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8 Impressive Health Benefits and Uses of Parsley

Health + Wellness
8 Impressive Health Benefits and Uses of Parsley
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By Maria Zamarripa

Parsley is a flowering plant native to the Mediterranean. The two most common types are French curly-leaf and Italian flat-leaf.


Over the years, parsley has been used to treat conditions like high blood pressure, allergies and inflammatory diseases (1).

Today, it's widely used as a fresh culinary herb or dried spice. It's bright green in color and has a mild, bitter flavor that pairs well with many recipes.

Often labeled as one of the most powerful disease-fighting plants, parsley provides great nutritional value and offers many potential health benefits (2).

Here are 8 impressive health benefits and uses of parsley.

1. Contains Many Important Nutrients

Parsley offers many more nutrients than people suspect.

A 1/2 cup (30 grams) of fresh, chopped parsley provides (3):

  • Calories: 11 calories
  • Carbs: 2 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: less than 1 gram
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Vitamin A: 108% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Vitamin C: 53% of the RDI
  • Vitamin K: 547% of the RDI
  • Folate: 11% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 4% of the RDI

The herb is rich in many vitamins, particularly vitamin K, which is needed for blood clotting and bone health (4).

Parsley is also a great source of vitamins A and C — important nutrients with antioxidant properties (5).

Additionally, it's very low in calories yet packed with flavor, making it a great low-calorie ingredient for many recipes.

Summary

Parsley is a low-calorie, nutrient-dense herb. It's particularly rich in vitamins K, A, and C.

2. Rich in Antioxidants

Parsley contains many powerful antioxidants that can benefit your health.

Antioxidants are compounds that prevent cellular damage from molecules called free radicals. Your body requires a healthy balance of antioxidants and free radicals to maintain optimal health (6).

The main antioxidants in parsley are (7, 8, 9):

  • flavonoids
  • carotenoids
  • vitamin C

The fragrant herb is particularly rich in a class of antioxidants known as flavonoids. The two main flavonoids include myricetin and apigenin.

Studies show that diets rich in flavonoids may lower your risk of conditions, including colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (10, 11, 12).

Furthermore, beta carotene and lutein are two antioxidants known as carotenoids. Many studies associate higher intake of carotenoids with a reduced risk of certain diseases, including lung cancer (13).

Vitamin C also has strong antioxidant effects and plays an important role in supporting immune health and protecting against chronic disease (14).

Interestingly, dried parsley may be higher in antioxidants than fresh sprigs. In fact, one study found that the dried herb had 17 times more antioxidant content than its fresh counterpart (7).

Summary

Parsley contains many powerful antioxidants, which may help prevent cell damage and lower your risk of certain diseases.

3. Supports Bone Health

Your bones need certain vitamins and minerals in varying amounts to remain healthy and strong.

Parsley is packed with vitamin K — an essential nutrient for bone health. A 1/2 cup (30 grams) provides an impressive 547% of the RDI (3).

Vitamin K helps build stronger bones by supporting bone-building cells called osteoblasts. This vitamin also activates certain proteins that increase bone mineral density — a measure of the amount of minerals present in your bones (15).

Bone density is important, as a lower bone mineral density is associated with an increased risk of fractures — especially in older adults (16).

Some studies suggest that eating foods high in vitamin K may reduce your risk of fractures. One study found that higher vitamin K intake was associated with a 22% lower risk of fractures (17, 18).

Typical dietary intakes of vitamin K may be below the levels needed to improve bone mineral density and reduce fracture risk. Therefore, eating foods like parsley may benefit bone health (19).

Summary

Parsley is rich in vitamin K, which is an essential nutrient for optimal bone health. Eating foods high in this nutrient has been linked to a reduced risk of fractures and improved bone mineral density.

4. Contains Cancer-Fighting Substances

Parsley contains plant compounds that may have anticancer effects.

Oxidative stress — a condition characterized by an imbalance in levels of antioxidants and free radicals — is associated with the development of certain chronic diseases, including cancer (7, 20).

Parsley is particularly rich in flavonoid antioxidants and vitamin C, which reduce oxidative stress in your body and may lower your risk of certain cancers.

For example, high dietary intake of flavonoids may reduce colon cancer risk by up to a 30% (21).

Additionally, subgroups of certain flavonoids in parsley — such as myricetin and apigenin — have shown anticancer activity in test-tube and animal studies (22, 23).

Plus, eating foods rich in vitamin C may reduce your risk of cancer as well. A 1/2 cup (30 grams) of parsley provides 53% of the RDI for this nutrient.

