Yes, Paprika is Paleo!
Paprika is a member of the Capsicum family of peppers including hot peppers, chilli peppers and bell peppers. It is deep red orange in color and has a powerful, mild-spicy taste. Paprika is made by drying and grinding combination of pepper plants, hence the variety of colors. It is mainly used to add color and flavor to savory dishes. Depending on the pepper used, the level of hotness can range from mildy to spicy.
A native in central Mexico, usage of paprika has spread to Spain and other surrounding countries. It is the national spice of Hungary and is the main ingredient in goulash and paprikash. Paprika is also used to spice chorizo, sausages, chicken, meats and other Hungarian cuisines. It can also be used to sprinkle rice, stews and soups.
Types and Grades of Paprika
Paprika is commonly sourced from Hungary and is available in different types and grades. The common types of paprika are Spanish, Smoked and Hungarian. Spanish paprika is less spicy compared to Hungarian variety. Its level of hotness can range from mildly hot, sweet, medium hot and spicy. Smoked paprika is called Pimenton and is made by drying chillies over wood fires that gives its smokey, woody flavor. Hungarian paprika is the most commonly used variety. It is made from sorted, toasted and blended peppers. They are mild to deep red in color and have a sweet, spicy flavor.
There are 8 grades of Hungarian paprika:
- Kulonleges – The mildest among all varieties of paprika. It has a very sweet taste with a deep bright red color.
- Csiposmentes Csemege – The delicate variety. It is a mild paprika with a rich flavor and color ranging from light to dark red.
- Csemege Paprika – Quite similar to the delicate paprika but is more pungent.
- Edesnemes – It is the noble sweet variety of paprika with a slightly pungent taste. It has a bright red color and is also the most commonly exported paprika.
- Csipos Csemege – Another similar variety to the delicate one but with more pungent and hot taste.
- Feledes – Half sweet paprika with a blend of mild and medium pungent paprikas.
- Rosza – Pale colored paprika with a mild pungent taste and strong aroma.
- Eros – The strongest and spiciest among all the grades of paprika. It is light brown in color.
Nutritional Profile of Paprika
Paprika is an aggressive spice that is packed with fundamental vitamins and minerals. Even a small amount of it delivers nutrients and antioxidants. Paprika is rich in vitamins A, B6, C, and E. It also contains significant amounts of iron, manganese, magnesium and potassium.
The color of paprika comes from its carotenoids. The yellow color comes from beta carotene, zeaxanthin and lutein while the red colors come from capsanthin. Capsaicin is responsible for the hotness of paprika and is also known for its many health benefits.
Health Benefits of Paprika
Paprika is a spice that offers amazing health benefits. Not only that it gives flavor to dishes, it also provides proper nutrition when combined to other foods.
Paprika contains more than twice the amount of vitamin C compared to oranges. Both vitamins C and E are found in paprika and are natural antioxidants that protect the body from harmful effects of free radicals.
Paprika contains vitamin A in the form of carotenoids beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin that act as antioxidants. All four of them can prevent many diseases and lutein and zeaxanthin in particular are good for eye health reducing risks of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
The essential vitamins and minerals in paprika can protect against heart diseases such as heart attack and stroke. Vitamin E is found to prevent damage in the heart caused by free radicals. Minerals magnesium, iron and potassium can purify the blood and improve heart health by avoiding blood clotting. Capsaicin, the substance that gives paprika its spicy taste can help in lowering blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels.
Paprika is also rich in Vitamin B6. It enables enzymes in the body perform their functions well, breaking down fats and converting carbs to glucose, therefore creating energy. Paprika is known to be a stimulant and energy booster.
As a stimulant, paprika aids in digestion by normalizing the acids in the stomach and boosting saliva production. Paprika is often used to treat indigestion.
Antibacterial and Anti-inflammatory Properties
A protein found in paprika has antibacterial properties that inhibit growth of bacteria like E.coli and salmonella. Paprika also has anti-inflammatory properties that can relieve swelling caused by joint pains and arthritis.
Caution on Paprika
Paprika belongs to the nightshade family including tomatoes, potatoes and other peppers. Not all people suffer from nighshade sensitivity but if you are one of the few who does, might as well limit consumption to avoid adverse effects such as inflammation and digestive problems.
All you ever wanted to know about Paprika and Paleo
Robb Wolf. The Paleo Table: 8 herbs & spices you should get to
Paleo Porn. Is Paprika Paleo?
Livestrong. The Benefits of Paprika
SFGate. Why Is Paprika Good for Health?
Healthy Eating. The Nest. The Benefits of Paprika
ECellulitis. 12 Amazing Benefits of Paprika
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photo credit: Whirling Phoenix Paprika Crazy!