Parsley is a very special herb that’s loaded with nutritional benefits. It’s often overlooked because of the herb’s use as a garnish and spice - one doesn’t often consume an entire half-cup of parsley in a single sitting, which is the serving size typically used for counting nutrients.
What’s so special about parsley?
Despite the typical ‘serving size’ of parsley being half a cup - quite an absurd amount of parsley for one to eat - the plant is so densely packed with nutrients that you can reap some benefits even if you just consider the herb to be a garnish. Nutritional benefits become apparent at doses as little as two teaspoons.
Parsley is one of the highest sources of vitamin K in the world, and this vitamin, on its own, produces a lot of health benefits. This means that even the half tablespoon of parsley that garnishes the top of your bowl of soup, can be strong enough to provide a positive change for your future health.
Aside from vitamins and nutrients, parsley also contains a huge amount of plant based nutrients. These include antioxidants and other phytonutrients that can impact health. They are present, in notable amounts, in as little as half a teaspoon of fresh parsley!
Health Benefits of Parsley
Parsley has a pretty hefty list of health benefits, that span quite a varied spectrum of effects. Parsley contains nutrients that fight things like diabetes, yet it still conains enough minerals to help the body structure its bones properly. Parsley also helps in preventing the onset of various diseases.
Some of the effects will become apparent by simply adding parsley into your diet as a garnish. However, not all nutrients are present in such high amounts as the ones responsible for these low-dose health benefits.
You may have to consume parsley as a garnish on almost every meal, or simply consume large amounts of the fresh herb, to see certain effects. Considering the relatively cheap price of parsley, this isn’t difficult to do.
1. Parsley has a strong and varied nutritional profile.
Parsley has a lot more nutrients than most people would suspect, given the fact that it’s far more well known for its use as a garnish, not a health food. Each serving of half a cup - about 30 grams - contains the following nutrients in significant enough proportions to have noticeable effects on health. On top of that, a half cup of parsley only contains eleven calories and next-to no sugar, giving it a very, very low glycemic index.
Vitamin K - 554% of your daily recommended intake (D.R.I.)No, that’s not a typo. Even more surprisingly, that’s not a particularly high content of vitamin K when compared to vegetables like kale, containing over a thousand percent of your DRI, or spinach, containing just under 1000%. Foods high in vitamin K are high in vitamin K - parsley’s the seventh highest provider of vitamin K in the natural world, about twice as potent as broccoli and brussel sprouts. Vitamin K is a nutrient that’s a key component of blood that clots properly. Blood clotting is required for the healing and closure of wounds - blood clotting allows the wound to grow sticky and ‘glue’ itself shut.
Vitamin C - 54% of your D.R.I.Vitamin C seems to be the most popular vitamin in the modern world. This is for a good reason! Vitamin C acts as a potent antioxidant itself. It’s also used in the production of collagen, the main hormone responsible for the development of healthy, strong skin.
Furthermore, vitamin C is required for the production of key neurotransmitters - compounds that your brain cells (neurons) use to transmit messages that can regulate your mental & physical health.
Vitamin A - 14% of your D.R.I.Vitamin A is actually the name of a group of compounds. Each one can individually be referred to as vitamin A, though each contains its own set of nutritional benefits. Of the components that make up vitamin A, parsley contains
Vitamin A RAE (retinol activity equivalents) - 128 micrograms
Vitamin A Retinol Equivalents - 257 micrograms
Beta-carotene - 1536 micrograms
Lutein and zeaxanthin - 1690 micrograms
These components, while not identical in function, generally help bolster the health of the eyes, skin, and tissues in the body. The carotenoids also function as antioxidants in the body.
Folate - 12% of your D.R.I.
Folate is a part of the B complex, and has undergone tons of research in recent years. It’s proven to have a huge impact on human health, as deficiencies can be devastating. Just like folate is part of the B complex, folate describes a bunch of different micronutrients that, in this article, can all be referred to as folate.
Folate is particularly useful in helping the nervous system function and communicate effectively. Deficiency of the nutrient can wreak havoc on your nervous system, which can negatively impact your entire body. It also helps your cardiovascular system function effectively.
Iron - 10% of your D.R.I.
Iron is a mineral that helps your body effectively transport oxygen. Oxygen’s present in every tissue in our body, and we require a constant, flowing supply of it to function properly. Oxygen is transported by red blood cells, and these aren’t going to be produced reliably without iron. Hemoglobin, the protein inside red blood cells that actually moves the oxygen, requires iron. Iron also helps your body produce energy by maintaining proper metabolism and muscle function.
