Fun facts about parsley

Published 3:18 am Tuesday, September 13, 2022

A few weeks ago we talked about the unsung heroes of nutrition. The response was so good that I thought we should continue it. Today’s hero might not even be considered a vegetable by many folks, much less a vegetable on the CDC’s top 100 most nutritious foods. 

 

Parsley comes in at #8 on that list, ahead of tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, red peppers, strawberries, cauliflower, and even collard, mustard, and turnip greens. Native to the central and eastern regions of the  Mediterranean, parsley has been cultivated for over 2000 years, and belongs to the Apiaceae family, along with carrot, celery, coriander, fennel, and cumin. The word “parsley” literally translates to “rock celery” in Greek. 

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Not to be confused with coriander (cilantro), parsley leaves are bright green in color, with a mild somewhat grassy flavor. Coriander is more pungent and flavored than parsley. Parsley’s versatile and vegetal taste makes it an ideal ingredient in various cuisines. This popular herb is deliciously used in a number of recipes including salads, soups, stews, sauces, and casseroles. 

 

Chimichurri is an uncooked sauce starring lots of parsley, used in Argentinian and Uruguayan fare. Persillade is a mixture of chopped garlic and chopped parsley in French dishes. Parsley is also the main ingredient in Italian salsa verde, which is a mixed condiment of parsley, capers, anchovies, garlic and sometimes bread, soaked in vinegar. 

       

In addition to being an excellent garnish for a variety of dishes, parsley leaves are a powerhouse of essential nutrients. Parsley contains both flavonoids and carotenoids. Studies show that diets rich in flavonoids may lower the risk of conditions, including colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and coronary disease. Also, research demonstrates an association between a higher intake of carotenoids with a reduction in the risk of certain diseases, including lung cancer. 

 

It is a great source of bone-building vitamin K. In fact, just ½ cup yields an impressive 547% of the RDI (recommended daily intake) of this nutrient. Parsley holds plant compounds that produce anti-cancer effects. Studies show that the compounds myricetin and apigenin present anticancer activity in test-tube and animal studies. The vitamin C in parsley may reduce the risk of cancer, as well. 

 

Parsley may help with eye health. Lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin are three carotenoids in parsley that help promote healthy vision. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A as it is required by the body. Vitamin A is essential for health, as it helps protect the cornea, the outermost layer of the eye. 

 

Parsley is a good source of vitamin B9. High intakes of folate may reduce cardiac disease risks in certain populations. In fact, a large study of over 58,000 individuals found that the highest intake of folate was associated with a 38% reduced risk of heart disease. 

       

Parsley is a biennial plant, meaning it completes its life cycle in two years. Parsley is used in the cosmetic industry for the preparation of soaps and body lotions, as it is especially good for dry skin. The top parsley producers in the United States include California, Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and New Jersey. California alone produces over 40% of the total parsley in the United States. 

       

Parsley is really easy to add to your diet. Mix freshly chopped leaves into your salad dressings, sprinkle fresh or dried leaves onto your meats or fish, finely chop stems and leaves into potato salad, or pasta, and simmer into your favorite sauces. Interestingly, parsley acts as a natural breath freshener, so you could chew on a sprig whilst cooking to freshen up your breath.

       

David Crocker is a nutritionist and master personal trainer. Questions? Email David at dwcrocker77@gmail.com, or text to 864-494-6215.