Parsley is an annual herb thought to have originated in the Mediterranean and is now cultivated all around the world.
There are two basic parsley types: one with curly, crinkly leaves and the more familiar Italian parsley, which has flat leaves. Italian parsley is considered to be stronger while the curly type is used for garnishing, but aside from being a garnishing ingredient or a food additive, parsley has been used in traditional and folk medicine.
Parsley is known to be a carminative, gastro tonic, diuretic, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.
Parsley is an ingredient in a bouquet garni, or a “garnished bouquet”, consisting of sprigs of parsley, thyme and bay leaves tied together and is used to flavor stock or soups. They’re usually left in the pot to simmer. Parsley is also a good companion for foods with strong flavors like capers and olives.
A 2002 study from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed that parsley tea may be beneficial for patients with kidney stones as it increases urine output. In addition, parsley helps alleviate colic through its anti-inflammatory properties, as shown in a 2017 study from the Journal of Medical Science and Clinical Research.
Parsley contains a unique collection of compounds and volatile oils, including myristicin, apiol, alpha-pinene, sabinene, limonene and eugenol. Eugenol is used in dentistry as a local anesthetic and antiseptic. A 2016 study from Scientific Reports also found that eugenol reduces blood glucose levels by up to 38%. The phenolic compounds and antioxidants parsley contains include apiin, apigenin and 6″-Acetylapiin. All these components contribute to parsley’s antioxidant, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, analgesic and antibacterial properties.
A 1/2 cup (30 grams) of fresh, chopped parsley provides.
- Calories: 11 calories
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: less than 1 gram
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Vitamin A: 108% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin C: 53% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 547% of the RDI
- Folate: 11% of the RDI
- Potassium: 4% of the RDI
Parsley also contains iron which is important for oxygen transportation throughout the body. Copper is another mineral abundant in parsley. This mineral is important because it’s required by the body for growth, cardiovascular integrity and iron metabolism, with copper deficiency leading to anemia, hypothermia and cardiac hypertrophy. Parsley also contains trace amounts of manganese, which is crucial for bone formation and amino acid and lipid metabolism.
Parsley is useful as a digestive aid with its high fiber content. Fiber helps decrease the risk for cardiovascular or digestive diseases and reduces the time for intestinal transit, controls cholesterol and glycemic levels and supports intestinal flora.
Parsley is rich in many vitamins, particularly vitamin K, which is needed for blood clotting and bone health. Some studies suggest that eating foods high in vitamin K may reduce your risk of fractures. One study found that higher vitamin K intake was associated with a 22% lower risk of fractures. Vitamin K helps build stronger bones by supporting bone-building cells called osteoblasts. This vitamin also activates certain proteins that increase bone mineral density, a measure of the amount of minerals present in your bones. Bone density is important especially in older adults, as a lower bone mineral density is associated with an increased risk of fractures.
The main antioxidants in parsley are:
- vitamin C
This herb is particularly rich in a class of antioxidants known as flavonoids. The two main flavonoids include myricetin and apigenin. Studies show that diets rich in flavonoids may lower your risk of conditions, including colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
In a 2015 review, apigenin, found in parsley, was shown to decrease tumor size in an aggressive form of breast cancer. Researchers believe that apigenin could be a promising non-toxic cancer treatment in the future. The myricetin present in parsley has also been examined for use in the treatment and prevention of diabetes. Myricetin can lower blood sugar levels and decrease insulin resistance. It also appears to provide anti-inflammatory effects and remove excess fat from the blood.
Parsley is rich in flavonoid antioxidants and vitamin C, which reduce oxidative stress in your body and may lower your risk of certain cancers. Vitamin C also plays an important role in supporting immune health and protecting against chronic disease. High dietary intake of flavonoids may reduce colon cancer risk by up to a 30%. A 1/2 cup (30 grams) of parsley provides 53% of the RDI for vitamin C. One study found that increasing vitamin C by 100 mg per day reduced the risk of overall cancer by 7%. Moreover, increasing dietary vitamin C by 150 mg per day may lower prostate cancer risk by up to 21%.
Interestingly, dried parsley may be higher in antioxidants than fresh sprigs. In fact, one study found that the dried herb had 17 times more antioxidant content than its fresh counterpart.
Lutein, beta carotene, and zeaxanthin are three carotenoids in parsley that help protect your eyes and promote healthy vision. Carotenoids are pigments found in plants that have powerful antioxidant activity.
The beta carotene in parsley is another carotenoid that supports eye health. This carotenoid can be converted into vitamin A in your body. This conversion of beta carotene explains why parsley is rich in vitamin A. A 1/2 cup of freshly chopped leaves provides 108% of the RDI for this vitamin. Vitamin A is essential for eye health, as it helps protect the outermost layer of your eye, the cornea, as well as the conjunctiva, the thin membrane covering the front of your eye and the inside of your eyelids.
Parsley is a good source of the B vitamin folate. A 1/2 cup (30 grams) provides 11% of the RDI.
High intakes of dietary folate may reduce heart disease risk in certain populations. A large study in over 58,000 people found that the highest intake of folate was associated with a 38% reduced risk of heart disease. Conversely, low intake of folate may increase your risk of heart disease. One study in 1,980 men observed a 55% increase in heart disease risk in those with the lowest intake of this nutrient.
Some experts hypothesize that folate benefits heart health by lowering levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High homocysteine levels have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease in some studies. Homocysteine may negatively affect heart health by altering the structure and function of your arteries.
Parsley may have antibacterial benefits when used as an extract. A test-tube study demonstrated that the extract showed significant antibacterial activity against yeast, molds, and a common, infection-causing bacteria known as S. aureus .The extract may also prevent the growth of bacteria in food. Another test-tube study found it prevented the growth of potentially harmful bacteria, such as Listeria and Salmonella which cause food poisoning.
Because parsley is a rich source of vitamin K, supplying almost twice the daily requirement for all adults in just 10 sprigs, eating too much parsley, can interfere with blood-thinning medications. Also, if you have kidney stones made of calcium oxalate, you need to follow a low-oxalate diet. Parsley is a high-oxalate food, with more than 10 milligrams per 100 grams, which is a little more than 1 1/2 cups. So, large servings should be avoided, says University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
How to Buy
One of the greatest things about parsley is that it can be found almost anywhere, fresh or dried. It is also easy to grow and perfect for the home garden. Fresh parsley adds texture, color, and a burst of clean flavor. Though it takes twelve pounds of fresh parsley to make one pound of dried parsley, dried parsley is still the most commonly used form of the herb. Fresh is always best, but dried is good to have in your spice cabinet.
How to Store
One advantage of using dried parsley over fresh is when it comes to storing the herb. Fresh parsley only lasts about two weeks when kept in the refrigerator. Sprinkling the leaves with a small amount of water and storing in linen bag or tea towel usually works best. On the other hand, dried parsley stores for a much longer time. As long as dried parsley is kept in an airtight container it will retain its flavor for approximately one year.
Another method for storing parsley is freezing it. This is the best method if you have parsley in your herb garden and end up with more than you can use. Parsley can be frozen chopped and stored in freezer bags, or it can also be chopped and mixed with water and frozen in ice cube trays. Either method will keep up to six months.
How to Cook
Parsley has a light scent and fresh taste and can be used in anything from soups to sauces to vegetables. In Middle Eastern cuisine, parsley is one of the main ingredients in dishes such as tabbouleh, a salad using quinoa, mint, parsley, and vegetables, and is the main herb used in stuffing for grape leaves. As a garnish, parsley can be chopped and sprinkled in soups and hummus.