Who knew a tablespoon of red powder could contain so much goodness? Meet paprika, the pepper-based spice that helps your body steer clear of disease.
From its discovery in the New World in the 1400s to the current use around the world of this handy ingredient, paprika has been much loved since entering the scene when explorers brought some home to Europe, Africa and Asia. Hungary currently produces what’s widely known as the highest-quality paprika, and Hungarian chefs are famous for their preparation of goulash with paprika.
Recently, it’s been found that paprika not only helps your body fight inflammation and disease in general, but it may even have specific targeting to prevent and fight autoimmune conditions and certain cancers. Read further to find out more about these breakthrough discoveries and the benefits you can reap from the popular nightshade vegetable spice.
1. Rich in Antioxidants
Perhaps the most impressive quality of paprika is the amount of antioxidant power it packs in just one serving. Peppers and products created from them have long been understood to have disease-fighting properties, due in large part to their ability to fight oxidative stress.
There are many antioxidants in paprika, including carotenoids, which are found to varying degrees in different types of paprika. Carotenoids are a type of pigment found in many plants that serve the body as antioxidants, preventing damage from oxidative stress (caused by an overabundance of free radicals in the body) and helping the body fight disease. These are fat-soluble nutrients, meaning they’re absorbed best when consumed alongside a healthy fat source, such as avocado.
The carotenoids commonly found in paprika are beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and lutein/zeaxanthin. Beta-carotene has many benefits, from skin protection to respiratory health to pregnancy support. The best-known benefit of beta-cryptoxanthin is the ability to lower inflammation in disorders such as arthritis. And, of course, lutein and zeaxanthin are known for their roles in the health of the eyes, helping fight off molecules that are known to cause damage that leads to conditions like macular degeneration.
In general, vitamin A is known for the way it decreases inflammation through antioxidant properties, and since inflammation is at the root of most diseases, getting enough of the nutrient is important in living a life that’s free of disease. And that’s just one of the paprika benefits.
2. Aids in Treatment for Autoimmune Conditions
A groundbreaking study conducted in 2016 found that capsaicin, the ingredient in chili peppers and other hot varieties that provide the heat — like paprika — may have incredible power against autoimmune conditions.
These often debilitating illnesses stem from the immune system attacking the host’s body. Symptoms of autoimmune diseases affect brain, skin, mouth, lungs, sinus, thyroid, joints, muscles, adrenals and gastrointestinal tract functions. However, while autoimmune disorders are not curable, this 2016 study found that capsaicin stimulates biological reactions consistent with the treatment of autoimmune disease. This could be an incredible new body of research in the search to find ways to treat disease by dietary means.
3. May Help Treat and Prevent Cancer
The capsaicin found in spicy paprika isn’t useful in treating just one type of disease — it also has great potential in treating and/or preventing cancer. Operating in several different mechanisms, capsaicin seems to be responsible for altering signaling pathways that limit cancer growth and even suppress genes that tell tumors to increase in size.
In particular, one paprika benefit may be its ability to protect against gastric cancer. A 2012 study of gastric cancer states, “Gastric cancer is the second most common cancer worldwide and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths.” Over 80 percent of patients diagnosed with this form of cancer die within a year of their diagnoses or recurrence of the disease.
The good news is that capsaicin has potent anti-inflammatory effects on the incidence of gastric cancer, as discovered in 2016 in early research out of Japan.
There are many natural cancer treatments that have been effective in aiding treatment, so if you’re at risk of developing this disease, it’s wise to use paprika as one ingredient in a cancer-prevention lifestyle.
4. Potentially Useful in the Treatment of Diabetes
Like many nutrient-rich foods and spices, paprika seems to have the potential to help regulate blood sugar levels and assist in treating diabetes. When patients with diabetes consume paprika containing capsaicin, they better process the digestion and processing of sugars in the blood. In addition, women with diabetes also tend to birth babies too large for their gestational ages, and capsaicin supplementation decreases the incidence of this as well.
5. Good for the Eyes
Because of the large amount of antioxidants present in this spice, such as vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin, it’s already clear that paprika benefits you by helping prevent diseases that damage your eyes.
In addition to these nutrients, the existence of vitamin B6 in paprika also helps keep your eyes healthy. People who consume high amounts of B6 see a slower onset of macular degeneration and other eye-related diseases, especially when consumed with large quantities of folate.
6. Keeps Your Heart Strong
Spicing up your life with paprika helps keep your heart and cardiovascular system in good shape. Vitamin B6 helps lower high blood pressure and heal damaged blood vessels. It even treats anemia by creating hemoglobin in the blood responsible for transporting oxygen through the bloodstream.
Paprika also contains capsanthin, which is touted, according to one study, as the main carotenoid in the spice. Little, however, is known about this antioxidant, especially in comparison to the other common antioxidants. As more research is done, one source found that capsanthin in paprika caused an increase in good HDL cholesterol, which is another way paprika can keep your cardiovascular system working well.
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