One study found that increasing vitamin C by 100 mg per day reduced the risk of overall cancer by 7%. Moreover, increasing dietary vitamin C by 150 mg per day may lower prostate cancer risk by up to 21% (24, 25)

Summary

Parsley contains various antioxidants — like flavonoids and vitamin C — that may provide cancer-fighting benefits.

5. Rich in Nutrients That Protect Your Eyes

Lutein, beta carotene and zeaxanthin are three carotenoids in parsley that help protect your eyes and promote healthy vision. Carotenoids are pigments found in plants that have powerful antioxidant activity (26, 27).

Lutein and zeaxanthin may prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an incurable eye disease and a leading cause of blindness around the world.

In fact, eating foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce your risk of late AMD by up to 26% (28, 29, 30).

beta carotene is another carotenoid that supports eye health. This carotenoid can be converted into vitamin A in your body (31).

This conversion of beta carotene explains why parsley is very rich in vitamin A. A 1/2 cup (30 grams) of freshly chopped leaves provides 108% of the RDI for this vitamin (3).

Vitamin A is essential for eye health, as it helps protect the cornea — the outermost layer of your eye — as well as the conjunctiva — the thin membrane covering the front of your eye and the inside of your eyelids (32).

Summary

Parsley contains lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene, plant compounds that protect eye health and may reduce your risk of certain age-related eye conditions like AMD.

6. May Improve Heart Health

Parsley is a nutrient-dense herb that may improve heart health. For example, it's a good source of the B vitamin folate — with 1/2 cup (30 grams) providing 11% of the RDI (3).

High intakes of dietary folate may reduce heart disease risk in certain populations. A large study in over 58,000 people found that the highest intake of folate was associated with a 38% reduced risk of heart disease (33).

Conversely, low intake of folate may increase your risk of heart disease. One study in 1,980 men observed a 55% increase in heart disease risk in those with the lowest intake of this nutrient (34).

Some experts hypothesize that folate benefits heart health by lowering levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High homocysteine levels have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease in some studies.

Homocysteine may negatively affect heart health by altering the structure and function of your arteries. However, the connection between this amino acid and heart disease still remains controversial (35, 36).

Summary

Parsley is rich in folate, a B vitamin that protects your heart and may reduce your risk of heart disease.

7. Parsley Extract Has Antibacterial Properties

Parsley may have antibacterial benefits when used as an extract.

For example, a test-tube study demonstrated that the extract showed significant antibacterial activity against yeast, molds, and a common, infection-causing bacteria known as S. aureus (37, 38).

The extract may also prevent the growth of bacteria in food. Another test-tube study found it prevented the growth of potentially harmful bacteria, such as Listeria and Salmonella — both known to cause food poisoning (39, 40, 41).

Though the extract shows antibacterial potential in test-tube studies, these benefits have not yet been studied in humans.

Summary

Parsley extract has been shown to have antibacterial properties in test-tube studies. Still, more research is needed.

8. Easy to Add to Your Diet

Parsley is an extremely versatile and inexpensive flavoring option.

You can use the dried version as an ingredient in various recipes. It can enhance the flavor of soups, stews and tomato sauces. Additionally, it's often combined with other herbs in Italian-inspired recipes.

Fresh parsley is also a great addition to homemade salad dressings, marinades, and seafood recipes. Many people use fresh sprigs in recipes that don't require cooking or add the herb at the end of the cooking period.

Here are a few more ways to add parsley to your diet:

  • Stir fresh leaves into a homemade chimichurri sauce.
  • Mix finely chopped leaves into your salad dressings.
  • Sprinkle fresh or dried leaves on top of a salmon dish.
  • Finely chop the stems and add to a potato salad for an extra crunch.
  • Simmer dried flakes in a homemade tomato sauce.

Interestingly, the herb may act as a natural breath freshener, so you can also chew on a sprig while cooking to freshen up your breath (42).

To extend the life of fresh parsley, wrap the bunch in a damp paper towel and store it in a closed container in the refrigerator.

Summary

Parsley can be used as a dried spice or fresh herb. Dried flakes are usually added to hot dishes like soup and pasta, while the fresh herb is a great addition to salads and dressings.

The Bottom Line

Parsley is a versatile herb that provides a concentrated source of nutrients. It's particularly rich in vitamins A, C and K.

The vitamins and beneficial plant compounds in parsley may improve bone health, protect against chronic diseases and provide antioxidant benefits.

You can incorporate dried or fresh leaves easily into your diet by adding them to soups, salads, marinades and sauces.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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