This isn’t the most varied profile of vitamins and minerals, but this is hardly everything healthy that’s contained in a bunch of parsley. These vitamins work together with antioxidants and phytochemicals to produce the nutritional backbone of parsley. We’ll detail these other nutrients in a bit.
Conclusion: Parsley has an incredible nutritional profile. There are a lot of different vitamins and minerals that work together to fight off various diseases. They also help your body with its everyday functions, making you a more efficient, stronger being.
2. Parsley has a wide array of antioxidants
In addition to the flavonoids listed above, parsley is filled with antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent oxidative damage and eliminate the development and survival of free radicals. Free radicals are the result of oxidative damage, and consist of atoms missing an electron in their outer shell. These will actively work to steal electrons from nearby atoms, creating a chain reaction that can damage tissues and cause cancer.
Some of the vitamins described earlier function as antioxidants - vitamins C and A, in particular.
Beta-carotene is a fat soluble antioxidant that's responsible for giving vegetables pigments. Beta-carotene is what makes carrots orange, and also what's responsible for helping improve eyesight and maintain healthy vision.Beta-carotene's also been indicated to help fight asthma and osteoarthritis. Furthermore, beta-carotene is a prodrug for vitamin A - meaning that it's quickly metabolized into vitamin A once consumed.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are the two other antioxidants present in carrots that help fight degenerative eyesight.
These are the most commonly studied antioxidants present in parsley. They have proven again and again to be beneficial, beyond simple speculation.
Conclusion: Parsley is a great source of several strong antioxidants that are shown to be effective cancer fighters. Parsley’s particularly potent in its action in the tissues of the eyeball, and can help you with your eyesight,
3. Parsley can improve heart health
Among the nutrients in parsley, folic acid is particularly effective at fighting heart disease. Folic acid is a B vitamin that has a number of different functions, but one of its most important uses is fighting cardiovascular disease.
Folic acid helps the body convert homocysteine into an inactive compound. High concentrations of homocysteine can do intense damage to your veins and arteries, and have a negative impact on the chance of getting heart disease or having strokes. For those already suffering from atherosclerosis or other diseases of the cardiovascular system, high amounts of homocysteine can be incredibly destructive.
Folic acid also helps your cells proliferate properly, which can prevent cancer - particularly in areas of the body where cells are known to rapidly reproduce, like the colon.
Conclusion: Anyone worried about the health of their heart should consider adding parsley to their diet. It has been shown to contain a number of nutrients that help the heart by making its job easier, and making it stronger.
4. Parsley can help fight arthritis
A study that was published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases took a study group of more than 20,000 people. The subjects didn't have arthritis at the start of the study, and as the study progressed, those who developed arthritis were evaluated in comparison to those who did not. It became clear that the higher your intake of vitamin C, the less likely you were to develop arthritis. The group with the highest rate of consumption had three times less of a chance to develop arthritis when compared to those who consumed very little.
Conclusion: Parsley has been studied for it ability to fight arthritis. It is suggested that its high vitamin C content is responsible for this.
5. Parsley Provides Some Unique Benefits
Parsley contains a few compounds that are quite uncommon among plant foods. It contains a number of volatile oils, which label parsley as a chemoprotective - meaning it protects against cancer. It does this by reducing the effect of various carcinogens. These oils include:
Myristicin activates the production of glutathione, and helps glutathione in its prevention of free radical production by attaching to oxidized components in the body. Glutathione is considered to be one of the most important antioxidants in the development and health of organic life.
Limonene has been shown to reduce the symptoms of cancer and prevent its growth, along with helping weight loss.
There are also some unique flavonoids present in parsley. Flavonoids are a subtype of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that's widely present in plant foods.
Apigenin is a bioflavonoid that can reduce stress and anxiety. It is also useful for fighting cancer.
Luteolin helps fight and prevent the growth of cancer.
Conclusion: Parsley is full of phytonutrients that can fight cancer and help the body function better. Consuming it regularly is a good idea for those who worry about cancer.
6. Parsley can help fight cancer
Aside from the compounds we have just described, parsley contains many cancer-fighting agents.
Myricetin, the flavonoid which has shown up several times in this article, is effective at fighting cancer. Parsley is among the highest plant sources of myricetin in the world, right next to sweet potatoes and cranberries. It's not the only compound present in parsley that helps limit the disease's spread, though!
