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INCREDIBLE! Here are 4 compelling reasons to eat parsnips

INCREDIBLE! Here are 4 compelling reasons to eat parsnips

Parsnips, close relatives to carrots, may lack the popularity of their more brightly-colored cousins. But, like carrots, these root vegetables are members of the Apiaceae family, and contain compounds that researchers are currently investigating for their disease-fighting properties. In fact, parsnips – which are also traditionally known as bird’s-nest, madnip and queen weed – have a long history of use in herbal Persian medicine for their diuretic and cleansing properties.  

But, there’s more to parsnips than their health benefits. Cooked parsnips combine a mild, nutty sweetness with a peppery “bite,” making them a satisfying side dish and a versatile addition to recipes.

 Parsnip compounds may be instrumental in the fight against cancer

In addition to containing beneficial essential oils and flavonoids, parsnips are high in coumarins and polyacetylenes – compounds which are currently being researched for anti-cancer effects. In a recently-published scientific review, the authors credited coumarins in parsnips with inhibiting the growth of cancer cells in the breast, colon, lung and prostate.

And, that isn’t all. The team noted that coumarins help to prevent angiogenesis - the process by which new blood vessels are developed to nourish tumors. They also reported that coumarins inhibited the “direct invasion of cancer cells.” While more study is needed, these results are highly encouraging. And, parsnips are also high in antioxidants, which scavenge free radicals and help to prevent the oxidative damage that may trigger the development of cancer.

Parsnips are highly nutritious

Low in fat and high in dietary fiber, parsnips are also rich in important micronutrients. For example, a one-cup serving of parsnips delivers a hefty 25 percent of the Reference Daily Intake of antioxidant vitamin C, along with 25 percent of the RDI of vitamin K, needed for normal blood clotting and bone and arterial health.  

The same serving contributes another 22 percent of the RDI of folate - which is believed to help protect against strokes – along with 13 percent of the RDI of antioxidant vitamin E. Parsnips also contain healthy amounts of magnesium, which can help to stabilize mood. (This may account for parsnips' reputation among herbalists as a food with mild antidepressant effects). Parsnips are also a good source of the mineral phosphorous, essential for the health of bones and teeth.

At a modest 100 calories per cup, parsnips are a nutritional bargain.

Parsnips may promote weight loss and support digestive health

With a cup of parsnips containing over a quarter of the RDI for dietary fiber for the entire day, parsnips can make you feel fuller longer - and act as a valuable ally in supporting normal weight. In addition to helping suppress appetite, fiber promotes regularity and helps alleviate constipation.

The ability of fiber in parsnips to promote weight loss has been showcased in various studies. In one, people who increased their fiber intake by 14 grams a day decreased their calorie intake by up to 10 percent, triggering modest but significant weight loss. And, a relatively recent scientific review pointed out that fiber in parsnips helped promote a weight loss of 4 pounds over 4 months.

Finally, increasing fiber intake has been shown in studies to help treat conditions such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids and intestinal ulcers. (That said, boosting fiber intake too quickly can lead to digestive upsets. Gradual increases in fiber-rich foods are preferable).

Boost immune function with parsnips

Vitamin C, which is found in good supply in parsnips, is often referred to as “the muscle of the immune system.” As one influential review shows, this essential micronutrient may help decrease symptoms and shorten the duration of respiratory tract issues, including the common cold. (With cold and flu season quickly approaching, it only makes sense to keep levels of vitamin C “topped up.”)

While vitamin C can help you keep your immune system humming along, it is not the only powerful compound found in parsnips. These beneficial veggies also contain zinc - essential for immune system defense – and are loaded with powerful health promoting  antioxidants, such as quercetin, kaempferol, apigenin and myristicin.

Parsnips are an ideal addition to recipes

You can prepare parsnips mashed, boiled, baked, steamed, grilled and stir-fried. Spice them up with ginger or turmeric, add zip with lemon juice or enhance their flavor with thyme or tarragon.

Or, drizzle them with olive oil and chili powder and roast alongside Brussels sprouts, peppers and carrots.

Parsnips pair particularly well with parmesan or provolone cheese, making them a good substitute for potatoes in gratins.

With so much to offer, parsnips deserve a "place at the table" - and in your health fall is the perfect time to explore their possibilities.

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