What comes to mind when you think about this spice? Not the health benefits of parsley, that’s for sure. However, this pretty herb is so packed with countless health advantages you won’t believe. Most people use it to decorate and add a touch of color to their plates and push it aside before they start eating. That’s a big mistake. Do you want to know why? Here are the main health benefits of parsley.
The Basics on Parsley
Garden parsley goes by the Latin name of Petroselinum crispum and is part of the Apiaceae family. It’s a herb, indigenous to the Mediterranean region, especially its central part, meaning Tunisia, Italy, and Algeria, but it has spread and is now cultivated all around the globe. It’s a biennial plant and it’s so easy to grow, that it has been naturalized everywhere. What does that mean for the average consumer? That you can find it literally anywhere, all year round, and, most importantly, you can grow it yourself to enjoy the many health benefits of parsley.
Parsley, as a plant, is used mostly in American, European, and Middle Eastern cooking, on a very large scale. It can also be used as a simple snack, put into soups, stews, and added to meat dishes as a garnish or a way of embellishing them. It’s a bright green herb, a condition you must be attentive towards when buying. If the leaves are yellowish in color or if their edges appear as if they have been ‘burnt’, it’s a sign the parsley was harvested a long time ago and that it has wilted. It will not be harmful for human or animal consumption, but it won’t have the same taste or health benefits of parsley it usually has.
Speaking of that, let’s see what those health benefits are.
What Are the Health Benefits of Parsley?
#1. Parsley Prevents Cancer
Skin cancer, in particular, is one type of the disease parsley is most beneficial with. The herb is rich in myricetin which is an individual branch of flavonols, otherwise called flavonoids. Some other foods that are very high in this flavonol are blackcurrants, cranberries, and sweet potatoes. It has been proven by some studies that this natural chemical compound prevents skin cancer to some extent.
Apart from myricetin, parsley, as well as other green herbs, have high amounts of chlorophyll. This is the compound that allows green plants to engage in photosynthesis. It’s the process through which they absorb carbon dioxide found in the surrounding atmosphere and turn it into the oxygen we need so much. However, it seems as though chlorophyll does much more than that. It also blocks the carcinogenic effects heterocyclic amines have. Simply put, heterocyclic amines are released when we grill foods at very high temperatures. The process releases these toxins which the chlorophyll in parsley efficiently combats.
This is one of the reasons why doctors and nutritionists always advise us to pair heavily grilled foods with green vegetables and herbs. Salad is in the mix too, as it has the same effect, although not as high as the health benefits of parsley in this regard.
Continuing the list of highly anti-carcinogenic compounds parsley has, we need to stop and take a look at apigenin. Apart from parsley, you can also get it from celery. A recent study performed at the University of Missouri showed how apigenin truly decreased tumor sizes in patients suffering from breast cancer. Researchers participating in the study have shown themselves to be very optimistic and said that, because of this compound we may very well be looking at parsley as a natural treatment for cancer in the future. And to think we used it to garnish our salads and tossed it aside without a second glance!
#2. Parsley Also Prevents Diabetes
We’re back to myricetin for this one, because the chemical compound part of the health benefits of parsley not only helps prevent cancer but diabetes as well. It can treat it too, as shown by scientists. They performed studies in vitro and on animals, and they both demonstrated how the myricetin lowered sugar levels in the blood. They also decreased the body’s resistance to insulin, a very damaging problem when it comes to diabetes.
Excitingly enough, the health benefits of parsley don’t stop there. The small herb also has anti-inflammatory properties and anti-hyperlipidemia effects. The latter means parsley and all the goodness residing in it fight against high levels of lipids in the blood. When these levels are elevated, they may lead to diabetes, heart disease, atherosclerosis, and acute pancreatitis.
#3. Using the Health Benefits of Parsley to Improve Bone Health
Bone fracture has been linked to very low intakes of Vitamin K. When you don’t introduce as much Vitamin K into your body as you should, the whole matrix of bone proteins shifts. This change results in your system not being able to absorb calcium as it should. It also translates into your system eliminating most of the said calcium via urine.
The health benefits of parsley ward off this danger and, thusly, improve your bone health. A word of caution here. You will only get to enjoy these benefits if you consume parsley and other such healthy herbs in their whole form. This means they have to be fresh, organic, and eaten raw. It shouldn’t be too difficult, though, as parsley is naturally delicious. Its great taste means you can eat it as a snack, combine it with salads, add it to smoothies, or even make tea out of it. One immediate effect of parsley tea you will notice is that it will substantially reduce water levels in your body, helping to cut back the so-called ‘water weight.’
#4. Parsley Is a Good Source of Antioxidants
Remember the flavonoids we were talking about above? They, too, do more than just prevent cancer. One of them, called luteolin, is a very powerful antioxidant. When combined with oxygen radicals, which are actually molecules with a very highly reactive oxygen content, it fights against damage to the cells coming from their exposure to oxygen. This was proved by studies performed on animals. They confirmed that the health benefits of parsley increased the blood’s antioxidant resources.
Apart from all those useful flavonoids and volatile oils, parsley is chock-full of Vitamin C. In case you don’t already know how amazingly good Vitamin C is for your system, here are some details.
