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Have you tried parsley root?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

parsley root

Story at-a-glance -

  • Parsley root looks a parsnip and tastes like a cross between celery and carrots. While not widely used in the U.S., it's a common ingredient in the Netherlands, Germany and Poland as it's tasty, packed with nutrients and versatile
  • The benefits attributed to the vegetable are likely related to its high nutritional value, including high amounts of vitamin C, E, potassium, niacin and zinc
  • Parsley root is a detoxifying agent, has anti-inflammatory properties and is high in fiber to support a healthy gut microbiome and your immune system; high levels of flavonoids relieve oxidative stress, and high levels of potassium may protect against high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease
  • Parsley root has a long growing season and may flourish in container gardens when the pots are deep; the vegetable may be eaten cooked or raw, used in soups, stews and salads, or boiled for a delicious cup of tea

Most vegetables are low in calories and net carbohydrates, while being high in healthy fiber and valuable vitamins and minerals. As a rule, vegetables are a nutritional cornerstone to optimal health and a healthy diet. Most contain an array of antioxidants and other disease-fighting compounds.

Chemicals found in plants are called phytochemicals and help reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, while other chemicals may help regulate the rate of cell reproduction, autophagy and maintenance of DNA.

Many of the benefits associated with vegetables are related to their high fiber content that breaks down into short-chain fatty acids in your intestines by gut bacteria. These short-chain fatty acids have a demonstrated ability to reduce your risk of inflammatory diseases.1,2

In the world of vegetables, most may be eaten from the tops to the roots. While the above-ground portion of vegetables get the most attention, root vegetables are the stars. Root vegetables grow underground at the base of the plant, but not all are truly roots.

In some instances, they are larger growths responsible for storing nutrients to feed the plant during slow growing cold months. Examples of bulbous root vegetables are fennel and onions, while carrots, beets, radishes, parsnips and parsley root are good examples of taproot plants.3,4

What is parsley root?

If parsnips are the neglected relative of the carrot,5 you may not have even heard of the parsley root. Although not widely used in the U.S., it's a common ingredient used in cooking in the Netherlands, Germany and Poland.6

The parsley root’s flavor is described as “celery-meeting-carrot.” It is sometimes called the Hamburg parsley, rooted parsley or turnip-rooted parsley. It may look like a parsnip to some because the top, which is usually sold still attached to the plant, resembles parsnip leaves, but actually parsley root is whiter than a parsnip.

When purchasing parsley root, select a firm plant that may be single or double rooted. The root may be eaten raw or cooked, but you need to peel it before using in much the same way you would peel a carrot.7 You can eat parsley root leaves, but be aware: They are tougher and the flavor stronger.

Parsley root grows up to 6 inches long with a diameter of 2 inches.8 You can eat the whole plant, roots to leaves; the vegetable has a distinct scent to it; parts of are sometimes used as an herb. The root is smooth and creamy texture when cooked but has a tender crunch to it when raw. Cultivated varieties are grown throughout the Northern Hemisphere but continue to be an important vegetable in Central and Eastern Europe cuisine.9

As it has a long growing season, it's often thought of as a winter root and pairs well with carrots, potatoes, turnips and onions. According to Melissa’s World Variety Produce, the parsley root is often used in soups and stews but may be creamed, steamed or boiled when prepared alone.10

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Health benefits of parsley root likely related to its high nutritional value

Free radicals are generated by the human body through a variety of systems, including exercise and metabolism.11 Your body requires a balance between free radicals and antioxidants to maintain optimal physiological function. If free radicals take over it becomes difficult for your body to regulate them, and oxidative stress occurs.12

MedicalNewsToday explains it this way: When oxygen molecules are split into atoms with an unpaired electron they become unstable free radicals. The unbalanced electrical activity seeks out other atoms to bind with. When this continues to happen, it produces oxidative stress that may damage your cells and lead to a variety of diseases.13

Additionally, exposure to environmental sources such as cigarette smoke, air pollution and sunlight may increase the production of free radicals. Oxidative stress triggered by too many free radicals plays a role in the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease and eye diseases.14

As your body ages, you lose the ability to effectively fight free radicals, which leads to greater oxidative stress and more damage.15 Antioxidant molecules may counteract the oxidative stress. Your body produces some of them and others you get from foods. Common antioxidants include:16

  • Vitamins A, C and E
  • Beta-carotene
  • Lycopene
  • Lutein
  • Selenium

Parsley root is packed with nutrition, including vitamins and antioxidants, many of which may be responsible for the health benefits associated with eating the root vegetable.

