If you’re like a lot of people, you’ve probably never given parsley much thought. In fact, we bet you thought it was little more than a frilly green garnish that restaurants like to put on the side of your plate for color. But what if we told you that parsley may just be one of nature’s unsung superfoods? In this article, we’re going to take a look at 10 parsley benefits you’re probably not even aware of and why you might want to give this common herb a second look.
Parsley: Nutrition Basics
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a flowering member of the carrot family native to the Mediterranean. It’s also one of the most nutrient-dense herbs you can hope to find. In fact, just half a cup of fresh parsley contains:
- 50% of the RDA of vitamin A
- 67% of the RDA of vitamin C
- 615% of the RDA of vitamin K
- 12% of the RDA of folate
- 11% of the RDA of iron
Parsley is also a good source of many important phytochemicals, including the flavonoids myricetin, luteolin, and apigenin and the carotenoids lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene.
These beneficial plant chemicals act as antioxidants, scavenging the free radicals that cause oxidative stress, which can lead to DNA damage and chronic diseases, like heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. What’s more, they’ve been found in numerous studies to be the reason behind the ability of fruits and vegetables to help reduce your cancer risk.
But beyond even phytochemicals, parsley is also a great source of powerful volatile oils, like myristicin and eugenol, which offer a host of benefits for the immune system and have even been found to stop the growth of cancer cells.
10 Powerful Parsley Benefits
When nature combines essential vitamins with potent phytonutrients and volatile oils, you can bet you’re going to get some amazing health benefits. So, with that in mind, we’ve put together this list of 10 of the most powerful benefits parsley has to offer.
1. Boosts Heart Health
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the number one killer of adults in the United States, taking the lives of over 600,000 people each year. With that grim number in mind, it makes sense that you should try to protect yourself from becoming another statistic.
And parsley may just be able to help you do that.
In fact, a number of studies have found that eating more parsley can help reduce high blood pressure, keep blood vessels open and free of plaque, and lower levels of homocysteine—an amino acid that’s linked to a higher risk of heart disease.
A rodent study published in BioMed Research International found that parsley was effective in decreasing lipid levels and oxidative stress. And another study in the journal Wei Sheng Yan Jiu found that the flavonoid apigenin exerts a blood pressure–lowering effect.
The flavonoid luteolin has also been found to possess both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has even been shown to inhibit oxidation of LDL—a process in which LDL comes in contact with free radicals, becomes damaged, and contributes to plaque buildup in blood vessels.
In addition, parsley contains high levels of nitrates, which are known to help lower high blood pressure and maintain healthy blood vessels.
2. Protects Your Eyes
The macula of the eye is the most sensitive part of the retina. It contains not only the largest concentration of photoreceptors but also three carotenoids—lutein, zeaxanthin, and mesozeaxanthin. These carotenoids protect the eyes from the harmful effects of blue light, which can contribute to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Because parsley is rich in these important carotenoids, it can help protect the macula and possibly even prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
3. Helps Fight Cancer
The flavonoids, carotenoids, and volatile oils in parsley have been shown in multiple studies to aid in the prevention and treatment of cancer. In fact, flavonoids are some of the most researched polyphenols and have been found to lower the risk of prostate, lung, breast, and colon cancers.
Likewise, the antioxidant properties of carotenoids have been noted to be helpful in preventing lung, throat, prostate, colon, and breast cancers.
What’s more, eugenol has been found in studies to suppress tumor growth and induce cancer cell death in various cancers, including lung and breast cancers. And myristicin has been found to inhibit cancer growth in both stomach and lung cancers.
4. Benefits the Immune System
With large amounts of vitamin C and phytonutrients, parsley may even be able to help you ease allergy symptoms and avoid illness. In fact, a study in the journal Foodborne Pathogens and Disease found that parsley exhibits antibacterial activity against yeast, molds, and bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus.