- This vitamin is the body’s main antioxidant soluble in water. This trait means it will turn harmless all the other perilous free radicals found in water-soluble parts of the body. If these dangerous free radicals were allowed to up their levels, it would lead to a somber plethora of diseases, such as heart conditions, diabetes, colon cancer, asthma, and atherosclerosis.
- Vitamin C is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents known to man. This is the reason why it’s so important in treating ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
- A more common use of Vitamin C and one that most people are aware of is the fact that it helps prevent recurring colds and ear infections. It’s also the primary weapon against the scorbutic disease.
- Vitamin C works wonders for your skin. This is the main reason why so many of the facial creams, toners, makeup removers, and masks on the market are high in it. It gives the skin a healthy glow, not to mention its reconstructive powers and the fact that it fights against acne and, later on, wrinkles. Therefore, if you were not convinced by all the health benefits of parsley and its high Vitamin C content, at least consume it for your looks.
Parsley is rich in yet another antioxidant, called beta-carotene. This one, unlike Vitamin C, is soluble in fat. This means it’s located in fat areas of your body. Researchers have discovered that people who undergo a diet rich in beta-carotenes have a reduced risk of developing the same damaging diseases – diabetes, atherosclerosis, asthma, cancer, and heart conditions.
Just to give you an inkling of how important beta-carotene is, you might be interested in finding out that our bodies convert it into Vitamin A. And just how important is Vitamin A? It’s the central pillar of a healthy immune system. In fact, it’s so important to it that it has been dubbed ‘the anti-infective vitamin.’
#5. The Health Benefits of Parsley Extend to a Healthy Heart
As mentioned above, parsley is very rich in the entire family of B Vitamins. As you may very well be aware of, Vitamin B and all its brothers and sisters play a vital part in the entirety of our systems. However, the primary role they play is in relation to the heart.
Here’s how Vitamin B does its job. It’s a crucial element in the process through which the human body transforms homocysteine into entirely benign molecules. Homocysteines are molecules as well, but the bad kind. They are dangerous and, at high levels, can damage the blood vessels in a very direct way. Elevated levels of the homocysteine molecule have been linked to heart attacks and strokes in patients suffering from atherosclerosis and diabetic heart diseases.
One of the health benefits of parsley is that it’s very rich in folic acid. As you might have guessed, this compound is crucial to preventing all the diseases and afflictions mentioned above. The way in which folic acid works is that it helps the natural and proper cell division. This means it’s imperative in preventing cancer in two parts of the body that have cells which divide very fast – the cervix, as far as women are concerned and the colon.
How to Introduce More Parsley into Your Diet
Now that we’ve taken a good and detailed look at the amazing health benefits of parsley, it’s time to see some tips and tricks, as well as recipes, to help you introduce more of this delicious herb into your diet.
Parsley, when freshly picked and quickly chopped, has somewhat of a peppery flavor, a tad spicy. It pairs very well with salads, potatoes, poultry recipes, seafood, and egg-based dishes.
Apart from all these which you might already know and use on a daily basis, here are some quick tips and tricks to adding even more parsley to your everyday diet.
- The first thing you need to do is stop scraping it off your food when you use it as a garnish. Most people add it chopped on top of baked potatoes or put some whole leaves on their deviled eggs. Then, they proceed to take it off right before eating. Stop doing that, as it’s an excellent way to eat it without even realizing it’s there.
- When making your all-time favorite green juice or smoothie, add some parsley sprigs into the blender. You honestly will not feel any taste, as the herb is not strong enough, but you will still get all the health benefits of parsley in a glass.
- Whenever you make omelets, quiches, frittatas or bruschetta, throw in a handful of freshly chopped organic parsley.
- Make your own salad dressing at home and use as much fresh parsley as you can in it. It will refresh your entire salad and give it an amazing, summery taste.
- As mentioned above, parsley pairs incredibly well with seafood. Therefore, when you serve lobster, add plenty of parsley into the butter that goes with it. The taste will be fantastic. Also, you can make a grilled shrimp salad and toss in a whole batch of the green herb.
- Put the healthy thing over pizza. Although this might sound like a weird choice, it’s actually not, especially if you go for the healthy kind of pizza, not the pepperoni one. Add chicken, some brie cheese, corn, cauliflower, and don’t forget one handful of this Mediterranean herb. All the health benefits of parsley in pizza no less!
It’s amazing how something so small and common as this green herb can have so many qualities, but the health benefits of parsley are more than transparent. We use it as a garnish, but parsley, in the words of researchers, may very well be the natural cure for cancer of the future. We’ve put our faith in pills and all sorts of palliatives when the best treatment was right in our cupboard or backyard the whole time!
Health Benefits of Parsley: Conclusion
Parsley is a very versatile herb which provides a concentrated source of nutrients. It is particularly rich in the vitamins K, C, and A. The vitamins and the beneficial plant compounds that are found in parsley may protect against chronic diseases, provide antioxidant benefits, and improve bone health. You can incorporate fresh or dried leaves of parsley into your diet by adding them to salads, soups, sauces, and marinades.
Do you have any recipes containing parsley that you would like to share with us? We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Please leave us a comment in the comments section below this article.
Clara was born and grew up in Great Britain, and although she’s now happier with the weather in North Carolina where she resides with her partner, she does miss the ubiquitous teacakes. She graduated from a master’s in literature and worked for about 5 years at local news magazines as a reporter.