Parsley is an herb we commonly use to garnish our dishes. This versatile herb is often used to add flavor to soups, salads, and steaks. However, there is much more to parsley than making your dish look beautiful and flavorful. This Mediterranean herb is low in calories and high in nutrition.
People have used it for several centuries to treat arthritis, anemia, cancer, and regulate menstrual flow. In this article, we will learn more about parsley and review its many health benefits.
What is parsley?
Parsley is a flowering plant that belongs to the Apiaceae family. It is native to the Mediterranean region but now grown all over the world as an herb, spice, and vegetable. This biennial plant is widely used in European, Middle Eastern, and American cuisine.
There are three varieties of parsley. The curly leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum) has fresh, crispy, tightly bunched, bright green leaves. It is used as a garnish in Europe and western Asia.
The flat-leaf parsley (Petroselinum neapolitanum) has a delicate sawtoothed leaf pattern. It has a stronger flavor, and people use it in soups, stews, and casseroles. Hamburg parsley is a cross between celery and parsley. It has a strong flavor, and you can add it to soups, stews, gratins and vegetable purees.
History of parsley
Petroselinum, the botanical name of parsley, comes from the Greek word ‘petro’ which means rock. Parsley was usually found growing on the rocky hillsides in Greece. Though the ancient Greeks did not use parsley for cooking, they revered it as a symbol of death and oblivion.
They used this herb to fashion wreaths for graves. According to a Greek legend, parsley sprang up where the blood of the Greek hero Archemorus was spilled when he was eaten up by serpents.
The Romans used parsley to aid in digestion and also to cover the smell of alcohol on their breaths. Corpses were also sprinkled with parsley to deodorize them. The Greeks also made crowns of parsley to bestow upon winners of the Nemana and Isthmian sports games. There were many superstitions surrounding parsley.
It was believed that these seeds have a long germination period because they have to travel to hell and back seven times before they sprout.
Nutritional value of parsley
One cup (60 grams) of parsley contains (1)-
- Calories- 6
- Carbohydrates- 8 grams
- Proteins- 8 grams
- Fat- .5 grams
- Fiber- 2 grams
- Vitamin A- 5055 IU (101% DV)
- Vitamin C- 8 mg (133% DV)
- Vitamin K- 984 mcg (1230% DV)
- Folate- 2 mcg (23% DV)
- Calcium- 8 mg (8% DV)
- Iron- 7 mg (21% DV)
- Potassium- 332 mg (9% DV)
Health benefits of parsley
1. Rich in antioxidants
Parsley contains many antioxidants that are beneficial for health. It contains flavonoids, carotenoids, and vitamin C. The two main flavonoids present in parsley are myricetin and apigenin. These flavonoids help lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Vitamin C also plays a vital role in supporting immunity and protecting against chronic diseases.
During a study by The Institute of Food Safety and Toxicology, the participants were given a diet low in antioxidants, which increased their oxidative stress. Later, when participants were given a high quantity of parsley in their diet, their stress markers decreased significantly (2). Dried parsley is higher in antioxidants than fresh sprigs. According to one study, the dried herb has 17 times more antioxidants than its fresh counterpart.
2. Prevents diabetes
Parsley is used in traditional Turkish medicine to treat diabetes. Recent research has also shown that it can help to lower blood sugar levels. According to a study by Istanbul University, when parsley extract was given to male diabetic rats, it helped reduce their blood glucose levels (3).
During another study, when rats with diabetes were given parsley extracts, it reduced their blood sugar levels and improved their pancreatic function (4). Parsley contains a flavonol called myricetin, which is known to prevent and treat diabetes. According to a 2012 study, myricetin has several properties that contribute to the prevention of diabetes mellitus and its complications (5).
3. Fights cancer
Parsley contains several beneficial compounds like myricetin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene, which help fight cancer by slowing tumor growth, reducing oxidative stress and fighting off carcinogens. Some animal-based studies have shown that myricetin can help prevent breast cancer (6). Apigenin, a flavone found in parsley, has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties. It can reduce tumor size in an aggressive form of breast cancer (7).
Parsley can also minimize the cancer-causing effects of heterocyclic amines. These chemical compounds are created when you grill meat at high temperatures. Add fresh parsley to your grilled steak to reduce its harmful effects.
