Parsley is a leafy green herb that is often used as a garnish when presenting culinary dishes – but it has many nutritional benefits that prove it should be given a more central role in your diet! Parsley is a source of vitamins A, C, and K and also contains potassium, calcium, and iron. One tablespoon of parsley alone contains 61.5mcg of vitamin K, which is around 77% of the daily recommended intake! If you find that it is hard to eat a large quantity of this peppery herb, consider adding it to a green smoothie made with fruit.
Supports Healthy Blood Cells
Parsley contains vitamin K which is important to the function of your blood cells, particularly platelets, which are responsible for forming blood clots that control bleeding when you get a cut. A deficiency in vitamin K can lead to excessive bruising and even abnormalities in bleeding. Adding even a small amount of parsley to your diet will dramatically increase your intake of vitamin K. (People who are on medications that act as anticoagulants in the blood should be careful about their vitamin K intake – talk to your doctor about dietary recommendations.) Parsley also contains iron, which is crucial for the function of red blood cells that are responsible for delivering oxygen throughout the body. Adding ½ cup of parsley leaves to a dish will provide you with around 1.8mg of iron.
Maintains Healthy Bones
Because parsley is rich in vitamin K, it is also effective in maintaining healthy bones and may help in preventing osteoporosis. Vitamin K-dependent proteins have been discovered in bone, and observational studies show that there is a link between vitamin K deficiency and an increase in the risk of bone fractures. The Nurse’s Health Study, a cohort study which over 70,000 women for 10 years found that women who had lower intakes of phylloquinone (vitamin K1), had a 30% increased risk for hip fracture. It also contains calcium, which is an important mineral used to build bones and teeth.
Calcification of blood vessels increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke. There is a possible link between a deficiency in vitamin K and the inactivation of compounds which work to prevent the formation of calcium in vessels. Adding foods rich in vitamin K, like parsley, to your diet is a good step towards protecting your heart.
Parsley contains vitamin A and carotenoids that are important for your eyesight. 1 tablespoon of raw parsley leaves contains 316 IU of vitamin A, which is important to the growth of practically all cells in the body, but is particularly important in eye development and vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids in parsley that help to filter light and protect the tissues at the back of your eye from harmful rays of light.
May Help to Prevent Cancer
Enjoying parsley as part of your diet could also provide you with protection from cancer. Further research is needed to investigate the anti-cancer properties of the nutrients in parsley, but there is indication that a Mediterranean diet rich in herbs like parsley, rosemary, sage, and oregano is associated with a lower risk of lung cancer. Parsley contains a phytochemical called carnosol, which shows potential as an anti-cancer agent in a number of different types of cancer including prostate, breast, skin, leukemia, and colon cancer. More in cancer prevention.
Immune System Support
The vitamins in parsley are important factors in the function of your immune system. Loading up on parsley provides you with vitamins A and C, both important for immunity. Vitamin A is very important to the function of natural killer cells, macrophages, neutrophils, which are central to the immune response. The vitamins in parsley are also necessary for establishing antibody responses to antigens in the body.
Higdon, Jane, PhD. “Micronutrient Information Center.” Vitamin K. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute, 2000. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
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Higdon, Jane, PhD. “Micronutrient Information Center.” Calcium. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute, 2001. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.
“Lutein & Zeaxanthin.” Lutein & Zeaxanthin. American Optometric Association, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015. <http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition/lutein?sso=y>.
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Drake, Victoria J., PhD. “Micronutrient Information Center.” Immunity. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute, 2010. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.