Paprika is a spice made from ground, dried fruits of Capsicum annuum, either bell pepper or chili pepper varieties or mixtures thereof. Paprika is often associated with Hungary, as it is commonplace in Hungarian cuisine. Spain and Portugal introduced Capsicum annuum to the Old World from the Americas. Spanish pimentón, as it is known there, often has a smoky flavor because of how the Spanish dry it. The seasoning is used in many cuisines to add color and flavor to dishes, but it is usually associated with Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Morocco, and South Africa.
The use of paprika expanded from Iberia throughout Africa and Asia, and ultimately reached Central Europe through the Balkans, which were under Ottoman rule, explaining the Hungarian origin of the modern English term. In Spanish, paprika has been known as pimentón since the 1500s, when it became a typical ingredient of the western region of Extremadura. Despite its presence in Central Europe since the beginning of Ottoman conquests, it did not become popular in Hungary until the late 19th century.
Central European paprika was hot until the 1920s, when a Szeged breeder found one plant that produced sweet fruit. This was grafted onto other plants. Nowadays, paprika can range from mild to hot, and flavors also vary from country to country, but almost all the plants grown produce the sweet variety. The sweet paprika is mostly pericarp with more than half of the seeds removed, whereas hot paprika contains some seeds, placentas, calyxes, and stalks.In many European languages, but not in English, the word paprika also or only refers to the Capsicum fruit itself.
According to the USDA, 1tbsp (6.8g) of paprika has the following nutritional content: Calories :19, Fat : 0.88g, Carbohydrates : 3.67g, Fiber: 2.4g, Protein: 0.96g
Vitamin A: Vitamin A actually refers to several related compounds, including a group called carotenoids. Paprika has four carotenoids: beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. All four function as antioxidants, but the first two are converted into the form of vitamin A that is used in the eyes to turn light into vision and is needed to produce the protein that makes skin. As antioxidants, carotenoids prevent cellular damage that can lead to chronic health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and arthritis. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the primary antioxidants found in the eyes. They lower the chance of developing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects fats in the body from damage by free radicals. While it’s important to limit saturated and trans fats, you still need some healthy fats in your diet to protect nerve cells, insulate and protect organs and form the structure of every cell in your body. Molecules made from fat and protein, called lipoproteins, carry cholesterol through the bloodstream. With vitamin E protecting the fat component of lipoproteins, they are less likely to cause inflammation that contributes to heart disease. One teaspoon of paprika has 5 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin E.
Vitamin B-6: 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.
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.
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.
Carotenoids: 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.
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