Superfoods are popular among health buffs because they’re full of vitamins and minerals that help nourish your overall well-being. From apples to cucumbers, these items are often used in smoothies and delicious salads.
But what about parsley? This divisive herb has an amazing nutritional profile but not everyone enjoys parsley in their salads or smoothies. You may even turn up your nose at the sprig of parsley that you sometimes find on top of your spaghetti.
Why eat parsley?
Don’t ignore parsley, especially since it offers many health benefits like boosting your brain and heart health!
The nutritional profile of parsley
Antioxidant-rich parsley, known scientifically as Petroselinum hortense and Petroselinum crispum, can be used either fresh or dried.
Parsley is usually used for garnishing, but you can also use it to make salads, sandwiches and bone broth or stock. The leaf is divided into two types: Curly leaf and flat-leaf or Italian parsley.
This herb is peppery, with a mildly bitter taste and a distinct earthy flavor. You can cook parsley roots like carrots and turnips.
According to the Department of Agriculture (USDA), fresh parsley contains the following nutrients:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Parsley also contains carbohydrates, fats and protein.
Want to promote weight loss naturally? Add parsley to your smoothie. One tablespoon of the herb contains only one calorie!
Health benefits of parsley
Researchers have studied parsley to learn more about the herb’s potential benefits.
- It’s rich in antioxidants. Parsley contains flavonoids such as apigenin, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene and luteolin. These compounds have antioxidant properties and they help boost your immune system. One study has found that some of these antioxidants may also help prevent chronic disease. Another study has found that apigenin in plants like parsley and celery has a therapeutic effect on autoimmune diseases.
- It helps strengthen bone health. In a study, researchers used parsley extracts to aid in the treatment of bone health-related conditions. Certain minerals in parsley, like calcium, ergosterol (a precursor of vitamin D), and vitamin C, may help boost bone health.
- It boosts brain health. One study suggests that the flavonoid apigenin can help improve neuron formation and enhance brain functions like learning and memory. Researchers have also found that the herb can help reduce the impact of cadmium toxicity on brain tissue.
- It can aid in diabetes prevention. Parsley contains another called myricetin that helps reduce blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance. Studies also show that taking parsley extracts may help alleviate Type 1 diabetes.
- It boosts heart health. Data from a comparative study revealed that parsley may be more effective than carob when taken to lower high cholesterol levels. Other studies have also found that parsley can be used to naturally treat hypertension and cardiac disease. The herb can boost heart health because it’s full of flavonoids that help reduce oxidative stress and high levels of vitamin B and folic acid that helps prevent the thickening of artery walls.
- It promotes kidney health. The findings of an animal study showed that parsley has diuretic properties. For the study, scientists gave rats parsley extracts and results revealed that the rats had a much higher urine flow than when they were offered only water for the same time period. Other studies suggest that parsley can relieve bloating, edema, or water retention.
- It helps keep your skin and hair strong. Melasma, a common pigmentation disorder that causes brown or gray patches to appear on your skin, primarily the face, may affect the self-image of people with this condition. Researchers are currently studying the potential benefit of parsley on epidermal melasma. A paste made from powdered parsley seeds is used as a home remedy for dandruff, hair lice and scalp irritation. The herb helps strengthen weak hair, promotes healthy hair growth and prevents hair fall.
Adding parsley to a healthy diet
A sprig of parsley is usually added to pasta, but there are more ways to incorporate this powerful herb into your diet.
- Add it to juice or green smoothies – Even smoothie lovers may balk at the thought of drinking parsley juice on its own, but you can add it to green smoothies with other ingredients like cucumbers, pineapple and tomato to mask its overpowering taste.
- Use it for garnish – Keep things simple by using parsley as an antioxidant-rich garnish for savory dishes like pasta, roasts, or soups.
- Use it as a spice – Give dishes a natural boost of flavor by adding either fresh or dried parsley.
Below are some easy recipes you can try to add more antioxidant-rich parsley to your diet!
Celery, parsley and garlic-marinated white beans salad
This salad can be served immediately, but leaving it to sit overnight in the vinaigrette makes for a more flavorful dish.
Ingredients for 4 to 6 servings:
- 8 ounces of white beans, soaked in water overnight (You can also replace white beans with chickpeas.)
- 1 bunch of celery (8 ounces), thinly sliced
- 1 bunch of fresh parsley (about 1 1/2 cups), coarsely chopped
- 5 confit garlic cloves (recipe below)
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of sherry or red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of mustard (Use whole-grain or Dijon mustard.)
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- Drain and rinse the soaked beans, then boil in water until tender for about 30 minutes. Check and remove the beans from the water before they fall apart.
- Coarsely chop the confit garlic, then combine with the oil, vinegar, mustard and salt.
- Drain the cooked beans, then dress with the vinaigrette. Combine the beans with the parsley and celery before serving. Add salt, vinegar, or olive oil to taste.
- 2 heads of garlic
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup of olive oil
- Rosemary (Optional)
- Thyme (Optional)
- Peel the cloves from two heads of garlic. Place the cloves in a small saucepan, then add enough olive oil to cover them. Use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of oil for 2 heads.
- Bring the oil to a slight simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to as low as it can go. Make sure you poach the garlic, not simmer it. Cook for about 45 minutes or until the garlic is soft and tender, but not falling apart. Add rosemary or thyme to the saucepan along with the garlic if you want.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic into a clean jar. Add more olive oil to cover the cloves.
- Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Cover the jar. You can refrigerate garlic confit for several weeks or freeze it for several months. Keep the cloves covered in oil and always use a clean spoon.
Whole wheat spaghetti with corn and parsley pesto
This dish pairs hearty whole wheat spaghetti with a creamy, cheesy corn and parsley pesto.
Ingredients for 4-6 servings:
For the pesto:
- 4 cups of parsley leaves, tightly packed
- 3/4 cup of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of grated pecorino romano, plus extra for garnish
- 1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the pasta:
- 1 pound of whole wheat spaghetti
- 2 cups of fresh or frozen corn (From 4 ears of corn, defrost frozen corn before using)
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 2 marge shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Use a food processor to make the pesto. First, pulse the toasted pine nuts until coarsely ground. Add the pecorino, parsley leaves and olive oil. Pulse several times, then scrape the bowl with a spatula and pulse a few more times. Don’t over-blend the pesto. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Boil salted water in a large pot and cook the pasta until al dente.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the sliced shallots to the pan then cook for a minute or until softened. Add the minced garlic and cook for one more minute or until soft and fragrant. Add the corn kernels and a pinch of salt, then cook the mixture for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Don’t overcook the corn.
- Strain the spaghetti, then add it back to the pot. Add the pesto and toss to coat the pasta. Fold in the corn mixture, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add extra grated pecorino on top before serving.
Considerations when using parsley
Note that consuming too much parsley may cause the following side effects:
- Parsley contains oxalates. While the herb is used as a natural ingredient for kidney detoxing, oxalate over-consumption may cause problems if you have kidney stones or gout.
- Check if you’re allergic to parsley. The herb can make your skin extra sensitive to the sun, causing a rash.
Cook with various herbs and superfoods like antioxidant-rich parsley to boost your heart and brain health!
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