Parsley Nutrition and Why It’s Too Good to be a Garnish
Parsley is a green superfood so rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients that eating it is like using a multivitamin supplement – only one that actually works.
The nutrition in this herb is much more easily assimilated than in engineered multivitamins and many people who start using it regularly in their diet with attest to the many health benefits of parsley.
Parsley is a good source of provitamin A beta-carotene, with one cup containing around 100% of the standard RDA (though you’d really want to get more than that for vitamin A’s beneficial effects on your immune system, for healthy skin and vision, protection from infection and much more).
It is very high in vitamin C, containing far more than most well known sources like oranges and other citrus fruit (though these are admittedly much easier to eat in large quantities). Vitamin C from natural sources like parsley is a potent antioxidant that protects the cells in our bodies from dangerous free radical damage.
The little green herb that so many people push aside on their dinner plate is also one of, if not the best plant based source of the very important vitamin K that many people are believed to be deficient in. This vitamin is essential for blood clotting, healthy bones and preventing the calcification of blood vessels that can lead to cardiovascular disease.
Recent research studies indicate a good intake of vitamin K in our diets may help protect against heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and some forms of cancer. Parsley is also a source of vitamin E and B vitamins, particularly folate that is needed for proper DNA synthesis and cardiovascular health.
Minerals in Parsley
Parsley is a good source of three of the major minerals in calcium, magnesium and potassium. Magnesium is especially important as many people in the USA are believed to have a magnesium deficiency. Calcium and magnesium metabolism are closely related, so there is little value in having large amounts of calcium in supplements without adequate magnesium as well.
Parsley is especially rich in the mineral iron. It also contains good levels of manganese and copper. These three minerals are necessary for building healthy blood cells and the herb is known as one of the best blood builders and cleansers available.
While not a mineral, the good levels of chlorophyll in parsley is also very valuable for maintaining healthy blood. Phosphorus, sodium, chloride, boron and zinc are also present, making it a good all round mineral source.
Alongside the already mentioned beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc, parsley also contains a variety of potent flavonoids with antioxidant properties, including quercetin, luteolin, apigenin and chrysoeroil.
Additionally, it is also a good source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin for healthy vision and protection against eye diseases like age related macular degeneration and cataracts. There is much more on the antioxidant potential of this powerful herb in the Health Benefits of Parsley.
Volatile Oils in Parsley
Parsley’s volatile oils include myristicin, eugenol, limonene and alpha-thujene. Volatile oils are potent compounds that can have bioactive effects even in very small doses.
Research on myristicin has shown it has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and animal studies suggest it may inhibit cancerous tumor formation. Myristicin may also increase the action of our bodies most important detoxifying antioxidant – glutathione.
Eugenol has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels and may have a future role in diabetes treatment. Eugenol is also a strong antibacterial and antimicrobial that may help control bad bacteria in the digestive system and even treat debilitating candida overgrowth.
Parsley oil is a concentrated source of these volatile oils and is often taken with garlic oil for a potent immunity booster (the way parsley eliminates the garlic odor probably also has a lot to do with the popularity of this combination).
As healthy a food as parsley is, there are also a couple of important warnings to be aware of in Parsley, Pregnancy and Other Precautions.
Photo 1: Llez / Photo 2: Wheeler Cowperthwaite