Parsley is far more than just a garnish on the side of your plate. This underutilised and underestimated herb is packed full of nutrition and contains many health benefits.
Just 30 grams of parsley will supply you with the following percentages of recommended daily intake of the various nutrients:
- Vitamin A – 47%. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant and is essential for a healthy immune and reproductive system. It also plays a vital role in healthy bones and vision and is anti cancer. Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin, teeth, soft tissues and hair.
- Vitamin C – 62%. Another important antioxidant and immune system vitamin, it can also help prevent atherosclerosis which is the build up of plaque in the arteries, so it is a very important vitamin for cardiovascular health. It is a natural anti histamine, so is good for relieving the symptoms of allergies. It aids in wound healing and helps with the absorption of iron. Vitamin C is essential for healthy teeth and gums.
- Vitamin K – 574%. This little talked about vitamin is essential for the building of healthy bones. It is also required for proper blood clotting and is a very important vitamin in repairing damaged brain tissue.
- Folate – 11%. Folate, one of the B vitamins, is essential for a healthy heart. It is also essential for DNA repair and the maturation of blood cells. It is a very important co factor for the synthesis of neurotransmitters, important in maintaining good mental health.
- Iron – 10%. Iron transports and stores oxygen throughout the body and is essential for a healthy immune system. It helps to regulate body temperature and is required for a healthy nervous system. It is also important for skin and nail formation.
Parsley also contains copper, potassium, magnesium, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B3, B1 and E. It is made up of 20% protein (not complete protein), 62% carbohydrates and 18% fat.
Parsley contains various volatile oils, including myricetin which has been proven to inhibit the formation of tumours in animal studies, particularly lung tumours. Research has shown that myricetin may lower blood sugars, decrease insulin resistance, lower blood lipids as well as provide anti inflammatory effects. It is a rich source of antioxidants, those wonderful little compounds that destroy free radicals throughout the body.
If you are currently taking blood thinning drugs like Warfarin (Coumadin), it is important that you do not suddenly increase your intake of foods like parsley that contain large amounts of Vitamin K, as Vitamin K plays a large role in blood clotting and can alter the metabolism of Warfarin.
Parsley contains oxalates, which are a naturally occurring substance found in plants, animals and humans. These oxalates can become crystallized to form kidney and gallstones, so anyone with kidney or gallstones or impaired kidney or gallstone function may choose to limit the amount of oxalate food in their diet. In saying this, dietary oxalate only accounts for up to 15% of oxalate in the body, so many researchers believe that dietary consumption of oxalates does not play much of a role in developing kidney stones. Oxalates can also bind to calcium which the body then excretes. Once again, as with the kidney stones, anyone with osteoporosis may like to limit their intake of oxalate foods. It needs to be remembered though, that even though the oxalates can bind to calcium, they only bind to a small amount of calcium in that particular food and that a diet high in variety will yield enough calcium from various sources for optimum bone health.
So, add some parsley to your scrambled eggs and casseroles, make some yummy pesto or tabouli, and reap the benefits of this wonderful herb.
By Andrea Southern, Naturopath, Nutritionist, Herbalist at Stafford and The Gap in Brisbane. For an appointment phone 0412 791 705