Parsley is a popular culinary and medicinal herb recognized as one of the functional food for its unique antioxidants, and disease preventing properties. This wonderful, fragrant rich biennial herb is native to the Mediterranean region. This leafy herb belongs to the Apiaceae family, in the genus; Petroselinum. Its botanical name is Petroselinum crispnum.
The herb is a small plant featuring dark-green leaves that resemble coriander leaves, especially in the flat-leaf variety. However, its leaves are larger by size and milder in flavor than that of leaf-coriander. The herb is widely employed in Mediterranean, East European, and American cuisine.
There exist several cultivars of parsley growing across the Europe. Italian or flat leaf-parsley (petroselinum crispum neapolitanum) is popular around Mediterranean countries, and has rather more intense flavor than Curley leaf parsley.
Mitsuba (cryptotaenia japonica) has flavor and appearance similar to that of flat-leaf parsley and used as a garnish in Japan and China.
Health benefits of Parsley
Parsley is one of less calorific herb. 100g of fresh leaves carry just 36 calories. Additionally, its leaves carry zero cholesterol and fat, but rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Altogether, the herb helps in controlling blood-cholesterol, and may offer protection from free radical mediated injury and cancers.
Parsley contains health benefiting essential volatile oils that include myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene.
The essential oil, Eugenol, present in this herb has been in therapeutic application in dentistry as a loval anesthetic and anti-septic agent for teeth and gum diseases. Eugenol has also been found to reduce blood sugar levels among diabetics; however, further detailed studies required to establish its role.
Parsley is rich in poly-phenolic flavor –noid antioxidants, including apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol, and luteolin; and has been rated as one of the plant sources with quality antioxidant activities. Total ORAC value, which measures the anti-oxidant strength of 100g of fresh, raw parsley, is 1301 umol TE(Trolex equivalents).
The herb is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. 100g fresh herb provides 554 mg or 12% of daily-required levels of potassium. Potassium is the chief component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure by countering pressing effects of sodium. Iron is essential for the production of heme, which is an important oxygen-carrying component inside the red blood cells. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Additionally, the herb is also rich in many antioxidant vitamins, including vitamin-A, beta-carotene, vitamin-C, vitamin-E zea-xanthin, lutein, and cryptoxanthin. The herb is an excellent source of vitamin-K and folates. Zea-xanthin helps prevent age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) in the retina (eye) in the aged population through its anti-oxidant and ultra-violet light filtering functions.
Fresh herb leaves are also rich in many essential vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), riboflavin (vitamin B-2, niacin (vitamin B-3), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins play a vital role in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism by acting as co-enzymes inside the human body.
It is, perhaps, the richest herbal source for vitamin K; provide 1640 ug or 1366% of recommended daily intake. Vitamin K has been found to have the potential role in bone health by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones. It has also established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients through limiting neuronal damage in their brain.
Wonderful! Humble parsley has just 36 calories/100 g, but their phyto-nutrients profile is no less than any high-calorie food sources.
This unique herb provides:
38% of folates,
220% of vitamin C,
281% of vitamin A,
1366% of vitamin K,
14% of calcium,
77.5% of iron and
5561 mcg of zeaxanthin.
5054 mcg of carotene-beta
(Note: the values are in % of RDA per100 g
(RDA –Recommended daily allowance))
Selection and storage
Fresh as well as dried parsley can be available in the markets all around the year. Attempt to buy fresh leaves over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor and rich in many vital vitamins and anti-oxidants like beta-carotene, vitamin-C, and folates. The herb should feature vibrant green color leaves, and firm stems. They should be free from mold, dark spots or yellowing.
Just like with other dried herbs, when purchasing dried parsley, try to buy one that has been organically grown since this will give you some sense of assurance that it has not been irradiated and free from pesticide residues.
Fresh parsley should be stored inside the refrigerator packed in a zip pouch or wrapped in slightly dampen paper towel. Dried leaves can keep well for few months when stored in a tightly sealed glass container and placed in cool, dark and dry place.
It leaves, stems and roots of this herb plant have antiseptic and carminative properties.
Eugenol also has been found to reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics; however, further detailed studies required to establish its role.
An extraction from the herb has been found to have diuretic effects.
Preparation and serving methods
Parsley should be washed thoroughly in the water in order to remove sand and dirt and to rid off any residual pesticides. Trim the roots, thick part of stems, and any bruised or old leaves. In order to keep the fragrance and aromatic flavor intact, it is generally added at the end of the recipes.
Here are some serving tips:
The herb is widely used as a garnish. Many dishes are served with fresh green chopped parsley sprinkled on top.
It has been used in preparation of many popular dishes in Mediterranean and European cuisine since ancient times. Along with other herbs and spices, it is being used as flavoring agent in the preparation of vegetable, chicken, fish and meat dishes.
It is one of the common ingredients in famous Mediterranean green sauce, “salsa verde”, a cold sauce made of parsley, capers, garlic, onion, anchovies, olive oil, and vinegar.
Freshly chopped parsley is a great addition to green salad.
Freshly and dry parsley leaves can be used in the preparation of chutney, dips, pesto, etc.
Parsley should not be consumed in large amounts or as a drug or supplement by pregnant women. The essential oil in its root, leaf, or seed could lead to uterine stimulation, bleeding and preterm labor.
This herbal plant is very high in oxalic acid, 1.70 mg per 100 g. Prolong consumption of oxalate rich foods may results in gouty arthritis, kidney stones and mineral-nutrient deficiencies.
Parsley oil contains furanocoumarins and psoralens, which may lead to extreme photosensitivity if used orally. (Medical disclaimer).