Chlorophyll - the plant compound that's responsible for the process of photosynthesis - has been studied for its effects at limiting carcinogenic amines and preventing them from doing damage. Heterocyclic amines are produced when cooking foods at extreme temperatures. Particularly high in charred foods, heterocyclic amines are a dangerous source of carcinogenic activity.
Another compound found in parsley, known as apigenin, has been proven effective at reducing the size of tumours in people suffering from breast cancer. So potent were its effects that the medical community is considering using an extracted form for the development of an organic, non-toxic remedy for cancer.
Conclusion: There have been numerous studies done on parsley’s effects at fighting various forms of cancer. It repeatedly proves its efficacy.
7. Parsley can fight against diabetes
Myricetin, again, is very helpful in terms of this health effect. Myricetin has shown to reduce resistance to insulin in animals. Furthermore, it's an anti-inflammatory, and can reduce blood fats, leading to easier blood circulation. this prevents high-blood pressure and allows sugar and carbs to be transported easier.
Research was also done on rats in this regard. Rats were given regular supplements of parsley, and their blood sugar routinely studied. These experiments showed that parsley decreased blood glucose levels over the study period.
Conclusion: Parsley is a good food for those who want to prevent the onset of diabetes. It does this by reducing inflammation related to the illness, and more importantly, by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
8. Parsley is useful for the development of strong bones
Parsley's an extremely good source of vitamin K. Vitamin K deficiency has been linked to weak bones. Vitamin K positively affects the proteins that make up the matrix of bones, as well as improving the absorption and excretion of calcium.
Vitamin C also helps build strong bones. Collagen - the skin’s maintenance hormone that we discussed earlier, which requires vitamin C to proliferate- also helps build the scaffold of our bones. Without collagen, our bones will be structurally unsound, weak, and vulnerable to fractures and breaks.
Another mineral responsible for the body to produce a healthy, reliable amount of collagen, is copper. Copper deficiency isn’t uncommon - as many as one in four Americans may be affected by lack of copper. It can also be difficult to get healthy amounts of this nutrient, since not many vegetables are good sources of copper.. A full D.R.I. of copper everyday will vastly enhance the structure of one’s bones and tissues.
Conclusion: Parsley contains a number of vitamins and minerals that help the body develop strong bones. Several of these work to produce collagen, the body's skin maintenance hormone which also happens to regulate the development of strong bones. Vitamin K directly affects the bone matrix and adds strength and shape.
9. Parsley helps the body’s speed, function and efficacy
Vitamin K has a few extra nutritional benefits packed away. These benefits aren’t as well-known or studied as the rest of them, but they’re certainly showing good results.
Vitamin K deficiency can eventually lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease; supplementing will prevent this.
Vitamin K makes the body more sensitive to insulin, lowering the risk of having blood sugar spikes and preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes
Vitamin K speeds up the speed at which bruises heal
Vitamin K is fat soluble, so to reap its benefits, make sure you mix your parsley with something containing an oil or fat.
Conclusion: Vitamin K is a highly useful, highly underrated vitamin that bolsters a lot of the body’s functions. Being deficient in this vitamin can have huge side effects.
10. Parsley is an anti-inflammatory and can lower joint pain
There are several compounds in parsley that act as anti-inflammatory agents. Again, myricetin is effective in this regard. Arthritis is caused by excessive inflammation, and its effects can be modulated by consuming anti-inflammatories.
It has been suggested that almost every disease is, at least in part, caused by inflammation in some way. Inflammation is the body's natural immune response to certain threats, but it is easy for the immune system to receive mixed messages which results in unnecessary inflammation.
Conclusion: One of parsley’s pronounced benefits is that of being an anti-inflammatory. This can help limit the pain associated with arthritis and joint disease.
11. Parsley is a great diuretic
Parsley has a couple of mechanisms that are hardly used, despite their studied efficacy. Parsley’s use as a diuretic is often overlooked. A combination of nutrients are responsible for this effect: vitamins A and C, the huge beta-carotene content, potassium, iron, magnesium, and calcium. On top of being a diuretic, these minerals also help freshen your breath.
Parsley’s most effective as a diuretic when drunk in a tea. The minerals flushes the kidneys by causing us to urinate. This diuretic action can help the kidneys function better by lowering their workload and helping the body detoxify itself.