Another study published in Genetics and Molecular Research found that parsley essential oil is effective against a range of bacteria and fungi, including Staphylococcus, Listeria, Salmonella, and Trichoderma.
5. Supports Detoxification
The liver is the largest internal organ in the body and is responsible for filtering our blood and keeping it free of potential toxins. But the liver can become compromised and unable to perform its job efficiently. So, to keep it healthy and functioning at top speed, it might be a good idea to consider adding more parsley to your diet, as studies have shown that apigenin and myristicin aid the body’s natural process of detoxification by supporting liver health.
A rodent study published in the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions found that apigenin exerts a significant protective effect on liver cells by reducing oxidative stress and decreasing fat deposition in the liver. And a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that myristicin exhibits “extraordinarily potent hepatoprotective activity.”
6. Aids Digestion
Cultures have traditionally used parsley as a natural treatment for indigestion, bloating, and excess gas. And modern studies have found that these benefits may extend to protecting stomach health as well. In fact, a study published in the Balkan Medical Journal noted that the antioxidant properties of parsley make it particularly effective in protecting stomach mucosa from the effects of stress.
7. Helps Prevent Diabetes
In addition to its digestive applications, parsley is widely utilized to support the endocrine system—a traditional use that’s supported by current research. For example, a rodent study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research found that parsley lowers blood sugar levels, increases insulin levels, and improves the structure and functioning of the pancreas.
A study in the journal Phytotherapy Research also found that diabetic rats that received supplemental parsley experienced a significant decrease in both blood sugar levels and liver enzymes. Similarly, a study in the FASEB Journal revealed that the flavonoid myricetin is a potent regulator of blood glucose.
What’s more, other studies have hypothesized that the antioxidant effects of myricetin may also be useful in reducing diabetes complications, including cardiomyopathy and skin ulcers.
8. Improves Bone Health
As mentioned earlier, parsley is a good source of vitamin C. It also provides the vitamin D precursor ergosterol. What’s more, it contains large amounts of vitamin K—a key player in proper blood clotting and bone formation. Studies have shown that individuals whose diets include higher amounts of vitamin K have over 20% fewer bone fractures than those whose diets are low in this important nutrient.
Parsley is also rich in the flavonoids luteolin and apigenin, which have been found in studies to limit the resorption of bone cells and protect against hormone-related bone loss.
9. Promotes Brain Health
If you want to keep your brain healthy and stave off neurodegenerative conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, you might want to add more parsley to your diet.
A rodent study published in the journal Behavioral and Brain Functions found that parsley protects the brain from the toxic effects of cadmium by reducing oxidative stress and protecting neurons and neurotransmitter levels.
And apigenin has been shown to protect neurons against copper toxicity, regulate neurotransmitter levels, increase neuron formation, and strengthen the connections between brain cells.
10. Helps Prevent Kidney Stones
Parsley is perhaps best recognized for its beneficial effect on the kidneys. The herb is known to act as a diuretic, which helps flush the kidneys of toxins. What’s more, its potent diuretic effect, along with its high levels of nitrates, helps keep blood pressure in check, which helps maintain kidney health.
A review in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences pointed out that parsley lowers levels of urinary calcium and protein and raises urinary pH, both of which are associated with a reduced occurrence of kidney stones.
Similarly, a study in the American Journal of Clinical and Experimental Urology found that parsley decreases urinary protein and calcium excretion, increases diuresis and urinary pH, and exhibits nephroprotective activity.
As you can see, the health benefits of parsley are truly impressive.
So why not try including a little more parsley in your diet today? You can make your own refreshing chimichurri sauce or homemade salad dressing or salsa—or even our hangover cure smoothie.
The dried or fresh herb also makes a great addition to Italian dishes. And you can even brew up some parsley tea or use parsley as a natural breath freshener—just chew a few sprigs and let those volatile oils end bad breath for good.
However you decide to add more parsley to your diet, now that we’ve unmasked this plant superhero, we’re betting you’ll never look at that green garnish the same way again.