Everyone is familiar with parsley. It’s that little, usually unwelcome bit of garnish just sitting at the end of most plates. It doesn’t seem to do much beyond just look pretty and add some green to an otherwise ungreen plate of food. You might even have heard that the parsley is there to help settle and otherwise upset stomach after a meal, but is there any truth to that? And is there any nutritional value to parsley at all? Let’s take a look at this decorative food on today’s nutrition facts article, all about parsley!
Parsley Culture and History
Seems that being a little plate ornament isn’t parsley’s only claim to fame. It’s actually the most common herb in the world, which is always a nice honor to receive. But where does it get its start if it’s so darned popular? Seems its origins tie in with the Romans as so many other origin stories, specifically in the 4th century BC. Ancient roman writings mention not just one but two different varieties of parsley, making it quite the delicacy.
By the first century AD, the Roman writer Pliny states that there would not be a salad or a sauce served without parsley, essentially making it the “it” food for all Romans. The Greeks, not to be outdone, refused to eat it, though not necessarily because the Romans thought it was the cat’s meow. Rather, they refused based on their belief that parsley is sacred to the dead since it supposedly sprung from the blood of Archemorus, a hero of Greek legend.
The Greeks really seemed to love parsley for the more abstract reasons, so they’d crown winners of sporting events with wreaths of parsley or pluck sprigs of parsley in an attempt to bring about the demise of an enemy by speaking their name (sure, seems legit). This wasn’t the case with the Hebrews though as they viewed parsley as a symbol of rebirth when celebrating Passover, and people in medieval times just started using it as the plate garnish we see today, as well as a means to absorb odors when worn around their necks.
Eventually, parsley made its way to England after traveling through the Mediterranean region and settled on growing wild for a bit during the 16th century, then hopping a ship and migrating to America right around the 1800’s. And that is where we are today with parsley being a pretty readily available food and dinner decoration in restaurants across the nation.
Health Benefits of Parsley
So if it’s so fantastic, why do we just put it on the side of meals and not inside the meals themselves? Well, we do of course, but we forget about that because we’re so busy ignoring it when we’re in the middle of a veggie burger and fries. Turns out that parsley contains no cholesterol at all and actually has a ton of antioxidants, making it useful in lowering cholesterol as well, plus the usual cancer-combating benefits that go hand-in-hand with antioxidants.
Parsley contains a large amount of healthy oils, particularly eugenol, an essential oil that gets used a lot by dentists as an anesthetic and antiseptic for teeth and gums. Plus, eugenol also reduces the blood sugar of diabetics, though there’s a lot more research needed there. Other essential oils in parsley include myrusticin, limonene, and alpha-thujene, so, yeah, there are those.
Turns out that parsley actually has the highest amount of antioxidants in any plants, which is certainly something to brag about. It has the highest amount of vitamin K of any herb, plus a ton of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, folates, beta-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin, cryptoxanthins, potassium, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and even iron. Okay, this herb’s loaded!
What’s crazy is that beyond just reducing the risk of cancer via antioxidants, parsley also improves general bone health and may even help treat Alzheimer’s to some extent. And yet it’s dangerous for pregnant women to eat parsley on a large scale, which is baffling. Even stranger, a lot of people assume that parsley is a good remedy for kidney stones, yet the science shows that too much parsley can actually be the one to cause kidney stones in the first place. Science confuses me all too often!
Eating More Parsley
With the knowledge that the right amount of parsley can be rather beneficial, you’d think it’d be easy to justify just grabbing that little sprig off the side of your plate and munching down, right? Well of course there’s going to be the problem of simply not knowing the best way to eat it as plain is, well, plain. Turns out there are quite a few recipes floating around out there that include parsley pretty heavily, with a lot of them being salads. Did you ever think of making a salad almost exclusively out of parsley? Apparently it works!
My often you’ll discover that parsley is just a good additive as a good herb should be, leading to flavorful sauces such as chimichurri, which is similar to pesto, but it also goes well in soups and sauces of all flavors. It’s just one of those nice mild flavors that plays well with other ingredients and let’s them do their stuff while also adding a cool subflavor to the mixture. So, you know, like an herb is supposed to do. Good on ya parsley!
Now it’s time for me to stop talking and open things up for your comments and suggestions. Are you a fan of parsley? How do you prefer to use it in a meal, and do you have any killer parsley-based recipes to share? I must know! Leave a comment and let’s hear your thoughts! I’ll just sit here in the meantime off to the side, just sort of as a garnish to this article. Don’t just leave me to wilt!