The Health Benefits of Parsnips

February 03, 2009

Rich in nutrients - the humble parsnip

Before the potato was introduced in Europe in 1536 the lesser known parsnip was commonly cultivated. This root vegetable resembles a larger and more tapered yellow carrot and the taste could be considered somewhere between a carrot and a potato - it contains natural sugars - hence the sweetness and is a lot less starchy than potatoes, with its carbohydrate content coming from the natural sugars instead of starch. Originating from the Mediterranean, parsnips have been eaten since ancient times and were introduced to the rest of Europe through the conquests of the Roman Empire - at first they were typically the same size as carrots but the vegetables grew larger as they were cultivated further and further north.
Lower in calories than both potatoes and carrots and an excellent source of fiber (3 grams in 1/2 a cup) parsnips are particularly rich in potassium and vitamin C, folic acid, pantothenic acid, copper, and manganese. They are also a good source of niacin, thiamine, magnesium, riboflavin and vitamins B6 and E.
The high level of soluble fiber contained in parsnips makes them a great inclusion in a cholesterol lowering, heart healthy diet and the folic acid content is of great benefit to expectant mothers and is also thought to help combat heart disease, dementia and osteoporosis.
Interestingly, parsnips are also thought to improve bronchial function, so may be of particular help to asthma sufferers.
The rich vitamin and mineral content of this humble root are also thought to give it diuretic and antioxidant properties and in natural medicine it has been used to treat kidney disease and for reducing obesity and cellulite and has been recommended to those suffering from anemia.
When choosing parsnips at the market go for crisp and firm, evenly colored tubers and store them in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.
Next time you feel like fries - why not try parsnips instead of potatoes?
Chop them into 1/2 inch strips removing the core, place them on a oven sheet, drizzle with olive oil and salt and put them in a 425 degree oven until crispy - around 15 minutes.