Parsley: More than a garnish

Parsley is used as garnish because it’s pretty — but there’s more to this herb than its looks. Next time you see a sprig on your plate, take a bite; it tastes as good as it looks, adding a fresh, vibrant and slightly peppery taste to your food. It’s also amazing for your metabolism.

Nutrients in parsley

Let’s start with the nutrients: Parsley is extremely high in vitamins K, C and A, and you’ll get twice as much iron from a serving of parsley as from a serving of spinach. Other notable nutrients include folate (which protects your heart and prevents birth defects); calcium, lots of fiber, magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.

But there’s still more! What really makes parsley a superstar for your health are its volatile oils and flavonoids. One of those oils, myristicin, has been shown to inhibit tumor formation and help detoxify your body of carcinogens. Another volatile oil in parsley, eugenol, has antiseptic properties and can help reduce blood sugar levels.

Meanwhile, parsley’s extremely high flavonoid content also helps protect your cells from damage — and one of those flavonoids, apigenin, has been shown to prevent development of breast tumors.

It’s interesting that parsley’s traditional uses are very different from the angles modern science is currently exploring. It has diuretic effects, so can be helpful for flushing your GI tract; and it was traditionally used to stimulate menstruation (which is why pregnant women should not take it in excess). Parsley was also used to treat colic, indigestion and other stomach ailments, and to help your body expel gas.

It’s also a very common ingredient in detoxification diets and is credited in folk medicine with the ability to purify the blood (which makes sense, given its cancer-fighting properties); and if you need a quick breath freshener on the go, chewing on a sprig of parsley may help.

Metabolic helper

Because of its enzyme content, parsley is wonderful also as a digestive aid, and is especially helpful on Phase 2 to help alkalize the body, aid the liver in processing protein, and increase fat metabolism. It can also soothe a troubled tummy and help keep your blood sugar steady and stable — exactly the environment we want for metabolic repair and weight loss.

 A beautiful herb

Parsley comes in two types: Curly leaf and flat leaf. Both are at their best when fresh; shop for bunches that have vibrant, crisp dark-green leaves. Store the fresh parsley in the refrigerator, wrapped in a damp paper towel and stowed in a plastic bag.

If you end up with more than you can use, you can dry it or freeze it — and of course if fresh isn’t available, bulk dried parsley is a good alternative.

Eat it fresh

Parsley is at its nutritious best when eaten fresh, and it makes a great addition to salads and sandwiches. It’s also great in soups, stocks and stews — especially if you add it toward the end of the cooking process, to preserve the nutrition as much as possible.

Just a couple of cautions

Parsley is safe for just about everybody, although if you have kidney or gallbladder problems, you might want to avoid it because of its oxalate content. Also, as mentioned before, pregnant women should not consume excessive amounts of parsley during pregnancy; the excess can stimulate the uterus and increase fetal heart rate.