Parsley’s nutrients also help the body clear out extra mucus, and any parasites that may be living alongside that mucus. In doing so, it bolsters the body’s abilities to receive nutrients by increasing the flow of liquid through our bodies.
Conclusion: Parsley is a great herb for flushing your urinary system and helping ease the strain your kidneys have to deal with.
How to Select and Store for Maximum Nutrition
Of course, fresh parsley has much more nutritional benefit than dried parsley. Not only that, but it tastes a lot better - buying dried parsley won't do you any favours, unless you're hoping to keep it for a long time.
Parsley should have a deep, complete green in its pigment. If there's any yellow or wilted leaves in the bunch of parsley, try and choose another one - this is an indication of improper storage or aging.
Parsley should be refrigerated, in a plastic bag. It wilts fairly easily, but this can be somewhat countered by sprinkling it with water, or simply washing it and leaving a bit of moisture on the leaves before putting it in the fridge.
Parsley can be dried for later use, if you think it's going to go bad. You can do this a couple of ways - you can lay your parsley out on a clean cloth and leave it in a warm area. if you need it dried quickly for immediate storage or moving, you can put it on a parchment-covered baking sheet and bake at a very low temperature until the moisture evaporates. Dry parsley should be stored in a cool, dark area.
Tips for cooking and preparing parsley for maximum nutrition
While it's recommended that you sprinkle parsley with water prior to storage, it shouldn't be washed until right before its use. The leaves are very fragile and can be damaged by the washing process. Try not to apply too much direct pressure during washing - instead, put the parsley in a bowl of cold water and whisk it around gently with your hands. Keep changing the water in the bowl when it gets dirty, until you can wash the parsley without changing the water's colour.
For cooking, you'll want to use Italian flat leaf parsley. It's able to withstand temperatures better than its counterparts, but should still be added as close to the end of the cooking process as possible. The stems of parsley are just as nutritious, and can be used in place of the leaves in dishes that you don't want to turn green.
4 Amazing Recipes for You to Try
For those that don't want to make an entire parsley-based recipe (which can be hard enough to find,) you might want to consider these quick snack ideas. Incorporating parsley into your diet can be a bit tricky, since it's flavour is delicate, yet powerful enough not to want to overuse it.
Chopped parsley can be mixed with cooked bulgur, green onions, lemon juice, olive oil and mint. the result is a Middle Eastern favourite - tabouli!
Parsley's great when mixed in with pasta or potato salad. It also makes a good addition of flavour and nutrition when combined with rice.
Parsley makes a great nutritional addition to pesto. It also increases the aesthetic by deepening the green colour.
Parsley makes a great addition to vegetable based smoothies, providing a refreshing flavour. It's also good with fruit smoothies, but some might be skeptical to try this.
Parsley can be mixed with garlic and the zest from a lemon to make an awesome rub for meats.
Parsley's best known for its versatility as a garnish. Chopped parsley can be sprinkled atop soups, salads, fish - pretty much anything that'd do with a nice green addition.
Parsley's best known for its versatility as a garnish. Chopped parsley can be sprinkled atop soups, salads, fish - pretty much anything that'd do with a nice green addition.
Chimichurri is the highlight of this recipe! Michurri is a South American creation that's somewhat akin to pesto. It has a deeper flavour, slightly more earthy - and also packs a lot more nutrition.
This recipe’s a quick one, taking about half an hour - including the creation of the chimichurri. Better yet, the resulting product is so fragrant, nutritious, and memorable, that this surely won’t be the only time you cook this meal.
You will need:
For the shrooms:
3 or 4 portobello mushrooms with no stem
A third of a cup of balsamic vinegar
A quarter cup of olive oil
Half a teaspoon of cumin
Half a teaspoon of pepper
Quarter teaspoon of paprika
3 cloves of garlic
For the chimichurri
One and a half cups of parsley
Three cloves of garlic
A quarter teaspoon of red pepper
Three or four tablespoons of olive oil
Three tablespoons of lemon juice
Half teaspoons of salt and pepper
Put your portobellos, once they’re washed, in a baking dish or a big freezer bag.
With your mushrooms set aside, mince your garlic, then add to a bowl. Then, you can whisk your balsamic, your olive oil, cumin, pepper, and paprika into the mix. Adjust the flavour with more spices if you need.
Put this sauce on your mushrooms. I prefer to use a pastry brush, ensuring that each side gets covered. Marinate for five minutes on each side.
