A cheap spice many of us probably have in our kitchen cupboards could hold the key to fighting off deadly diseases, research has shown.

Paprika, used to add a delicious kick to many dishes from across the world, can do more than just make food extra tasty.

According to various studies, paprika also has an overwhelming number of health properties – including protecting against heart disease and even cancer.

Paprika is a ground spice that comes from crushing up dried sweet peppers. The types of peppers used can determine how sweet or spicy it is, while some types are also smoked for additional flavour.

Luckily, adding paprika to your diet doesn’t have to be pricey. It can be bought for as little as 69p for 40 grams from supermarket Aldi.

But what are some of the health benefits? We looked at some of the research to find out more.

Cancer

Paprika contains a number of carotenoid compounds, including beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, all of which are thought to lower your risk of cancer.

This is because these compounds play a role in fighting oxidative stress – an imbalance of unstable molecules which can lead to cell and tissue damage.

One study, published in 2005, found that women with the highest blood levels of beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and total carotenoids were 25 to 35 percent less likely to develop breast cancer.

Another study from 2016, revealed that capsaicin found in paprika may inhibit cancer cell growth and survival by influencing the expression of several genes.

Heart disease

When it comes to keeping your heart and circulatory system healthy, it is vital your cholesterol levels are low.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the blood that can build up in blood vessels and cause blockages.

Studies have found that capsanthin – a carotenoid (plant chemical) in this popular spice – may raise levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, (HDL) also known as “good” cholesterol.

A two-week study found that rats fed diets with paprika and capsanthin experienced significant increases in HDL levels, compared with rats on a control diet.

Carotenoids in paprika may also help decrease levels of total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol).

In a 12-week study with 100 healthy adults, participants who took a supplement containing nine mg of paprika carotenoids per day had significantly lower LDL and total cholesterol levels than those who got a placebo.

Arthritis

Capsaicin found in paprika could further help prevent or ease arthritis symptoms.

This is because it binds to receptors on your nerve cells to reduce inflammation and pain.

It is thought this can not only aid arthritis patients but also help with nerve damage and digestive issues.

Paprika is also packed with vitamin A, which is vital for your immune health, vision, fertility and cell growth.

And it has a good level of iron and vitamin E, working as an antioxidant, supporting skin health and helping against anaemia.

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