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8 Science-Backed Benefits of Paprika

Health + Wellness
Fabian Krause / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Elizabeth Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Paprika is a spice made from the dried peppers of the plant Capsicum annuum.


It comes in sweet, smoked, and hot varieties, as well as a variety of colors, such as red, orange, and yellow. Paprika is used worldwide, especially in rice dishes and stews.

It's not only rich in antioxidants but also vitamins and minerals.

Here are 8 science-backed health benefits of paprika.

1. Loaded With Nutrients

Paprika is packed with micronutrients and beneficial compounds, with 1 tablespoon (6.8 grams) providing (1):

  • Calories: 19
  • Protein: less than 1 gram
  • Fat: less than 1 gram
  • Carbs: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Vitamin A: 19% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin E: 13% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 9% of the DV
  • Iron: 8% of the DV

Notably, this small amount boasts almost 20% of your daily vitamin A needs.

This spice also contains a variety of antioxidants, which fight cell damage caused by reactive molecules called free radicals.

Free radical damage is linked to chronic illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. As such, eating antioxidant-rich foods may help prevent these conditions (2Trusted Source).

The main antioxidants in paprika belong to the carotenoid family and include beta carotene, capsanthin, zeaxanthin, and lutein (3, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

Summary

Paprika is rich in several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In particular, 1 tablespoon (6.8 grams) boasts 19% of your daily needs for vitamin A.

2. May Promote Healthy Vision

Paprika contains several nutrients that may boost eye health, including vitamin E, beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin (7Trusted Source).

In fact, studies have linked a high dietary intake of some of these nutrients to a decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).

In particular, lutein and zeaxanthin, which act as antioxidants, may prevent damage to your eyes (10Trusted Source).

In a study in over 1,800 women, those with the highest dietary intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin were 32% less likely to develop cataracts than those with the lowest intakes (9Trusted Source).

Another study in 4,519 adults likewise noted that higher intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin were associated with a decreased risk of AMD (8Trusted Source).

Summary

Nutrients in paprika, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin, have been linked to better eye health and a lower risk of cataracts and AMD.

3. May Reduce Inflammation

Certain varieties of paprika, especially hot ones, contain the compound capsaicin (11, 12Trusted Source).

It's thought that capsaicin binds to receptors on your nerve cells to reduce inflammation and pain (13Trusted Source, 14, 15Trusted Source).

Therefore, it may protect against a variety of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, including arthritis, nerve damage, and digestive issues (13Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).

Several studies show that topical creams with capsaicin help reduce pain caused by arthritis and nerve damage, but research on capsaicin tablets is more limited (13Trusted Source).

In a study in 376 adults with gastrointestinal diseases, capsaicin supplements helped prevent stomach inflammation and damage (17Trusted Source).

Another study in rats revealed that 10 days of capsaicin supplements decreased inflammation associated with an autoimmune nerve condition (18Trusted Source).

Still, specific research on paprika is needed.

Summary

The anti-inflammatory compound capsaicin in paprika may treat pain and fight inflammation associated with a variety of conditions, though more studies are necessary.

4. May Improve Your Cholesterol Levels

Paprika may benefit your cholesterol levels.

In particular, capsanthin, a carotenoid in this popular spice, may raise levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, which is associated with a lower risk of heart disease (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 21).

One two-week study found that rats fed diets with paprika and capsanthin experienced significant increases in HDL levels, compared with rats on a control diet (20Trusted Source).

The carotenoids in paprika may also help decrease levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, which are linked to an increased risk of heart disease (19Trusted Source).

In a 12-week study in 100 healthy adults, those who took a supplement containing 9 mg of paprika carotenoids per day had significantly lower LDL (bad) and total cholesterol levels than those who got a placebo (22Trusted Source).

Nonetheless, more extensive research is needed.

Summary

Studies suggest that carotenoids in paprika may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increase HDL (good) cholesterol, thus improving heart health.

5. May Have Anticancer Effects

Numerous compounds in paprika may protect against cancer.

Several paprika carotenoids, including beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, have been shown to fight oxidative stress, which is thought to increase your risk of certain cancers (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).

Notably, in a study in nearly 2,000 women, those with the highest blood levels of beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and total carotenoids were 25–35% less likely to develop breast cancer (25Trusted Source).

What's more, capsaicin in paprika may inhibit cancer cell growth and survival by influencing the expression of several genes (26Trusted Source).

However, more extensive research is needed on this spice's anticancer potential.

Summary

Compounds in paprika, including carotenoids and capsaicin, may block cancer cell growth and fight oxidative stress related to cancer risk. Yet, more studies are necessary.

6. May Improve Blood Sugar Control

The capsaicin in paprika may help manage diabetes.

That's because capsaicin may influence genes involved in blood sugar control and inhibit enzymes that break down sugar in your body. It may also improve insulin sensitivity (27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).

In a 4-week study in 42 pregnant women with diabetes, taking a daily 5-mg capsaicin supplement significantly decreased post-meal blood sugar levels, compared with a placebo (29Trusted Source).

Another 4-week study in 36 adults found that a diet with capsaicin-containing chili pepper significantly decreased blood insulin levels after meals, compared with a chili-free diet. Lower insulin levels typically indicate better blood sugar control (30Trusted Source).

Still, further research is necessary.

Summary

The capsaicin in paprika may help decrease blood sugar and insulin levels, which could be particularly advantageous for people with diabetes.

7. Important for Healthy Blood

Paprika is rich in iron and vitamin E, two micronutrients vital for healthy blood.

Iron is a crucial part of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen throughout your body, while vitamin E is needed to create healthy membranes for these cells (31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source).

Therefore, deficiencies in either of these nutrients may lower your red blood cell count. This can cause anemia, a condition marked by fatigue, pale skin, and shortness of breath (31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source).

In fact, one study in 200 young women tied low iron intake to a nearly 6-fold increased risk of anemia, compared with adequate intake (34Trusted Source).

What's more, animal studies suggest that vitamin E is highly effective at repairing damage to red blood cells — and that deficiency in this vitamin may lead to anemia (35Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source).

Summary

Paprika is high in iron and vitamin E, both of which help create healthy red blood cells and may work to stave off anemia.

8. Easy to Add to Your Diet

Paprika is a versatile spice that can be incorporated into a multitude of dishes.

It comes in three main varieties that differ in taste and color based on the cultivation and processing of the pepper.

In addition to its sweetness, sweet paprika has a touch of smokiness. It can be used as a seasoning for meats, potato salad, and eggs.

On the other hand, hot paprika offers a spicier kick and is often added to soups and stews like Hungarian goulash.

Finally, smoked paprika's sweet, smoky flavor works best with rice, lentil, and bean dishes.

You can also add paprika to simple, everyday meals by sprinkling a dash on hard-boiled eggs, chopped veggies, dips, cooked rice, roasted potatoes, and salads.

While paprika supplements are likewise available, there's very limited research on their safety and efficacy.

Summary

The three varieties of paprika — sweet, hot, and smoked — can be added to meat rubs, soups, eggs, beans, rice, and many other dishes.

The Bottom Line

Paprika is a colorful spice derived from ground peppers.

It offers a variety of beneficial compounds, including vitamin A, capsaicin, and carotenoid antioxidants. These substances may help prevent inflammation and improve your cholesterol, eye health, and blood sugar levels, among other benefits.

You can add this spice to a variety of dishes, including meats, vegetables, soups and eggs.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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