Parsley: Health Benefits, Facts, Research

Parsley is often an afterthought – an additive used to enhance the flavor or presentation of an already existing dish. However, it may have a range of healthful benefits.

Using herbs and spices like parsley in cooking is a great way to boost flavor and improve the look of a dish without adding sodium; it is may also be a way to provide additional nutrients and health benefits.

Health benefits of consuming parsley

The following possible health benefits have been associated with the consumption of parsley:

1) Cancer prevention

Parsley is often used to enhance the flavor or presentation of a dish.

Myricetin, a flavonoid found in parsley and other plants, has been shown to help prevent skin cancer. Sweet potatoes, parsley, blackcurrants, and cranberries are some of the foods that contain the highest concentrations of myricetin (per 100 grams).

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.

Charred grilled foods have been linked to many types of cancers, so if you like your food charred, make sure to pair them with green vegetables to help reduce these effects.

A natural chemical – apigenin – found in parsley, celery, and other plants has been shown to decrease tumor size in an aggressive form of breast cancer in a study conducted at the University of Missouri. Researchers believe that apigenin could 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. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that myricetin can lower blood sugars and decrease insulin resistance; it also appears to provide anti-inflammatory effects and reduce excess fat from the blood.

3) Improving bone health

Low intakes of vitamin K have been associated with a higher risk of bone fracture. Adequate vitamin K consumption (which parsley provides in just ten sprigs) improves bone health by acting as a modifier of bone matrix proteins, improving calcium absorption, and reducing urinary excretion of calcium.

Consuming fruits, vegetables, and herbs of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many adverse health conditions. Eating higher quantities of natural foods grown from the earth versus manufactured foods is more likely to result in better overall health.

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, ten 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
  • 0.1 grams of sugar

The same quantity of parsley provides 205 percent of vitamin K needs for the day, as well as 22 percent of vitamin C, and 17 percent of vitamin A.

How to incorporate more parsley into your diet

Frittata with parsley
A handful of parsley is a great way to complete a frittata.

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.

Quick tips:

  • 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:

Potential health risks of consuming parsley

If you are taking blood-thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin), it is important not to suddenly begin eating 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 varied diet than to focus on individual foods as the key to good health.