Paprika is an aggressive spice -- not only does it give food a sweet and spicy kick, but it also packs a nutritional punch. Typically sold as a red powder, paprika is made by grinding and drying whole peppers. As this includes the rainbow of bell and chilli peppers, paprika can come in a range of flavors, colors and levels of spiciness.
Paprika is a potent source of vitamin A. Adding 1 tablespoon of this delicious spice to your meal provides you with 167 micrograms of vitamin A. Despite containing only 19 calories and less than 1 gram of fat, this small amount of paprika provides nearly one-fourth of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A. Also known as retinol, vitamin A is important for good eyesight, healthy skin, normal immune functioning, bone formation and wound healing.
Free radicals are nasty compounds in your body that cause damage to otherwise healthy cells. Luckily, you have a secret weapon on your side: antioxidants. By reducing the damage caused by free radicals, vitamin E and other antioxidants can help to slow the aging process and reduce your risk of developing heart disease and cancer. Vitamin E is also important for blood health, as it plays a role in producing red blood cells and forming clots when you are cut. With 13.5 percent of your daily vitamin E in 1 tablespoon, paprika is an excellent source of this compound.
All B vitamins help to fuel your body by breaking down fats and protein and converting carbohydrates to glucose. Although not a great source of most B vitamins, 1 tablespoon of paprika contains 11.2 percent of your daily vitamin B-6. In addition to the general benefits of the B-complex vitamins, vitamin B-6 has some powerful neurological and psychological benefits. By contributing to the production of melatonin, for example, vitamin B-6 helps you to maintain a normal sleep cycle. It can also boost your body's serotonin and norepinephrine levels, both of which help you to stay happy and stress-free.
The color of paprika comes from its high content of carotenoids. Your body can convert some of these compounds, such as beta-carotene, to vitamin A. Carotenoids also act as antioxidants, thus boosting the vitamin E benefits of paprika. In addition to these supporting roles, the carotenoids in paprika can delay the gradual deterioration of your eyesight as you age. To fully reap the benefits of carotenoids, you should always combine paprika with a source of fats. For example, you can boost your carotenoid intake by tossing chopped vegetables in paprika, herbs and olive oil before roasting. For a uniquely zesty, savory and carotenoid-rich snack, you can also try topping lightly buttered popcorn with smoked paprika.
- Handbook of Spices, Seasonings, and Flavorings, Second Edition; Susheela Raghavan
- U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Spices, Paprika
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin A (Retinol)
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Antioxidant Supplements for Health: An Introduction
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin E
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
- Linus Pauling Institute: Carotenoids
Matthew Lee has been writing professionally since 2007. Past and current research projects have explored the effect of a diagnosis of breast cancer on lifestyle and mental health and adherence to lifestyle-based (i.e. nutrition and exercise) and drug therapy treatment programs. He holds a Master of Arts in psychology from Carleton University and is working toward his doctorate in health psychology.