Paprika originated in South America but is associated with Hungary, where much of the best paprika is produced today. It's believed that ethnic groups fleeing from the Turks introduced peppers to the Balkans and by the 17th century the first pepper plants arrived in Hungary. Within a century, paprika was used commonly in Hungarian cooking and it's the primary ingredient in the country's most famous dish: goulash. It's also used in chicken dishes and to spice meat. In Spain, paprika is used to flavour shellfish dishes, rice, tomato and green pepper salads. The Spanish, Portuguese and Turkish use it for soups, stews and casseroles, and it's often used as garnish for salads, appetisers and eggs. Paprika ranges in colour from bright red to brown, and the flavour can be anything from mildly sweet to very hot, depending on the type of pepper used. The standard paprika is sweet, while the hot paprika gives your taste buds a jolt. Paprika releases its colour and flavour when heated, so stirring it into a little hot oil before adding it to food will improve its appearance and taste.
- Paprika is jam-packed with Vitamin C, contains anti-inflammatory properties and is high in antioxidants that lower the risk of cancer.
- Paprika can help regulate blood pressure, improve circulation and increase the production of saliva and stomach acids to aid digestion.
- Contains vitamin A (four carotenoids: neta-cryptoxanthin, betacarotene, lutein and zeaxanthin) - all four function as antioxidants but the first two are converted into the form of a vitamin A that is used in the eyes to turn light into vision and is needed to produce the protein that makes skin.
- Contains Vitamin E - an antioxidant that protects fats in the body from damage by free radicals.
- Contains Vitamin B6 - One teaspoon of paprika has 4 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin B-6. Like most B vitamins, B-6 is a coenzyme. That means it must be present for about 100 other enzymes to do their jobs. These enzymes initiate biochemical reactions responsible for the creation of energy-providing glucose and the production of neurotransmitters and hemoglobin. Vitamin B-6 also removes homocysteine from the blood, which may lower the chance of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Contains Iron - In addition to carrying oxygen through the body, iron is a component in many proteins with diverse roles, including energy creation. Men gain 6 percent and women get 3 percent of their recommended daily intake of iron in 1 teaspoon of paprika.
- Contains Capsaicin - Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers that causes their heat. In laboratory experiments, capsaicin relaxes blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure, according to research published in the August 2010 issue of “Cellular Metabolism.” It is also used in topical creams to relieve pain.
You are missing an opportunity to boost flavor and nutrition if you use paprika as nothing more than an added dash of color sprinkled over deviled eggs or potato salad. You don't need to use a lot of paprika to benefit from it. Even a small amount delivers antioxidants and nutrients.