Spice series: Parsley - usage in kitchen & health benefits
Parsley is (probably) the most loved fresh herb in Mediterranean dishes!
Parsley is used as a fresh herb in cooking to enhance the flavors of the dish or its presentation, as the eyes eat always before the mouth!
Now you might think that "Ok, your theory is good, but where can I use parsley?". I will suggest you some general food themes that hang out successfully with parsley, to have a rough idea which combinations work well, and then promise me that you will improvise a lot. Always improvise in kitchen and life!
But before we continue on that, let's talk a little bit about the beneficial properties of parsley and its possible health benefits.
1) Cancer prevention
Parsley contains a lot of molecules that have been shown to possibly, cause you can never be 100% sure in science, prevent different cancer forms. One of them is myricetin, a flavonol that has been shown to have chemopreventive effects on skin cancer. Sweet potatoes, parsley, blackcurrants and cranberries are among the foods that contain the highest concentration of myricetin (per 100 grams). It also contains (as all the other green herbs and vegetables) high amounts of chlorophyll, which is effective at blocking the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines, which are generated when grilling. So, if you love grilled food, make sure to accompany it with lots of green vegetables (insert salads here) and herbs to neutralize these effects.
Apigenin is another natural chemical that is found in parsley, celery and other plants and it has been shown to decrease tumor size in an aggressive form of breast cancer in a recent study conducted at the University of Missouri.
2) Diabetes prevention
Myricetin has also been evaluated for its effectiveness in the treatment and prevention of diabetes. In cell and animal studies it was found 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.
Nutritional breakdown of parsley
10 sprigs of parsley contain (USDA National Nutrient Database) :
- 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
- 205% of vitamin K (daily need)
- 22% of vitamin C (daily need)
- 17% of vitamin A (daily need)
So, how to incorporate more parsley into your diet
Fresh chopped parsley has a spicy, peppery flavor and pairs well with dishes with potatoes, tomato-based sauces, poultry, sautéed meat, green salads, seafood & Mediterranean flavors and egg dishes. Also, add chopped parsley to any homemade salad dressing.
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.
Reading more always helps. Inform yourself and don't swallow what big food brands are trying to sell you. Also keep in mind that all the tips above don't cancel any medical advice that you received (I am a biology student not a medical one), so always seek a professional's help in case of a health issue.
And remember, you can never go wrong by eating fresh, non-processed, green food! 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. Bon appetit! :)
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Credits | Text, Photographs & Design: Despina Kortesidou