Parsley root contains a large amount of vitamin C, which also functions as an antioxidant and may help prevent disease,17 and magnesium, a mineral necessary to maintain blood pressure, and reduce your risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Unfortunately, many in the U.S. get less than the recommended amounts of magnesium.18 A 100-gram (3.5 ounce) serving of raw parsley root provides the following nutrients:19

Calories 55 kcal

Carbohydrates 12 grams (8 gm net carbs)

Fiber 4 grams

Vitamin E 1.7 mg

Vitamin C 41 milligram (mg)

Niacin 2 mg

Folate 180 mg

Potassium 562 mg

Calcium 48.5 mg

Magnesium 36 mg

Phosphorus 71 mg

Zinc 1.4 mg

Parsley root reduces inflammation, detoxifies and supports immune system

In one animal study,20 researchers found the juice of parsley root in combination with the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin significantly increased cytochrome p450 enzymes — which play an important role in the metabolism of drugs, chemicals and vitamins — hence exerting a protective effect on the liver. Cytochrome p450 enzymes function to metabolize endogenous products, such as bilirubin21 and toxic compounds, including drugs.22

Doxorubicin23 is a widely used cytotoxic drug in the treatment of acute leukemia, lymphoma and other solid tumors, such as breast, liver and lung cancers. The toxicity can cause permanent damage and even death, outside of the illness it is being used to treat.

The discovery that parsley root juice could increase cytochrome P450, and therefore help to metabolize and detoxify the drug, is an important discovery in the treatment of cancer. Organic Facts24 recommends adding parsley root to boiling water as a detoxifying tea and drinking it on a daily basis.

Parsley root has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce your risk of disease. Vitamin C, zinc and magnesium are important players helping regulate the inflammatory process, and the combination of fiber25 and vitamin C in the parsley root may help to support your immune system.

The fiber also supports the growth of healthy bacteria that help protect against infection,26 while vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and cofactor for a number of gene regulatory enzymes.27

Parsley root benefits heart, gut and skin

Parsley root may be used to boost bile production and gastric juices to support the digestive process, alleviating gas, constipation and indigestion.28 The fiber helps reduce constipation and eating just a small amount may help relieve inflammation in the gut.

High levels of flavonoids and antioxidants relieve oxidative stress throughout the body, and inflammation on the skin. This may help reduce wrinkles and age spots,29 providing an antiaging effect. In addition to easing constipation, the fiber may help improve your heart health,30 and the levels of potassium may help lower blood pressure, protecting against stroke and other heart diseases.

The green tops on parsley root contain 554% of your daily value for vitamin K,31 which is intricately associated with bone mineral density. Researchers have found low intake of vitamin K was associated with low bone mineral density, consistent with past reports deficiency would increase the risk of hip fracture.32

Harvest parsley root from your garden

Sometimes called Dutch parsley, parsley root plants should not be confused with leaf parsley. Although harvested mostly for the root, the plant is a variety of parsley and a member of the carrot family. The leaves are tougher than the herb parsley variety and the flavor is stronger. Parsley root plants may be grown from seed.

However, they require a long growing season, so it's best to start them indoors in early spring.33 In some cases, germination may take as long as three weeks, so start them five to six weeks before the last frost, soaking for 12 hours in warm water first to speed the process. When the plants are 3 inches tall, harden them off outdoors and then transplant them after all risk of frost is gone.34

The plants prefer rich soil with frequent watering. Although they may be grown in containers, the pot must be deep enough to accommodate deep roots. You may harvest in phases. The leaves may be cut to ground level to encourage new growth while always leaving the inner stalks in place.35

Gardening Know-How says that at the end of the season, you can dig up the entire plant and store the roots in damp sand in the refrigerator. Your crisper could be filled with a couple inches of fine washed sand used for a child's sandbox.36 Add your root vegetables, such as turnips, carrots or parsley root. Leave space between each so the air can circulate and cover with sand.

When you're storing in sand, don't wash them as it accelerates decomposition. You may also use a cardboard or wooden box in a cool basement, cellar or unheated garage during the cool months, provided the area does not drop below freezing. Storing in this manner will extend the life of your root vegetables for as long as six months.37

Cooked or raw, parsley root makes a tasty addition to your food

Parsley root may be cleaned and sliced as you would a carrot or cooked. Remove the leaves and fine roots and then scrub with a brush to remove any soil. Some prefer the taste of the skin, so before you peel, decide for yourself.

Small roots may be sliced, diced or shredded into a salad. Cooked root may be sliced or cubed as you would turnips or parsnips and roasted, sautéed, boiled, steamed or tossed into a soup or stew. Parsley roots are paired well with beets, cabbage, horseradish and sweet potatoes.38 The following soup recipe serves eight and is adapted from Epicurious.39

Parsley-Root Soup with Truffle Chestnuts

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted organic butter
  • 3 pounds parsley root without tops, peeled and chopped
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 6 cups pure filtered water
  • 3 cups organic, no salt added, chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 to 10 peeled roasted whole chestnuts

Preparation

  1. Heat the butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat; add onion and garlic, stirring occasionally for six to eight minutes until the onion is soft and golden.
  2. Add the parsley root, thyme, bay leaf, white pepper and 3/4 teaspoon salt, cooking and stirring occasionally until the parsley root begins to soften, approximately eight to 10 minutes.
  3. Add water and broth; simmer, partially covered, until the root is very tender, approximately 30 to 40 minutes.
  4. Discard the thyme and bay leaf and stir in the oil.
  5. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until the soup is smooth, and then transfer to a bowl. Use caution when blending hot liquids.
  6. Use water to thin the soup to your desired consistency.
  7. Season with salt, return to a clean pot and keep warm and covered until ready to serve.
  8. Shave the chestnuts with an adjustable-blade slicer or sharp vegetable peeler as thinly as possible over each serving.