Parsley

The delicious and vibrant taste and wonderful healing properties of parsley are often ignored in its popular role as a table garnish. Highly nutritious, parsley can be found year round in your local supermarket.

Parsley is the world's most popular herb. It derives its name from the Greek word meaning "rock celery" (parsley is a relative to celery). It is a biennial plant that will return to the garden year after year once it is established.

Parsley, chopped, fresh
0.50 cup
(30.40 grams)
Calories: 11
GI: very low

NutrientDRI/DV

 vitamin K554%

 vitamin C54%

 vitamin A14%

 folate12%

 iron10%

 copper6%

 potassium5%

 magnesium4%

 fiber4%

 calcium4%

 manganese3%

 phosphorus3%

 zinc3%

 vitamin B33%

 vitamin B13%

Health Benefits

A sprig of parsley can provide much more than a decoration on your plate. Parsley contains two types of unusual components that provide unique health benefits. The first type is volatile oil components—including myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene. The second type is flavonoids—including apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol, and luteolin.

Promote Optimal Health

Parsley's volatile oils—particularly myristicin—have been shown to inhibit tumor formation in animal studies, and particularly, tumor formation in the lungs. Myristicin has also been shown to activate the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase, which helps attach the molecule glutathione to oxidized molecules that would otherwise do damage in the body. The activity of parsley's volatile oils qualifies it as a "chemoprotective" food, and in particular, a food that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens (like the benzopyrenes that are part of cigarette smoke and charcoal grill smoke).

A Rich Source of Anti-Oxidant Nutrients

The flavonoids in parsley—especially luteolin—have been shown to function as antioxidants that combine with highly reactive oxygen-containing molecules (called oxygen radicals) and help prevent oxygen-based damage to cells. In addition, extracts from parsley have been used in animal studies to help increase the antioxidant capacity of the blood.

In addition to its volatile oils and flavonoids, parsley is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A (notably through its concentration of the pro-vitamin A carotenoid, beta-carotene).

Vitamin C has many different functions. It is the body's primary water-soluble antioxidant, rendering harmless otherwise dangerous free radicals in all water-soluble areas of the body. High levels of free radicals contribute to the development and progression of a wide variety of diseases, including atherosclerosis, colon cancer, diabetes, and asthma. This may explain why people who consume healthy amounts of vitamin C-containing foods have reduced risks for all these conditions. Vitamin C is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, which explains its usefulness in conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. And since vitamin C is needed for the healthy function of the immune system, it can also be helpful for preventing recurrent ear infections or colds.

Beta-carotene, another important antioxidant, works in the fat-soluble areas of the body. Diets with beta-carotene-rich foods are also associated with a reduced risk for the development and progression of conditions like atherosclerosis, diabetes, and colon cancer. Like vitamin C, beta-carotene may also be helpful in reducing the severity of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. And beta-carotene is converted by the body to vitamin A, a nutrient so important to a strong immune system that its nickname is the "anti-infective vitamin."

Parsley for a Healthy Heart

Parsley is a good source of folic acid, one of the most important B vitamins. While it plays numerous roles in the body, one of its most critical roles in relation to cardiovascular health is its necessary participation in the process through which the body converts homocysteine into benign molecules. Homocysteine is a potentially dangerous molecule that, at high levels, can directly damage blood vessels, and high levels of homocysteine are associated with a significantly increased risk of heart attack and stroke in people with atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease. Enjoying foods rich in folic acid, like parsley, is an especially good idea for individuals who either have, or wish to prevent, these diseases. Folic acid is also a critical nutrient for proper cell division and is therefore vitally important for cancer-prevention in two areas of the body that contain rapidly dividing cells—the colon, and in women, the cervix.

Protection against Rheumatoid Arthritis

While one study suggests that high doses of supplemental vitamin C makes osteoarthritis, a type of degenerative arthritis that occurs with aging, worse in laboratory animals, another indicates that vitamin C-rich foods, such as parsley, provide humans with protection against inflammatory polyarthritis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints.

