Parsley is the world’s most popular herb. Once you have planted it once in your garden it will also return year after year making it a biennial plant. An easy herb to grow! Take advantage of this because as you are about to read parsley has many health benefits if eaten regularly.
Parsley contains a few elements that give it unique health benefits. These components include volatile oil and flavanoids, folate and vitamins A and C.
One of the volatile oils in parsley is named myristicin. The activity of parsley’s volatile oils qualifies it as a “chemoprotective” food, and in particular, a food that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens (like the benzopyrenes that are part of cigarette smoke) and inhibit tumor formation, especially in the lungs. Myristicin has also been shown to activate the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase, which helps attach the molecule glutathione to oxidized molecules that would otherwise do damage in the body.
The flavonoids in parsley, especially luteolin, have been shown to function as antioxidants that combine with highly reactive oxygen-containing molecules, free radicals, and help prevent oxygen-based damage to cells. Antioxidants are especially important for athletes as we have an increased rate of respiration due to our hours of hard training outdoors. Both Vitamin C and Vitamin A are found in Parsley and are excellent antioxidants.
Vitamin C has many different functions. It is the body’s primary water-soluble antioxidant High levels of free radicals contribute to the development and progression of a wide variety of diseases, including atherosclerosis, colon cancer, diabetes, and asthma. Studies have shown that people who regularly consume vitamin C have lower incidences of these diseases.
Vitamin C is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, which explains its usefulness in conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. And since vitamin C is needed for the healthy function of the immune system, it can also be helpful for preventing recurrent infections or colds. The vitamin C and vitamin A found in also support the immune system. Vitamin C is necessary for collagen, the main structural protein found in connective tissue. Therefor vitamin C will be important in repairing wounds in the body. Vitamin A, on the other hand, strengthens entry points into the body, such as mucous membranes, the lining of the eyes, and respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts. Lymphocytes, or white blood cells also rely on vitamin A to ﬁght infection in the body. Clearly both vitamin A and C are important to our overall health for day to day life and as athletes.
Some findings relating vitamin C and rheumatoid arthritis include the data presented in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases were drawn from a study of more than 20,000 subjects who kept diet diaries and were arthritis-free when the study began, and focused on subjects who developed inflammatory polyarthritis and similar subjects who remained arthritis-free during the follow-up period. Subjects who consumed the lowest amounts of vitamin C-rich foods were more than three times more likely to develop arthritis than those who consumed the highest amounts. (Pattison DJ, Silman AJ, Goodson NJ, Lunt M, Bunn D, Luben R, Welch A, Bingham S, Khaw KT, Day N, Symmons DP. Vitamin C and the risk of developing inflammatory polyarthritis: prospective nested case-control study).
As far as your heart goes..parsley can help here too! There is an amino acid in the body called homocysteine that is getting a lot of attention these days. Homocysteine threatens the body’s blood vessels when its levels become too high. Parsley has folate or vitamin B9 in it which helps to convert homocysteine into harmless molecules. Eating parsley regularly can help ward off cardiovascular disease, alongside with good overall nutrition! Only two tablespoons of parsley contain 16% of the RDA of vitamin C and over 12% of the RDA of vitamin A – two powerful antioxidants.
So, perhaps that garnish on your plate can be incorporated into your nutrition plan a little more often! Consider juicing parsley, or making a tabouli recipe, adding parsley to your pesto recipe for more texture, making a chicken rub from parsley, lime/lemon zest and garlic or ginger, adding parsley to soups, or discovering some parsley recipes that you enjoy! Now you know…that little green sprig on your plate…is more than just decoration :)!