Parsley – the quintessential garnish beautifying many a plate. Though loved for its decorative abilities, did you know this herb can also add flavor to all sorts of dishes and is really good for you too? Next time you come across parsley ‘dressing up’ your dinner, do yourself a favor and don’t “leaf” it behind!
Parsley, Petroselinum crispum, is the head of the parsley family, also known as the Apiaceae family, or umbellifers, due to forming umbrella-like stem structures called umbels. It is a huge plant group with over 3,700 species, including carrots, parsnip, anise, caraway, dill, fennel, cilantro (aka coriander), cumin and celery. In fact, the word parsley comes from Greek, meaning ‘rock-celery’ since it was found growing on rocky hillsides in Greece. Native to the Mediterranean region, this herb has been used medicinally since ancient times; the Ancient Greeks also used it to fashion wreaths for graves and to make crowns for winners of sporting events. Today, this herb is widely cultivated around the world. There is both flat-leaf (aka Italian) and ‘fancier’ curly-leaf (aka French) varieties, in addition to root parsley, which is a root vegetable similar in appearance to parsnip and commonly consumed in central and eastern European cuisine. Not only does this culinary herb confer health benefits, taste delicious and look pretty, but parsley is also purported to help freshen up your breath!
Nutrivore Score for Parsley – 5491
Parsley has a Nutrivore Score of 5491, making it one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet! Plus, it’s a low-carb and low-calorie-density food; the calorie count of parsley is just 20 calories per cup!
Per serving, parsley is a best source (>50% daily value) of vitamin K; an excellent source (20-50% daily value) of vitamin C; and a good source (10-20% daily value) of carotenoids.
Parsley Nutrition Facts
One serving of a parsley is standardized to 1/4 cup of parsley, or about 15 grams (0.2 ounces). For herbs, on average, three parts fresh is roughly equivalent to 1 part dried, so if using dried parsley: 1 tablespoon fresh parsley is equivalent to 1 teaspoon dried parsley.
|Parsley, fresh||Nutrivore Score: 5491||Nutrient Density: Super!|
|Serving Size: 1/4 cup (15 grams)||Protein: 0.4 grams||Net Carbohydrates: 0.5 grams|
|Calories: 5||Total Fat: 0.1 grams||Dietary Fiber: 0.5 grams|
|Vitamin A||63.2 μg RAE||7% DV|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||12.9 μg||1% DV|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||14.7 μg||1% DV|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||0.2 mg||1% DV|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.1 mg||1% DV|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||13.5 μg||1% DV|
|Vitamin B7 (Biotin)||0.9 μg||3% DV|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||22.8 μg||6% DV|
|Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin C||20.0 mg||22% DV|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin E||0.2 mg||1% DV|
|Vitamin K||246.0 μg||205% DV|
|Choline||1.9 mg||0% DV|
|Calcium||20.7 mg||2% DV|
|Copper||22.4 μg||2% DV|
|Iron||0.9 mg||5% DV|
|Magnesium||7.5 mg||2% DV|
|Manganese||24.0 μg||1% DV|
|Phosphorus||8.7 mg||1% DV|
|Potassium||83.1 mg||2% DV|
|Selenium||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Sodium||8.4 mg||0% DV|
|Zinc||0.2 mg||1% DV|
|AMINO ACIDS & PEPTIDES|
Parsley Nutrition Varies With Processing
The Nutrivore Score for parsley varies depending on processing. For instance, dried forms of this herb are available for year-round convenience!
Health Benefits of Parsley Nutrients
Let’s take a closer look at all of the best and excellent source of nutrients found in a 1/4-cup serving of parsley and see how they benefit our health.
Parsley Provides 205% DV Vitamin K
Parsley is a particularly awesome source of vitamin K, providing a whopping 205% of the daily value per 1/4-cup serving!
Vitamin K is actually a group of fat-soluble vitamins with a similar molecular structure, existing as K1, multiple isoforms of K2, and the synthetic form K3. This nutrient plays a vital role in coagulation, due to serving as a cofactor for proteins needed for blood clotting; it’s also essential for bone metabolism, cellular function, and the prevention of soft tissue calcification. Getting enough vitamin K2 can help protect against cardiovascular disease, may improve bone mineral density and skeletal health, and may even support endocrine function and brain health; there’s also some limited evidence it has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Learn more about vitamin K here.
