1. Supports bone health
Your bones need certain vitamins and minerals in varying amounts to remain healthy and strong.
Parsley is packed with vitamin K — an essential nutrient for bone health. A 1/2 cup (30 grams) provides an impressive 547% of the RDI.
Vitamin K helps build stronger bones by supporting bone-building cells called osteoblasts. This vitamin also activates certain proteins that increase bone mineral density — a measure of the amount of minerals present in your bones.
Bone density is important, as a lower bone mineral density is associated with an increased risk of fractures — especially in older adults.
Some studies suggest that eating foods high in vitamin K may reduce your risk of fractures. One study found that higher vitamin K intake was associated with a 22% lower risk of fractures.
Typical dietary intakes of vitamin K may be below the levels needed to improve bone mineral density and reduce fracture risk. Therefore, eating foods like parsley may benefit bone health.
2. Rich in nutrients that protect your eyes
Lutein, beta carotene, and zeaxanthin are three carotenoids in parsley that help protect your eyes and promote healthy vision. Carotenoids are pigments found in plants that have powerful antioxidant activity.
Lutein and zeaxanthin may prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an incurable eye disease and a leading cause of blindness around the world.
In fact, eating foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce your risk of late AMD by up to 26%.
beta carotene is another carotenoid that supports eye health. This carotenoid can be converted into vitamin A in your body.
This conversion of beta carotene explains why parsley is very rich in vitamin A. A 1/2 cup (30 grams) of freshly chopped leaves provides 108% of the RDI for this vitamin.
Vitamin A is essential for eye health, as it helps protect the cornea — the outermost layer of your eye — as well as the conjunctiva — the thin membrane covering the front of your eye and the inside of your eyelids.
3. May improve heart health
Parsley is a nutrient-dense herb that may improve heart health. For example, it’s a good source of the B vitamin folate — with 1/2 cup (30 grams) providing 11% of the RDI.
High intakes of dietary folate may reduce heart disease risk in certain populations. A large study in over 58,000 people found that the highest intake of folate was associated with a 38% reduced risk of heart disease.
Conversely, low intake of folate may increase your risk of heart disease. One study in 1,980 men observed a 55% increase in heart disease risk in those with the lowest intake of this nutrient.
Some experts hypothesize that folate benefits heart health by lowering levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High homocysteine levels have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease in some studies.
Homocysteine may negatively affect heart health by altering the structure and function of your arteries. However, the connection between this amino acid and heart disease still remains controversial.
4. Rich in antioxidants
Parsley contains many powerful antioxidants that can benefit your health.
Antioxidants are compounds that prevent cellular damage from molecules called free radicals. Your body requires a healthy balance of antioxidants and free radicals to maintain optimal health.
The main antioxidants in parsley are:
- vitamin C
The fragrant herb is particularly rich in a class of antioxidants known as flavonoids. The two main flavonoids include myricetin and apigenin.
Diets rich in flavonoids may lower your risk of conditions, including colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Furthermore, beta carotene and lutein are two antioxidants known as carotenoids. Many studies associate higher intake of carotenoids with a reduced risk of certain diseases, including lung cancer.
Vitamin C also has strong antioxidant effects and plays an important role in supporting immune health and protecting against chronic disease.
Interestingly, dried parsley may be higher in antioxidants than fresh sprigs. In fact, one study found that the dried herb had 17 times more antioxidant content than its fresh counterpart.
5. Contains cancer-fighting substances
Parsley contains plant compounds that may have anticancer effects.
Oxidative stress a condition characterized by an imbalance in levels of antioxidants and free radicals is associated with the development of certain chronic diseases, including cancer.
Parsley is particularly rich in flavonoid antioxidants and vitamin C, which reduce oxidative stress in your body and may lower your risk of certain cancers.
For example, high dietary intake of flavonoids may reduce colon cancer risk by up to a 30%.
Additionally, subgroups of certain flavonoids in parsley such as myricetin and apigenin have shown anticancer activity in test-tube and animal studies.
Plus, eating foods rich in vitamin C may reduce your risk of cancer as well. A 1/2 cup (30 grams) of parsley provides 53% of the RDI for this nutrient.
One study found that increasing vitamin C by 100 mg per day reduced the risk of overall cancer by 7%. Moreover, increasing dietary vitamin C by 150 mg per day may lower prostate cancer risk by up to 21%
6. Parsley extract has antibacterial properties
Parsley may have antibacterial benefits when used as an extract.
For example, a test-tube study demonstrated that the extract showed significant antibacterial activity against yeast, molds, and a common, infection-causing bacteria.
The extract may also prevent the growth of bacteria in food. Another test-tube study found it prevented the growth of potentially harmful bacteria, such as Listeria and Salmonella both known to cause food poisoning.
Though the extract shows antibacterial potential in test-tube studies, these benefits have not yet been studied in humans.