Pete Evans

Parsley

Parsley

Highly nutritious and delicious, parsley is often thought of as just a garnish when, in actual fact, it’s a powerhouse herb packed with many medicinal and healing properties.

Highly nutritious and delicious, parsley is often thought of as just a garnish when, in actual fact, it’s a powerhouse herb packed with many medicinal and healing properties.

Recognised as one of the most functional foods on the planet, parsley is full of green goodness with its superior ability to boost immunity and inject the body with huge doses of key antioxidants and vitamins that protect against disease.

Interestingly, it is also one of the richest sources of iron of any plant-based food with one serving of parsley containing twice the amount of iron as the same serving size of spinach. I also love the fact that this wonderful, fragrant herb is biennial, meaning that once you plant it in the garden, it will reappear year after year and flourishes with little maintenance.

Belonging to the Apiaceae family, the word parsley is derived from Greek and means ‘rock celery’. And its history as a garnish also comes from ancient Greek and Roman times when it was used to adorn both winners of athletic events and also for decorating the tombs of the deceased. It was then taken to the table and used as a garnish because the Greeks considered it to be a sacred plant, due to its ability to heal. While it has been cultivated for more than 2000 years, it wasn’t used until much that parsley began to be considered a legitimate vegetable and herb that added both flavour and nutritional value to dishes.

In French cuisine, flavours are injected into soups, stocks and stews by using a bundle of tied-up thyme, bay leaf and parsley, known as a ‘bouquet garni’.

But along with parsley’s beauty as a garnish and its versatility in cooking, there are many more incredible properties to this wondrous herb.

Packed with vitamins and essential trace minerals, parsley is one of the best forms of the very necessary yet hard-to-obtain vitamin K. Vitamin K is important for bone strength and brain health, with some studies showing that it is key in the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease because it limits the damage of neurons within the brain. It is also important for protecting the heart, building bones, optimising insulin levels and helping blood to clot properly.

The reason parsley is such a rich source of vitamin K is because just one serving contains a whopping 574% of your recommended daily intake (RDI). Other key vitamins packed into parsley include vitamin C and vitamin A. Containing 62% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, adding parsley to the dishes you cook is a great way of increasing the availability of this water-soluble vitamin in your body.

Water-soluble vitamins mean it’s necessary for your body to receive them from outside sources (ie. the foods that we eat) and so by adding herbs, like parsley, into your diet you are making sure you give your body the good stuff it needs.

Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant and immune-booster that renders otherwise damaging free radicals harmless in all water-soluble areas of the body.

Free radicals are known to contribute to the development and progression of a wide variety of diseases, including colon cancer, diabetes and asthma.

And with scientific research discovering that people who have high levels of Vitamin C in their bodies reduce their risk of all these conditions, there’s no better reason I can think of to pack your diet with parsley.

It is also a rich source of another important antioxidant, beta-carotene, which works in the fat-soluble areas of the body. Diets with beta-carotene-rich foods are also associated with a reduced risk in the development and progression of conditions such as atherosclerosis (a disease caused by plaque build-up on the inside of the arteries), diabetes, and colon cancer.

Like vitamin C, the high levels of beta-carotene in parsley may also be helpful in reducing the severity of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

As well as this, beta-carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A, which is known for its ability to build a strong immune system.

The herb is also a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. 100 g fresh herb provides 12% of recommended daily intake of potassium. This is important because potassium is the chief component of cell and body fluids and it helps to control heart rate and blood pressure by countering the effects of sodium and keeping the body in balance.

The other really interesting healing properties inherent in parsley come from its volatile oils, including myristicin, limonene, apiol, and alpha-thujene. Scientific research has shown that one of these oils, myristicin, prevents tumour formation, especially in the lungs.

It qualifies parsley as a food that is known as “chemoprotective” and can help neutralise particular carcinogens, such as charcoal grill smoke.

Now that’s powerful stuff!

Here’s a few more good reasons to have a passion for parsley:

  • Parsley has one of the highest antioxidant counts of any plant, meaning it helps to limit the amount of damaging free radicals in your body and protect against oxidative stress.
  • Vitamin C-rich foods, such as parsley, are known to help protect against a form of rheumatoid arthritis that affects multiple joints.
  • Brewing fresh parsley in hot water to make a tea is a great way to ease colic, indigestion and combat against flatulence.
  • Parsley is known to purify the blood and help to clean the bowels.
  • It is also a very effective breath freshener, particularly after eating garlic.

Cook with love and laughter,

Pete

By Pete Evans

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