a drawer or cabinet, away from heat and light.
Alternatively, you can also store it as it is in your handy fridge for 2 months (at most). However, when it comes to ground paprika, these bad boys can last up to three years, though this may cause a change in nutrient concentrations and flavor levels as time goes by.
The Bottom Line
Paprika is one of the essential spices almost every kitchen needs, regardless of whether you’re a home cook or a local chef at a fancy or humble restaurant. It is one of the best and easiest ways to give your dish that striking visual appeal, fiery heat, and a punch of smokiness.
Aside from being a dish enhancer, paprika also has various health benefits, as it has proven to be beneficial for your eyes, digestive tract, blood glucose levels, and blood! This is made possible due to its richness in nutrients such as potent antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamin E, and iron. As a bonus, it has shown signs of being able to combat cancer by inhibiting the survival and growth of cancer cells before it develops a little too far!
Like most spices, paprika does come with potential side effects that you should consider before choosing it to top up your dish. Its properties may cause allergic (such as difficulty in breathing or Anaphylaxis) or non-allergic reactions (such as coughing, itching in the mouth, and skin rashes). If you happen to experience any of the listed symptoms or any other known symptoms after consuming paprika, please seek medical care from your local health clinic as soon as possible.
Suppose you feel like paprika may not be suited for you. In that case, there are other possible alternatives you can try, such as cayenne, red chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes, or chipotle powder (for a smoky flavor). To keep them fresh and flavorful, store them in either an airtight container or in the fridge.