8 Science-Backed Benefits of Paprika
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.
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 (2).
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 (9).
Another study in 4,519 adults likewise noted that higher intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin were associated with a decreased risk of AMD (8).
In a study in 376 adults with gastrointestinal diseases, capsaicin supplements helped prevent stomach inflammation and damage (17).
Another study in rats revealed that 10 days of capsaicin supplements decreased inflammation associated with an autoimmune nerve condition (18).
Still, specific research on paprika is needed.
Paprika may benefit your cholesterol levels.
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 (20).
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 (22).
Nonetheless, more extensive research is needed.
Numerous compounds in paprika may protect against cancer.
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 (25).
What’s more, capsaicin in paprika may inhibit cancer cell growth and survival by influencing the expression of several genes (26).
However, more extensive research is needed on this spice’s anticancer potential.
The capsaicin in paprika may help manage diabetes.
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 (30).
Still, further research is necessary.
Paprika is rich in iron and vitamin E, two micronutrients vital for healthy blood.
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 (34).
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.