by Katherine Lewis Sep 22, 2021
“Parsley” is more than an herb; it also refers to an entire family of plants and vegetables (Apiaceae) that includes parsnips, celery, carrots, cumin, dill and cilantro. And even though these foods might not take center stage for meals, they are brimming with crucially important vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. Along with vitamins A (excellent for eye health) and C (hello, healthy skin!), members of the parsley family are excellent sources of vitamin K.
“Vitamin K helps to make some of the proteins that are essential for blood clotting and for building healthy bones,” says Dr. Adetunji Toriola, a Washington University researcher at Siteman Cancer Center. Vegetables in the parsley family contain significant amounts of water and fiber, which boosts hydration and leads to feeling fuller longer.
It isn’t even necessary to wait around for plants in the parsley family to grow: The seeds themselves are beneficial. “Cumin has been shown to aid digestion and may even help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome,” Dr. Toriola says, “and coriander, the seeds of the cilantro plant, can help lower blood sugar and fight inflammation.”
Members of the parsley family are also loaded with antioxidants, compounds that sweep away harmful cellular buildup. “The body generates what’s called free radicals, which are unstable molecules that are produced in the body as a response to many environmental and chemical reactions,” explains Dr. Toriola. These reactions can potentially lead to a number of cancers and diseases, but antioxidants in foods like parsley help mitigate the damage that free radicals can cause to cells throughout the body.
Beyond their slate of health benefits, the aromatic spices that make up the parsley family — such as cumin, dill, anise and fennel — simply taste good. Dr. Toriola points out that reaching for spices rather than salt or sugar is a far superior way to impart flavor and save calories. Better still, herbs like parsley and dill are widely available in both fresh and dried forms. If given the choice, though, Dr. Toriola says that “fresh is always best because all of the nutrients are still preserved. But even if you cannot have them fresh, dried will still do you a lot of good. They still have a substantial amount of vitamins and nutrients that the body can make use of.”
Meet the parsley family
First, some myth-busting: Celery is not a negative-calorie food; no food is. Eating celery does not expend more calories than it contains (about 10 calories per large stalk). But there are still plenty of reasons to work it into your diet. Celery is high in water, which keeps you fuller for longer, and it’s a good source of fiber, folate and potassium. The leaves also hold loads of nutrients — use them just as you would parsley.
While most of us associate dill with pickles or dips, the herb contains a remarkable amount of good-for-you nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. It’s great for heart health, and there’s some evidence that dill can help mitigate diabetes — or even prevent it from developing. Fresh or dried dill (dried is more potent) pairs particularly well with traditional autumn side dishes, such as roasted carrots and sweet potatoes.
An earthier, nuttier and even sweeter (when cooked) alternative to carrots, parsnips are terrific additions to meals in fall and winter — that’s when parsnips are in season and at their best. Toss them into stews, puree them into a creamy side dish, slice them lengthwise and bake like fries—all of these preparations bring vital nutrients including manganese, folate and vitamin C.
Chimichurri sauce, parsley pesto and tabbouleh might have their origins in distant corners of the world, but parsley is their common denominator. The verdant herb is a low-calorie way to brighten a range of food while imparting vitamins C and K, iron and magnesium, and it’s thought to be particularly good for the kidneys.
Salmon with Dill Sauce and Parsley Dijon Carrots
- 4 salmon fillets (4 oz each)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 2 tsp fresh dill (or 1 tsp dill weed)
Parsley Dijon carrots
- 3 cups carrots, shredded
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- Salt and pepper to taste
| Preparation | Preheat oven to 350°F. Place salmon fillets skin side down in ungreased baking pan. Season with salt, garlic powder and red pepper flakes. In small bowl, mix ingredients for dill sauce (mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and dill) and set aside. In medium bowl, combine carrots and green onions. Whisk together dressing of olive oil, Dijon mustard, vinegar and honey. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing over carrot mixture and stir to coat. Set aside. Bake salmon for 15–20 minutes, until fish begins to flake easily with fork. Top each fillet with dill sauce and serve with carrots.