Parsley may be a tiny herb, but it has big health benefits when paired with a keto lifestyle. You might be picturing sprinkling some extra parsley on top of your meal, but to get the maximum benefit from this powerhouse herb, consider making it the shining star of your meal instead. The flavor is amazing, but parsley’s nutritional benefits are what will really captivate you!
I personally love using parsley to make my favorite pesto, it makes for such an easy addition to any meal. Let’s take a closer look at parsley, how it can be used to enhance the benefits of a keto lifestyle, and some ideas for incorporating it into the foods you already enjoy.
Parsley, coming from a Greek word meaning “celery-rock” is a flowering plant that is native to the Mediterranean, but it has been used around the world for centuries as an herb, garnishes, and medicine1. It is a member of the Apiaceae family of herbs, along with other herbs, such as dill and fennel2. There are three types of parsley: Curled leaf, Flat leaf, and Root parsley. Curled leaf parsley, the most common variety, is sturdy enough to be used as a garnish, and it is usually the type that is found dried in the spice section of the grocery store. It has a clean, fresh taste that is used to brighten up a dish. Flat leaf, also called Italian parsley, has more flavor than curled leaf, in addition to being more fragrant and less bitter. Root parsley, also called Hamburg parsley, is lesser known, and typically found in ethnic grocery stores. With root parsley, the leaves are discarded, and the root is eaten. Root parsley resembles a parsnip in appearance and can be roasted, fried, or eaten raw.
Parsley has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years and was originally used as a medicine before it was used in cooking. With its antibacterial properties3, it was used to treat infections and skin wounds, but also to improve digestion and lower blood pressure. Its anti-inflammatory properties also made it a good choice for treating asthma.
Parsley’s Greek meaning, “celery-rock,” came from the fact that it was found growing on rocky hillsides in Greece. The Greek people originally used parsley to make wreaths that were placed on graves at funerals (which is how it got the nickname “funeral herb”), and it was also used to make crowns for winners of sporting games. Eventually, Romans discovered they could use the herb to cover up the smell of alcohol on their breath, and found it helped with digestion as well4. In addition, Parsley has been used by Hebrews as part of their Passover celebration, with parsley symbolizing rebirth. This little herb has a pretty amazing history5!
Despite all the medicinal, cultural, and religious uses for parsley, it finally began to be used as an herb and vegetable in the middle ages in Europe, and the rest is history. It is now widely used in North America, Europe, and the Middle East in soups, sauces, salads, and as a garnish used to add a fresh flavor to a variety of dishes.
Parsley is a wonderful addition to a keto diet – not only because of its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties6, but also because it works alongside a keto lifestyle to further boost the anti-aging benefits of keto. Parsley also contributes to metabolic flexibility, mainly through reducing insulin resistance7. In addition, parsley is a great source of flavonoids, which we’ll cover more in a minute. One of the ways parsley’s flavonoids help enhance a keto diet is by boosting the production of liver enzymes that detoxify the body. Parsley fits in perfectly with a keto lifestyle aimed to reduce inflammation and disease and promote overall wellbeing8.
Parsley is a true nutrition powerhouse – not only does it help protect the body from carcinogens, it also has compounds that have been known to reduce inflammation, improve blood sugar control, and boost the immune system. Let’s dive in and look at the specific components that give parsley its myriad of health benefits.
Parsley is a source of keto fiber and volatile oils and flavonoids that come packed with benefits. Volatile oils, such as myristicin, are found in parsley and help protect the body from carcinogens9 (like cigarette smoke and pesticides). Parsley is also known to be a good source of flavonoids, especially luteolin, apigenin, and myricetin10. These flavonoids have anti-aging and cancer-fighting properties11,12,13, so they are priceless! Luteolin can help prevent cell damage and amplify the anti-aging effects of the keto diet14. Apigenin and myricetin boost the production of liver enzymes that detoxify the body. Myricetin seems to be the most beneficial of all, helping to prevent skin cancer, improve blood sugar control, and reduce insulin resistance15. And parsley happens to have one of the highest concentrations of myricetin per 100 grams!
