Parsley is often an afterthought - an additive used to enhance the flavor or presentation of an already existing dish.
Using herbs and spices like parsley in cooking is a great way to boost flavor and look of a dish without adding sodium, but also a way to provide additional nutrients and health benefits at the same time.
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of parsley and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more parsley into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming parsley.
Possible health benefits of consuming parsley
The following possible health benefits have been associated with the consumption of parsley:
1) Cancer prevention
Myricetin, a flavonol found in parsley and other plants, has been shown to have chemopreventive effects on skin cancer. Sweet potatoes, parsley, blackcurrants and cranberries are among the foods containing the highest concentration of myricetin (per 100 grams).
Parsley is often used to enhance the flavor or presentation of a dish.
Parsley and other green herbs and vegetables that contain high amounts of chlorophyll have been shown to be effective at blocking the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines, which are generated when grilling foods at a high temperature.
If you tend to like your grilled foods charred, make sure to pair them with green vegetables to help negate these effects.
A natural chemical found in parsley, celery and other plants known as apigenin has been found to decrease tumor size in an aggressive form of breast cancer in a recent study conducted at the University of Missouri. Researchers say that this shows apigenin to be a promising non-toxic treatment for cancer in the future.
2) Diabetes prevention
Myricetin has also been evaluated for its effectiveness in the treatment and prevention of diabetes. In vitro and animal studies have showed that myricetin may lower blood sugars as well as decrease insulin resistance and provide anti-inflammatory and anti-hyperlipidemia effects.
3) Improving bone health
Low intakes of vitamin K have been associated with a higher risk for bone fracture. Adequate vitamin K consumption (which parsley provides in just 10 sprigs) improves bone health by acting as a modifier of bone matrix proteins, improving calcium absorption and reducing urinary excretion of calcium.4
Consuming fruits, vegetables and herbs of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many adverse health conditions. The more foods you consume that are grown from the earth versus manufactured, the healthier you will be. It is important to realize that the isolation of one chemical or vitamin from food will not likely result in the same health benefits as consuming it in its whole food form.
Nutritional breakdown of parsley
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 10 sprigs of parsley contains 4 calories, 0.3 grams of protein, 0.1 grams of fat, 0.6 grams of carbohydrate, 0.3 grams of fiber and 0.1 grams of sugar. Just 10 sprigs provide 205% of vitamin K needs for the day, as well as 22% of vitamin C and 17% of vitamin A.
How to incorporate more parsley into your diet
Fresh chopped parsley has a spicy, peppery flavor and pairs well with potatoes, tomato-based sauces, poultry dishes, grain-based salads, seafood, Mediterranean flavors and egg dishes.
A handful of parsley is a great way to complete a frittata.
- Throw a few sprigs of parsley into your favorite green juice
- Finish off an omelet, quiche or frittata with a handful of chopped parsley
- Add chopped parsley to any homemade salad dressing.
Try some of these healthy and delicious recipes developed by registered dietitians using parsley:
- Cauliflower crust pizza
- Moroccan fish over whole grain couscous
- Balsamic black-eyed pea salad
- Citrus shrimp salad with white beans and arugula
Potential health risks of consuming parsley
If you are taking blood-thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) it is important that you do not suddenly begin to eat more or fewer foods containing vitamin K, which plays a large role in blood clotting.
It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.
If you enjoyed reading about the potential health benefits of parsley, take a look at our collection of articles about other fruits, vegetables and herbs.