The Health Benefits of Parsley
After you hear of ALL of the benefits of parsley you will want to find more ways to incorporate it into your diet on a regular basis (and I’ve got lots of suggestions below to help with that).
What is Parsley?
Latin Name – Petroselinum hortense or Petroselinum crispum
Parsley is actually the most used herb in the world. It is a biennial, meaning that it blooms the year after it is planted.
The two most popular varieties of parsley are curly parsley, the one we all associate with the plate garnish, and flat leaf Italian parsley, which is becoming much more popular in the kitchen. They differ a bit in flavor as well as appearance, with the Italian parsley being a bit less bitter.
Parsley is native to Southern Europe, particularly grown in the Mediterranean area.
The health benefits of parsley have been known for centuries. It has been cultivated for over 2000 years and was actually used for medicinal purposes well before we began to eat it.
In ancient Greece and Rome parsley was grown in gardens as a border and used as food for chariot horses. The Emperor Charlemagne, who lived from 742 to 814 is said to have had parsley grown for him on his lands.
Choosing The Best Parsley And How To Store It
As with all fresh herbs, always choose parsley that looks fresh and crisp and is a clear, fresh, deep green. If the leaves are spotted, dry or wilted, do not purchase it. Buy dried parsley from a store where you know it is most likely fresh, as in dried but not stale. That usually means a place where they sell quite a bit of dried herbs and they won’t have been sitting on the shelf for a long time.
Fresh parsley is best used for flavor and nutritional value, but if you are using parsley in a cooked dish, you can certainly use dried.
Fresh parsley can now be found year round in most North American supermarkets. It should be refrigerated to keep it fresh. Place it in a plastic bag with a piece of paper towel in the bag as well. The towel helps to keep the parsley, or any other fresh herb, from sweating inside the bag and rotting too quickly.
Keep dried parsley in a dark, dry cupboard and it should be quite usable for at least 6 months.
If you grow parsley or have access to lots of fresh parsley, try drying it yourself. Simply place the washed and lightly dried parsley on a dry kitchen towel and leave it there to dry. Then crumble it and store it in a dry place. To freeze parsley just chop it and freeze it in ice cube trays with a bit of water or broth added.
Health Benefits of Parsley
Research is beginning to be done on the health benefits of herbs like parsley. Research has shown that parsley has many health giving properties as an immune system booster, an anti-inflammatory food, an antioxidant rich food and has anti cancer properties.
The essential oil found in parsley is rich in an organic compound called myristicin, which has been show to inhibit the formation of tumors, especially lung tumors. Myristicin also helps to neutralize carcinogens. One of them is benzopyrene, found in cigarette smoke and the smoke from charcoal grills. Neutralizing benzopyrene as it passes through the body helps to prevent colon and prostate cancer, so get out the parsley when you fire up the grill.
Another benefit of myristicin is that it activates an enzyme that helps the molecule glutathione attach to, and fight against, oxidized molecules. It is the oxidized molecules in our bodies that can become cancer.
The benefits of parsley include a fairly high amount of Vitamin C (2 tablespoons contain 16% of our daily recommended requirement). Vitamin C serves many functions in the body. It is an anti-inflammatory and when consumed on a regular basis helps prevent disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
It is also the body’s primary water-soluble antioxidant. It “tames” the free radicals in the water-soluble areas of the body (non-fatty tissues). It has long been known that free radicals contribute to the development of diseases like diabetes, asthma, atherosclerosis and various cancers.
Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, the main structural protein found in connective tissue that holds our bodies together. Collagen maintain healthy bones teeth and blood vessels, and is found in all parts of the body, including in the skin, bones, teeth, blood vessels, eyes and the heart.
Another antioxidant found in parsley is luteolin, which is a healthy flavonoid. Luteolin acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and helps metabolize carbohydrates. It also destroys free radicals, preventing further oxidization of cells in the body.
The anti-oxidant beta-carotene is also found in high amounts in parsley (just 2 tablespoons contains over 12% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A). Beta-carotene works in the fat-soluble areas of the body and is converted by the body to vitamin A.
Vitamin A performs many vital functions in the body including helping white blood cells (lymphocytes) fight infection in the body and strengthening the lining of various parts of the body, including our intestinal and urinary tracts, respiratory system, mucous membranes and lining of the eyes.
Another of the many benefits of parsley is that is contains folate. Folate is one of the most important of the B vitamins and offers numerous benefits to the body. It is a critical nutrient in the proper division of cells, so it is especially vital for the prevention of cancers of the cervix and colon, two areas of the body where cells divide quickly.
Homocysteine, an amino acid that occurs naturally in our body, can damage the body’s blood vessels when its levels become too high. The folate in parsley helps convert homocysteine into harmless molecules, helping to protect us from heart disease.
Here is another of the fantastic health benefits of parsley. It is an excellent source of Vitamin K, a vitamin we don’t always hear about but is very important to us. Vitamin K is necessary for maintaining our myelin sheath, the coating around our nerves including our brain stem. It is also essential for the synthesis of osteocalcin, which is a protein that strengthens our bones.
The vitamin K in parsley also helps to prevent stroke, cardiovascular disease leading to heart attacks and atherosclerosis. It does this by preventing the build up of calcium in our tissues.
It doesn’t take much parsley to contribute to our health in these ways. One tablespoon of parsley contains over 75% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin K.
A few words of caution about Vitamin K:
- As essential as it is, consumption of it must be restricted for those taking the prescription drug Coumadin. Please consult your physician or other health practitioner for more details before adding lots of parsley into your diet.
- Parsley also contains a measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When the level of oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and lead to health problems. Because of this possibility, those who have existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating parsley. Again, please check with your own health care practitioner about this.
Other than those who have the issues above, the rest of us can pile it on and reap the benefits of parsley.
Using Parsley and Parsley Recipes
Like most green herbs, parsley is quite fragile. For that reason, don’t wash it until you are ready to use it. Then place it in a bowl of cold water and move it around with your hands to allow any dirt to fall away. Lay the parsley on paper towels or a kitchen towel and gently pat it to dry it.
As with all fresh herbs, fresh parsley should be added to a cooked dish near the end of the cooking process to retain its taste and nutritional value. Dried parsley can be added to a recipe at the beginning of the cooking time, as it needs time to release all of it’s flavor.
Chopped fresh parsley is wonderful sprinkled on cooked fish, chicken or vegetables. It also works wonderfully added to soups and especially tomato sauces. Many Italians put chopped parsley into their pasta sauce.
An Italian recipe that uses parsley as a rub is gremolata. It combines fresh parsley with chopped garlic and lemon zest. Use it to top chicken or beef before cooking. It is fabulous on lamb.
A classic Middle Eastern that uses lots of fresh parsley is tabouli. It is a mixture of parsley, bulgur wheat, fresh mint, lemon juice, olive oil and green onions. Get the health benefits of parsley in CookingNook.com’s recipe for tabouli here.
To find recipes on the site that use parsley, simply go to the search box at the top of any page and put in the word parsley. You will be taken to a page with all the recipes on the site that include parsley. And now that you know how amazingly healthy it is for you, you will be using parsley recipe on a regular basis.