The joys of parsley! Most people think of it as a decorative item that garnishes a meal, but parsley is much more than a decoration. Jam packed with healing properties, parsley can be found year round in local markets and health food stores and is incredibly good for you!
Parsley is arguably the world’s most popular herb. It derives its name from the Greek word meaning “rock celery” (parsley is a part of the same botanical family as celery). It is a biennial plant, which returns to the garden year after year, once it is rooted and established.
Health Benefits of Parsley
Parsley contains two types of unusual components that provide unique health benefits. The first type is volatile oil components, which includes myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene. The second type is flavonoids, which includes apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol, and luteolin.
1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley has approx:
0 grams of fat, sugar, carbs, protein or fiber
496 mg Vitamin K (554%)
40 mg Vitamin C (54%)
128 mg Vitamin A (15%)
48 mg Folate (12%)
92 mg Iron (10%)
40 mg Calcium (4%)
16 mg Magnesium (4%)
168 mg Potassium (4%)
Parsley is fabulous for helping with a number of health conditions including:
Oxidative stress, or free radical damage
Digestive problems, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Bloating, or edema
Parsley Promotes Vibrant Health
Parsley’s volatile oils, particularly myristicin, have been shown to inhibit tumor formation, particularly in regard to tumor formation in the lungs. Myristicin has also been shown to activate the enzyme Glutathione-S-transferase, which helps attach the molecule glutathione to oxidized molecules that would otherwise do damage in the body. The activity of parsley’s volatile oils qualifies it as a “chemoprotective” food, and in particular, a food that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens (like the benzopyrenes that are part of cigarette smoke and charcoal grill smoke).
A Rich Source of Anti-Oxidant Nutrients
The flavonoids in parsley, especially luteolin, have been shown to function as antioxidants that combine with highly reactive oxygen-containing molecules (called oxygen radicals) and help prevent oxygen-based damage to cells. In addition, extracts from parsley have been proven to increase the antioxidant capacity of the blood.
In addition to its volatile oils and flavonoids, parsley is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A (notably through its concentration of the pro-vitamin A carotenoid, beta-carotene).
Vitamin C has many different functions. It is the body’s primary Water-soluble antioxidant, rendering harmless threats such as dangerous free radicals in all water-soluble areas of the body. Free radicals (high levels of them) can contribute to the development and progression of a myriad of diseases, including ailments like certain cancer, diabetes, asthma, and various immune disorders. Vitamin C is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, which explains its usefulness in conditions such as osteo/rheumatoid arthritis. Since vitamin C is necessary for healthy function of the immune system, it can also aid in preventing colds, ear infections and other related maladies.
Additionally, Beta-carotene, another important antioxidant, works in the Fat-soluble areas of our bodies. Diets comprised of beta-carotene-rich foods show a reduced risk for conditions like atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer. Beta-carotene in the body is converted to vitamin A, a nutrient so important to a strong immune system that its nickname is the “anti-infective vitamin.”
Parsley is Great for a Healthy Heart
Parsley is a good source of folic acid, one of the most important B vitamins. While it plays numerous roles in the body, one of its most critical roles in relation to cardiovascular health is its necessary participation in the process through which the body converts homocysteine into benign molecules. Homocysteine is a potentially dangerous molecule that, at high levels, can directly damage blood vessels, and high levels of homocysteine are associated with a significantly increased risk of heart attack and stroke in people with diabetes or heart disease. Enjoying foods rich in folic acid (like parsley) is great for individuals who are looking for healing and/or prevention.
Did You Know? Parsley is a fantastic natural diuretic and bloat reliever! Parsley benefits digestive health because it helps stimulate kidney production and draws excess water out of the abdomen, where it can cause discomfort and indigestion. Hence, you will experience healthier urine flow, which can make you feel better!
Natural Nutrition from Raw Food vs. Manufactured Supplements
The biggest problem we face today in our society is nutrition. Around the globe we are watching what is happening with our environment. From global warming to bad water and food, it’s becoming very difficult to rely on nutrition solely from our food supply. As time marches on, we will all need to rely on a mixture of both food and manufactured nutrition. Sadly, vitamins made from machines really cannot duplicate nature. There can be issues with overloading the body with pills and powders, so be sure to discuss this issue with your health care professional for help.
Types of Parsley
The two most popular types of parsley are curly parsley and Italian flat leaf parsley. The Italian variety has a more fragrant and less bitter taste than the curly variety. There is also another type of parsley known as turnip-rooted (or Hamburg) that is cultivated for its roots, which resemble salsify and burdock. Parsley belongs to the Umbelliferae family of plants, and its Latin name is Petroselinum crispum.
