If you’ve never tried parsnips, you’re probably not alone. Though these root vegetables are
delicious and versatile, they don’t often get to hang out with the popular veggie crowd headlined by kale, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, and the like. This is a shame because parsnips have a lot to offer aside from taste. They belong to the same family as carrots, which is why the two are often confused. However, parsnips are paler in color and have a distinctly different taste. Parsnips are incredibly nutrient-dense and have been associated with many health benefits. They are high in fiber and low in calories, and they’re about 80% water, which makes them an excellent addition to your diet, especially if you’re looking to lose a little bit of weight. They contain high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and other important micronutrients including potassium and manganese. Parsnips are also high in antioxidants, which are compounds that prevent oxidative stress and decrease damage to your cells. Antioxidants help to protect against chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease so consuming a diet high in antioxidants is beneficial for your overall, long-term health.
Let’s look at some specific health benefits of eating parsnips:
Parsnips contain favorable levels of potassium. Potassium acts as a vasodilator, which means it dilates the blood vessels thereby reducing blood pressure and stress on the heart. The high levels of folate in parsnips help to reduce homocysteine levels in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid in the body that is commonly linked to a higher risk of heart disease. The fiber in parsnips can be beneficial for reducing cholesterol levels in the body, as well.
Consuming adequate amounts of fiber is important for optimizing gut health. The good bacteria in our gut feed off of fiber and produce beneficial metabolites, such as the short-chain fatty acid called butyrate. Butyrate helps to control inflammation and can prevent leaky gut, among other beneficial properties. Fiber helps move food through the digestive tract and facilitate healthy bowl movements, and it helps prevent against gastrointestinal disorders, including colon cancer.
Reduce Neural Tube Defects
The folate (or vitamin B9) in parsnips is a necessary prenatal vitamin for women, especially during the early weeks of pregnancy. Getting adequate levels of folate reduces neural tube defects in infants, including cleft palate, spina bifida, and brain damage. Folate can also help new mothers cope with the effects of postpartum depression.
Support Immune Function
Parsnips are ripe with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, quercetin, kaempferol, and many others, that improve immunity by protecting the body from foreign invaders, as well as toxic byproducts from cellular metabolism called free radicals. Parsnips also contain an antioxidant called falcarindiol, which has been shown to have anticancer properties that seek out and destroy carcinogenic cells.
Just one cup of parsnips provides 41% of the daily recommended intake of manganese. This is important because manganese is an essential component of many enzymes in the body, which aid in antioxidant function, digestive health, wound healing, and more. Specifically, manganese is a co-factor for the enzyme responsible for producing cartilage and strengthening bone, as well as resolving skeletal issues like osteoporosis.
Prevent Respiratory Illness
Parsnips contain carotenoids, which are essentially plant pigments that act as antioxidants in the body. These help treat many respiratory issues and infections, including sinusitis, asthma, wheezing, emphysema, bronchitis, shortness of breath, and more.
I could go on and on about the health benefits of eating parsnips, but by now, I think you understand how amazing these root vegetables are. Roasting them is quick and easy and so tasty. They’re delicious and nutritious, and if you take the leap and try them, I promise you’ll be adding these pale-colored, carrot-cousins into your usual veggie rotation in no time.
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