The findings, presented in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases were drawn from a study of more than 20,000 subjects who kept diet diaries and were arthritis-free when the study began, and focused on subjects who developed inflammatory polyarthritis and similar subjects who remained arthritis-free during the follow-up period. Subjects who consumed the lowest amounts of vitamin C-rich foods were more than three times more likely to develop arthritis than those who consumed the highest amounts.

So, next time parsley appears on your plate as a garnish, recognize its true worth and partake of its abilities to improve your health. As an added bonus, you'll also enjoy parsley's legendary ability to cleanse your palate and your breath at the end of your meal.

Description

While parsley is a wonderfully nutritious and healing food, it is often under-appreciated. Most people do not realize that this vegetable has more uses than just being a decorative garnish that accompanies restaurant meals. They do not know that parsley is actually a storehouse of nutrients and that it features a delicious green and vibrant taste.

The two most popular types of parsley are curly parsley and Italian flat leaf parsley. The Italian variety has a more fragrant and less bitter taste than the curly variety. There is also another type of parsley known as turnip-rooted (or Hamburg) that is cultivated for its roots, which resemble salsify and burdock. Parsley belongs to the Umbelliferae family of plants, and its Latin name is Petroselinum crispum.

History

Parsley is native to the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe. While it has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years, parsley was used medicinally prior to being consumed as a food. The ancient Greeks held parsley to be sacred, using it to not only adorn victors of athletic contests, but also for decorating the tombs of the deceased. The practice of using parsley as a garnish actually has a long history that can be traced back to the civilization of the ancient Romans.

While it is uncertain when parsley began to be consumed as a seasoning, it seems to be sometime in the Middle Ages in Europe. Some historians credit Charlemagne with its popularization since he had it grown on his estates.

In some countries, the curly leaf variety is more popular. This may have its roots in the ancient preference for this type since people were oftentimes reticent to consume the flat leaf variety because it resembled fool's parsley, a poisonous weed.

Turnip-rooted (or Hamburg) parsley, a relatively new species, having only been developed within the past two hundred years, has only recently begun gaining popularity.

How to Select and Store

Whenever possible, choose fresh parsley over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor. Choose fresh parsley that is deep green in color and looks fresh and crisp. Avoid bunches that have leaves that are wilted or yellow as this indicates that they are either overmature or damaged. Just like with other dried herbs, if you choose to purchase dried parsley flakes, try to select organically grown parsley since this will give you more assurance that the herbs have not been irradiated.

Fresh parsley should be kept in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. If the parsley is slightly wilted, either sprinkle it lightly with some water or wash it without completely drying it before storing in the refrigerator.

If you have excess flat leaf parsley, you can easily dry it by laying it out in a single layer on a clean kitchen cloth. Once dried, it should be kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place. Curly leaf parsley is best preserved by freezing, as opposed to drying. Although it will retain most of its flavor, it has a tendency to lose its crispness, so it is best used in recipes without first thawing.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Safety

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. Read detailed information on our
Food and Recipe Rating System.

Parsley, chopped, fresh
0.50 cup
30.40 grams
Calories: 11
GI: very low
NutrientAmountDRI/DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin K498.56 mcg554911.4excellent
vitamin C40.43 mg5488.7excellent
vitamin A128.04 mcg RAE1423.4excellent
folate46.21 mcg1219.0excellent
iron1.88 mg1017.2excellent
copper0.05 mg69.1very good
potassium168.42 mg57.9good
calcium41.95 mg46.9good
fiber1.00 g46.6good
magnesium15.20 mg46.3good
zinc0.33 mg34.9good
phosphorus17.63 mg34.1good
vitamin B30.40 mg34.1good
vitamin B10.03 mg34.1good
manganese0.05 mg34.1good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DRI/DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
very good DRI/DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
good DRI/DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%

References

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