In addition to volatile oils and flavonoids, parsley is also a good source of Vitamins A, C, and K16. The Vitamin C in parsley helps neutralize cancer-causing free radicals18, reduces inflammation17, and is a key component of our immune system19. Parsley also contains Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene20, which works as an antioxidant21, reduces inflammation, and boosts the immune system. Vitamin K is known to help keep our bones strong by helping calcium get deposited in our bones instead of being excreted in urine22.
Another huge health benefit of parsley is that it can block the harmful effects of heterocyclic amines, which are produced when meats are cooked at high temperatures. Pairing a parsley sauce or parsley – pesto with grilled meat can reduce the potential cancer-causing effects and boost the body’s natural detoxifying ability. Now that we know all about what makes parsley so great, you’re probably wondering how you can incorporate it more in your meals, so let’s talk more about that.
1Pesto: As I mentioned earlier, one of my favorite ways to eat parsley is as part of a pesto. It’s so easy to make and packs so much flavor. It is also full of healthy fats and is very versatile. I love having a bowl of parsley pesto with my favorite veggies – it makes such an easy meal. You could spoon a healthy amount over your favorite meat, fish, or veggies, and dinner is served!
2Parsley Salad: You may think of sprinkling some parsley over your favorite salad as a way to get a little extra parsley in your meal. But what if you made parsley the salad itself? With its fresh and crisp flavor, it’s great as the base of a salad. You can add other veggies you enjoy, add some salmon, and top it with my favorite Fat Burning Guacamole for a complete meal.
3Parsley Sauces: Sauces are a great way to incorporate more parsley and healthy fats into your meals. They can be added to meat, fish, veggies, and eggs, and add so much fresh flavor. Gremolata is an Italian sauce that combines parsley, oil, lemon juice, and seasonings. It is great to toss with oven roasted vegetables or spoon over poached salmon. Chimichurri is a South American sauce that uses parsley, oil, garlic, and other seasonings. It is used as a marinade or sauce to spoon over meats and fish after cooking, but it is equally good mixed with veggies as well.
4Salad Dressings: In addition to adding fresh chopped parsley to your favorite salads, you can blend it into your salad dressing as well. Simply add a couple of tablespoons of parsley to your favorite salad dressing or make my Ultimate Salad Dressing. It is full of heart-healthy olive oil and is bursting with flavor!
5Smoothies: Smoothies are perfect when you’re on-the-go and don’t have time to sit down for a meal. A green smoothie is a great way to enhance nutrient absorption, improve digestion, and boost your immune system! Parsley can easily be added to your favorite green smoothie recipe – just add ¼ cup and blend it all together. Try a Supercharged Green Smoothie to enjoy one of my favorite healthy fats, Creamy MCT.
When you’re looking for parsley, choose fresh when possible. The flavor is much more vibrant than dried, and you can eat it raw in salads, sauces, and smoothies. You’ll want to choose parsley that is a vibrant green color with perky leaves. The more vibrant the color, the more nutrients it contains23. Try to avoid wilted parsley, especially if the leaves are starting to turn yellow or brown. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between parsley and cilantro, as they can look quite similar! The best way to tell the difference is by smelling them – they each have their own distinct smell.
Parsley is best when stored like you would a bouquet of flowers, in a jar of water. It will last the longest if you store it in the refrigerator covered loosely with a plastic bag. When stored correctly, parsley can last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
Dried parsley can be a good option when you run out of fresh parsley, or when you’d like it to blend in with the other flavors in the dish. Dried parsley has a more muted flavor and is great in soups and sauces. It has all the same nutrients as fresh parsley, and some of the nutrients are actually more concentrated in dried parsley24. Store it in an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid. Stored at room temperature, it can last one to three years. To test if your dried parsley is still good, simply rub some between your fingers, then smell and taste it. If you can’t really smell or taste it, it’s time to replace it.
As you can see, I am so excited about parsley because it has a multitude of benefits that can support your keto lifestyle and improve your health. It’s widely available and quite versatile – it fits into most savory recipes, so you can just incorporate it into meals you already enjoy. As a bonus, it pairs well with nourishing fats that support brain health and reduces inflammation. Are you as excited about enjoying parsley on your keto diet as me? The next step is to decide is which one to try first!
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