4. Improves bone health
Vitamin K is essential for calcium absorption and managing calcium excretion in the body. Vitamin K deficiency can increase your risk of bone fractures. Parsley is an excellent source of vitamin K. One cup of parsley 1230% of your daily need for vitamin K. Parsley also contains vitamin C, which is needed for collagen formation. Collagen provides support to bones and makes them less vulnerable to fractures. Parsley also contains other bone-building nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin D.
5. Improves digestion
Parsley can also aid digestion and reduce bloating. The leaves of parsley are carminative, which means they prevent the formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract. They also facilitate the expulsion of gas and reduce bloating.
According to Ayurveda, parsley essential oil increases bile production and the production of other gastric juices which improve the absorption of food. You can add parsley essential oil to your bath or rub it on to your stomach for relief.
You can also use parsley can as a natural breath freshener. Its fresh scent and high chlorophyll content have a deodorizing effect. Its antibacterial properties help inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria in the mouth. Just munch of a sprig of fresh parsley to get rid of bad breath.
7. Boosts immunity
Parsley is a rich source of antioxidants, including vitamin C, and A. Vitamin C plays an important role in maintaining a healthy gut environment, which helps boost immunity. Vitamin C also helps to lower inflammation, which helps prevent diseases like atherosclerosis, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. Parsley also contains beta carotene. Beta carotene protects the body from free radicals that can lead to many ailments.
8. Fights off heart disease
Parsley contains carotenoid antioxidants that improve heart health by reducing the risk of heart disease. Foods rich in carotenoids decrease chronic inflammation elevated blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, which helps to reduce the risk of heart disease (8).
A 12-year study on 73286 nurses found that higher intakes of foods rich in alpha-carotene and beta-carotene are associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease (9). Parsley also contains folate, which is beneficial for heart health.
Folate helps maintain healthy levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine can damage the blood vessels and cause heart attacks. Fresh parsley is the best source of folate.
9. Improves eye health
Parsley contains carotenoids like lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin which have potent antioxidant activity. Lutein and zeaxanthin prevent age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness. Beta carotene is converted into vitamin A inside the body. Parsley is a good source of vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for the eyes as it prevents dryness, night blindness, and cataracts (10).
10. Antibacterial and antifungal
Parsley has potent antibacterial and antifungal properties that help fight infection and clear up fungal infections. According to a 2010 study, parsley extract showed significant antibacterial activity against natural microflora, coliforms, yeast and molds, and S. aureus (11). Parsley extract can also prevent the growth of listeria and salmonella, which are known to cause food poisoning (12, 13).
11. Improves skin
Parsley can improve skin and protect it from the harmful effects of UV rays. It is rich in vitamin C, which makes collagen and gives the skin its structure and strength. This process helps in getting rid of fine lines and wrinkles. It contains beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body.
Vitamin A helps to speed up the healing process and help to treat wounds and wrinkles. The antibacterial and antifungal properties of parsley help prevent acne, pimples, and other skin infections. Parsley also helps to balance your sebum production.
12. Aids kidney health
Parsley helps keep the kidneys healthy by fighting inflammation, reducing high blood pressure, and reducing the risk of kidney stones. According to a 2017 study, when rats with kidney stones were treated with parsley, it decreased urinary calcium extraction, increased urinary pH, dieresis, decreased urinary protein excretion, and nephroprotective activity (14).
13. Balances hormones
Parsley tea is commonly used as a natural remedy to balance hormones and treat issues related to menstruation. Parsley contains myristicin and apiole, which can influence the production of estrogen and balance hormones (15). Parsley contains folate, which is helpful during pregnancy as it prevents neural tube defects.
Parsley is safe when taken in food amounts. Taking parsley in excessive amounts is not recommended for pregnant women as it may affect hormone levels. Parsley also contains oxalates, which can cause problems for people with kidney stones or gout. There is also a concern that excessive intake of parsley may cause water retention. Taking large amounts of parsley leaves can also increase blood clotting and lower the effect of blood-thinning medicines like Warfarin.
Parsley is a versatile herb that is rich source many nutrients like vitamin C, A, K, folate, calcium, iron, and potassium. It is rich in antioxidants and provides many health benefits. It prevents diabetes, fights cancer, improves bone and eye health, fights off heart disease, and improves immunity. You can use both fresh and dried parsley and add it to soups, stews, and purees.