While it’s marinating, get your chimichurri ready. Finely chop your parsley, garlic, and shallots. Mix them in a bowl. You can adjust the flavour with spices if you feel the need - lemon juice can improve acidity and add tang if that fits your palate,
Heat up a big pan over medium. Cook each mushroom for two or three minutes on each side. This should be enough time for them to caramelize - they’ll be a nice golden brown when they're ready. If you have any marinade left over, you can brush it on during the cooking process.
Top the portobellos with your chimichurri.
2. Spring Parsley-Watercress Soup
This soup turns out a fantastic green colour, mixed with a fitting, earthly flavour and a whole lot of nutritional value. It’s quite an intricate recipe, but when done properly, shouldn’t take more than half an hour ago. The recipe says it can make up to eight servings, but also suggests just making one large bowl and eating it all yourself.
You will need:
Two tablespoons of olive oil
Two tablespoons of chives
Two bunches of parsley
Two bunches of watercress
Four cups of veggie or chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Start by prepping your vegetables. Chop your chives, wash & chop your parsley, chop your watercress. You can use this recipe to fry your parsley.
In a medium pot, heat up your oil. Begin cooking your scallions and chives with the salt & pepper. They should cook in just under 5 minutes, with regular stirring.
Add the parsley and watercress. Cook for a couple minutes, giving an occasional stir, and then increase the temperature to high. Pour the broth into the skillet and let it boil, then lower the heat to minimum and put a lid on. Let it cook for ten minutes, then turn the heat off and let it cool for 5 minutes.
Get a blender or food processor. A blender is preferable - food processors don’t completely blend the stems of the parsley. Puree the soup, then return to the pot for heating and seasoning.
Serving suggestions: Leave it as is. The soup will be thick and fibrous - textures that healthy vegetarians might find extra appealing. The other way is to strain it through a food mill or other meshed straining utensil. This will make a much thinner product, more akin to a broth than a soup.
3. Broad bean, blue cheese & parsley pizza
This is a fantastic recipe that expands beyond the borders of traditional Italian pizza. The blue cheese adds a richness to the dough, and the beans supply a nice chunk of protein to go along with the nutrient-packed pie. The sauce is fennel-based, which adds some amazing contrast to the rest of the flavours in the meal.
You will need:
For the dough:
450 grams of white flour
Seven grams of yeast
Ten grams of salt
275 ml of tap water
For the sauce
A tablespoon of olive oil
Three garlic cloves
Five bulbs of fennel
600ml of water
100g broad beans
4 teaspoons of olive oil
32 cubes of blue cheese
4 handfuls of mozzarella
A handful of parsley
First, prepare the dough by combining the flour with the yeast and salt. Make a well in the middle of the dough and pour in the water. Mix this into a dough, then knead on a floured surface until it reaches a desired smoothness and elasticity - shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.
Put the dough in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm room for an hour, or as long as it takes to double in size.
While it’s rising, make the fennel sauce. First, prep your veggies. Slice your onions, chop your garlic, then cook them in hot oil in a skillet until they’re soft. Slice your fennel and add the slices to the pan, with your water, salt and pepper. Simmer for around 25 minutes, until the fennel is soft.
Preheat your oven to 475 fahrenheit. Blanch the beans for a couple minutes (put them in boiling water.) Drain them, rinse them, and put ‘em aside.
Divide the dough evenly into 4 pieces, then roll them to form circular pieces about 25cm in diameter. Sprinkle them with semolina, then drizzle olive oil on top. Salt to taste, then cover with fennel sauce. After the sauce is on, distribute the beans and blue cheese on top, then sprinkle the mozzarella on top of that.
Bake each one for around ten minutes until they’re crisp and golden. Garnish with parsley, and include a lemon wedge when serving.
4. Parsley Presto Pesto
This is a quick prepped pesto that delivers a lot more satisfaction than simply adding pesto to some that’s already made. Making this recipe from scratch also ensures that you receive a huge amount of nutrients - something that’s guaranteed to be diminished in premade, store bought pesto.
You will need:
A cup of fresh parsley
A cup of fresh cilantro
Two tablespoons of lime juice
Two tablespoons of non-yogurt
Two tablespoons of oil
Mix everything very well in a big bowl. After it’s mixed, blend in a food processor for a couple minutes. Make sure you scrape the sides. If you want to have more garlic flavour, you can add the cloves through the funnel of the processor.