Research continues to drill down into the properties of different food items to evaluate their impact on people’s health over a specified period of time. Naturally, the foods that come out on top are the one’s that protect you against a host of deadly conditions, such as heart disease and cancer. While evidence clearly shows that no single item will be a panacea, specific ingredients have been shown to provide myriad health benefits nonetheless, making them an essential component of any diet.
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One such ingredient is paprika, a ground spice made from a mixture of dried peppers in the Capsicum anuum family, including hot chili peppers, cayenne peppers, poblano peppers, aleppo peppers, sweet peppers, and others.
Here are three reasons to include paprika in your diet
May improve your cholesterol levels
Evidence suggests paprika may benefit your cholesterol levels, a key protective measure against heart disease.
Why is it important to keep cholesterol levels in check?
Cholesterol comes in two forms: LDL and HDL cholesterol, and the former is often branded the “bad” cholesterol because carrying too much of it clogs up your arteries, a mechanism that hikes your risk of having a heart attack.
HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, cancels out this harmful process by picking up the LDL cholesterol and transporting it to the liver where it is removed from the body.
It is therefore key to raise HDL cholesterol levels while lowering LDL levels, and paprika has been shown to help maintain this healthy balance.
Evidence shows that capsanthin, a pigment that gives the popular spice its red colour, may raise levels of HDL cholesterol.
The carotenoids in paprika may also help decrease levels of total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, research shows.
Total cholesterol is a measure of all the types of fat found in your blood.
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May have anticancer properties
Studies investigating the carotenoid compounds found in paprika, such as beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, have revealed they play a role in fighting oxidative stress, which is thought to increase your risk of certain cancers.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals – unstable molecules which can lead to cell and tissue damage – and antioxidants, which are thought to protect against these unstable molecules.
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 percent less likely to develop breast cancer.
What’s more, capsaicin in paprika may inhibit cancer cell growth and survival by influencing the expression of several genes, says research.
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May improve blood sugar control
Capsaicin, the active comment of paprika that gives it its spice, may help to manage diabetes, a chronic condition that is a precursor to heart disease.
How? Research suggests capsaicin may influence genes involved in blood sugar control and inhibit enzymes that break down sugar in your body. It may also improve insulin sensitivity, another key component of blood sugar control.
Improving blood sugar control is critical because unregulated blood sugar levels can lead to more serious complications, such as heart disease.
Bolstering the claims, in a four-week study in 42 pregnant women with diabetes, taking a daily 5-mg capsaicin supplement significantly decreased post-meal blood sugar levels, compared with a placebo.
Another four-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.
Other ways to lead a long life
Regular exercise also plays a critical role in longevity by protecting the mechanisms that may lead to life-threatening conditions, such as high blood pressure.
The NHS explains: “Being active and doing regular exercise will lower your blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition.”
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