Parsley Provides 22% DV Vitamin C
Parsley is also an excellent source of vitamin C, providing 22% of the daily value per 1/4-cup serving.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that has powerful antioxidant properties (meaning it can help combat oxidative damage from free radicals and reactive oxygen species) and that serves as an enzyme cofactor (meaning it’s needed for enzymes to do their job, for example vitamin C is necessary for collagen synthesis, which is essential for bones, joints, teeth, blood vessels, skin and eyes) and playing important roles in immune system and skin health. Higher intakes of vitamin C are linked to reduced risk of heart disease, some forms of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and gout. Vitamin C can also help regulate the stress response and reduce anxiety, and there’s preliminary evidence that it may also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Learn more about vitamin C here.
How Much Parsley Should We Eat Per Day?
Herbs (like parsley) are often solely used as garnish but in actuality provide the perfect opportunity to deliver a health-promoting boost of flavor and nutrients to any dish.
The health benefits attributed to herbs and spices, and particularly their phytonutrient content and volatile oils, are incredibly vast. In general, herbs and spices have been shown to have powerful antioxidant activity, exhibit anti-cancer effects (especially due to polyphenols, terpenes, vanilloids, and organosulfur compounds), reduce inflammation (for example, basil, bay leaves, sage, thyme, licorice, and oregano have been shown to improve cytokine profiles), and reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
There is evidence from human clinical trials showing that adding spices and herbs to our diet can improve serum lipid profiles (HDL cholesterol, LCL cholesterol and triglycerides) as well as glycemic control, blood pressure, inflammation, and oxidative stress. For example, a 2022 study added a mere 6.6 grams per day per 2100 calories of herbs and spices (that’s about a teaspoon of seasonings throughout the whole day) to the diets of adults with risk factors for cardiovascular disease, with a crossover design comparing to a 3.3 grams of herbs and spices phase as well as a <0.5 grams herbs and spices phase. After four weeks consuming the higher level of herbs and spices, the participants had significant improvements in gut microbiome composition including growth of bacteria associated with reduced cardiovascular disease risk. A 2021 study by the same research group showed reductions in blood pressure after a single day of higher intake of herbs and spices. And a follow-up 2022 study showed reduced markers of inflammation after four weeks of the higher spice intake diet, including reduced fasting plasma IL-6 and postprandial plasma IL-1β, IL-8, and TNF-α. All in all, this makes a compelling case for aiming for a teaspoon of dried herbs and spices (or 1 tablespoon fresh) or more per day added to our meals! Learn more about herbs and spices here.
Since the health benefits attributed to herbs (like parsley) are credited to the diverse array of phytonutrients and volatile oils found within different herbs and spices, it is important that we strive for variety when incorporating these foods in our diet. Not only when it comes to herbs, but in general it’s always best to mix up the veggies you eat day to day (aiming for a wide variety of different vegetables and fruits throughout the week).
Expand to see all scientific references for this article.
Clements RS Jr, Darnell B. Myo-inositol content of common foods: development of a high-myo-inositol diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 Sep;33(9):1954-67. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/33.9.1954. PMID: 7416064.
Phenol-Explorer: Parsley, fresh
Piironen V, Toivo, J, Puupponen-Pimiä R, Lampi AM. Plant sterols in vegetables, fruits and berries. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 2003 Mar;83(4):330-337. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.1316.
Pravst I, Zmitek K, Zmitek J. Coenzyme Q10 contents in foods and fortification strategies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Apr;50(4):269-80. doi: 10.1080/10408390902773037. PMID: 20301015.
USDA Food Central Database: Parsley, fresh
Watanabe T, Kioka M, Fukushima A, Morimoto M, Sawamura H. Biotin content table of select foods and biotin intake in Japanese. Int J Anal Bio-Sci. 2014. Vol 2(4):109-125.