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Of spices and screens

Contributor • 5 min read
Of spices and screens
This week: Can paprika cure some ills? And how to keep dry eyes at bay
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This week: Can paprika cure some ills? And how to keep dry eyes at bay

Paprika is set to spice up our lives with global market growth of nearly 5.8% by 2026, according to researchers in the US, who foresee an increased appetite for this mildly

spicy condiment. As well as being used in food, the spice is likely to make its way into some unexpected products, like day creams and medicines.

Some of paprika’s medicinal virtues are already known, such as its power to unblock sinuses or to clean the pores of the skin. However, the spice appears to have many other properties, from anti-oxidant to anti-inflammatory and even anti-depressant. Manufacturers are increasingly looking to these qualities, with a slew of new cosmetics in the pipeline, according to a report from Research & Markets. Accord- ing to the analysts, demand for paprika is set to grow in the coming years, especially due to the recently discovered anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties of the ingredient.

Where does paprika come from?

And when it comes to food, consumer demand for spicy flavors is also likely to drive demand for paprika. In 2019 alone, the global paprika market accrued almost $458.1 million. The spice could also find use as a natural coloring agent for new foodstuffs.

Whether for marinades, adding flavor to a bowl of cooked rice, or for tandoori chicken, paprika is a spice-rack essential. But did you know that the spice is made from a type of pepper originating in the Americas? Its mildly spicy flavor was introduced to Europe by Spanish colonists.

However, paprika is now also made in Hungary, where it is used to flavour traditional dishes like goulash. The Hungar- ian population developed a taste for paprika during the Napoleonic wars, when it was used as a substitute for pepper, an inexpensive way to add flavor to dishes. In Serbia, the ingredient is celebrated every fall in the village of Donja Lokošni- ca, in the south of the Balkan country, where life revolves around these little red peppers.

Staring at a screen all day? Tips for keeping dry eye at bay
Although screens are not the only cause of visual fatigue and dry eye syndrome, they are increasingly contributing to the ailment, which affects millions of people worldwide. Lockdown conditions have not helped either, as working from home often goes hand-in-hand with increased screen time. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to help prevent the problem.

Have you ever noticed your eyes feeling dry? While this symptom alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re suffering from dry eye syndrome, it indicates a certain visual fatigue, and generally also a deficit in tear production. If this dry feeling is accompanied by tingling, itching or dis- comfort in the eyes, or your eyelids are sticking together — especially on waking — then you are almost certainly suffering from dry eye.

Dry eye occurs when the quantity and/ or quality of tears produced is insufficient to lubricate and nourish the eye. Several causes can contribute to the condition, such as air conditioning, pollution, wearing contact lenses and ageing.

However, the ailment is also no doubt becoming more frequent due to the increase in time spent looking at screens, especially with the onset and subsequent boom of social media and streaming sites like Netflix. The University of Iowa Health Care recently stated that looking at screens (computers, tablets, TVs, smartphones) can decrease our overall blink rate by 33%, increasing the risk of dryness.

See Also: Screen time ruins social skills, or does it?

Take a break, check the humidity

A few simple things can help prevent — or at least limit — the risk of getting dry eye. Cutting down on screen time would be the ideal solution but, as many countries head back into lockdown, it may be more realistic to adopt some good hab- its that won’t stop you from working or studying from home.

First, a good work setup is essential. This ideally involves placing your computer screen at least 70 cm from your face and, if possible, below eye level so that you do not need to keep your eyes wide open constantly. Next, take a break every 20 minutes to look at something else and blink your eyes a few times. That’s also a good idea when you’re reading for long periods of time. It may seem obvious, but few of us actually put that into practice to give our eyes a break.

Screens aside, you should air your home regularly and maintain good humidity levels. Try to avoid all types of drafts and airflow, whether from a hair dryer or air conditioning. Steer clear of cigarette smoke too.

Rubbing your eyes or eyelids should be avoided, particularly during a pandemic, since many scientists consider this a potential source of contamination. Artificial tears or eye drops can offer relief from dry eye. However, medical advice should be sought if the condition persists.

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