Parsley is native to the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe. While it has been cultivated for over 2,000 years, parsley was used medicinally prior to being consumed as a food. The ancient Greeks held parsley to be sacred, using it to not only adorn victors of athletic contests, but also for decorating the tombs of the deceased. The practice of using parsley as a garnish actually has a long history that can be traced back to the civilization of the ancient Romans.
While it is uncertain when parsley began to be consumed as a seasoning, it is estimated to be sometime in the Middle Ages in Europe. Some historians credit Charlemagne with its popularization since he had it grown on his estates. In some countries, the curly leaf variety is more popular. This may have occurred because the flat leaf variety resembled a poisonous weed, (known as “a fool’s parsley) so it is thought people turned to the curly leaf as a result. Turnip-rooted (or Hamburg) parsley, a relatively new species, has been around for around two hundred years. It’s only begun to pick up popularity in recent times.
How to Select and Store Parsley
Whenever possible, choose fresh parsley over the dried form. Fresh is more nutritious and flavorful. Choose fresh parsley that is deep green in color and looks fresh and crisp. Avoid bunches that have leaves that are wilted or yellow as this indicates that they are either over matured or damaged. Just like with other dried herbs, if you choose to purchase dried parsley flakes, try to buy organic because the herbs will not have been irradiated.
Fresh parsley should be kept in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. If the parsley is slightly wilted, either sprinkle it lightly with some water or wash it without completely drying it before storing in the refrigerator.
If you have excess flat leaf parsley, you can easily dry it by laying it out in a single layer on a clean kitchen cloth. Once dried, it should be kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place. Curly leaf parsley is best preserved by freezing, as opposed to drying. Although it will retain most of its flavor, it has a tendency to lose its crispness, so it is best used in recipes without first thawing.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking Parsley
Fresh parsley should be washed right before using since it is highly fragile. The best way to clean it is just like you would spinach. Place it in a bowl of cold water and swish it around with your hands. This will allow any sand or dirt to dislodge. Remove the leaves from the water, empty the bowl, refill it with clean water and repeat this process until no dirt remains in the water. Since it has a stronger flavor than the curly variety, Italian flat leaf parsley holds up better to cooking and therefore is usually the type preferred for hot dishes. It should be added towards the end of the cooking process so that it can best retain its taste, color and nutritional value.
If you are making a light colored sauce, use the stems from this variety as opposed to the leaves, so the sauce will take on the flavor of parsley but will not be imparted with its green color. If you want the green color use the leaves. Yummy either way!
Serving Ideas and Tips
Combine chopped parsley with chopped scallions, mint leaves, lemon juice and olive oil to make the Middle Eastern classic dish, tabouli. It’s also great to add to hummus. You can also add parsley to pesto sauce for more texture and green color. If you like to cook or are a meat eater, you can combine chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest, and use it as a rub for fish, meats or other dishes. Parsley is a great addition!
Use parsley in soups and sauces. Serve a colorful salad! Throw in tomatoes, add some shelled raw sunflower seeds, toss in some oranges for a citrus flavor, and add in some parsley leaves. Yum! Chopped parsley can be sprinkled into a number of recipes such as vegetable sautés and grilled dishes.
Juiced or Extracted
Raw parsley juice is one of the most potent of the juices! It shouldn’t be taken alone in quantities of more than one or two ounces at a time unless mixed with other foods like carrots, celery, lettuce, or spinach juiced into it. Much like wheatgrass, it’s really strong and too much can be a bit rough. But add it into a juice mix and you have yourself a truly nutritious juice cocktail! Raw parsley juice has properties which are incredible for oxygen metabolism and in adrenal and thyroid gland health. In addition, parsley is great for vibrant blood vessel health, particularly the capillaries and arterioles in a healthy condition. It is an excellent food for urinary tract (bladder), kidneys, etc.
Did You Know? Parsley is fantastic for helping nearly every ailment connected with the eyes and optic nerve system! Weak eyes, lazy-eye, ulceration of the cornea, cataracts, conjunctivitis, and other ophthalmology issues have been substantially improved by drinking raw parsley juice mixed with carrot juice, celery, and endive juices.
Did You Also Know? Juiced parsley is fantastic for healing menstrual issues! In conjunction with beets (beet juice), carrots, and cucumber juices, it can help reduce cramps and regulate flow to be more normal. (Reduce eating heavy breads and starches during menstruation for better parsley performance.)
So, that’s our story about parsley. Remember, it’s not just a garnish, it’s a superfood!
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