Parsnips, Pastinaca sativa, are a root vegetable in the Apaiaceae family. They have white or cream-colored flesh and a sweet, slightly nutty flavor. Parsnips originated in the Mediterranean region and spread around the world. They were domesticated early in agricultural history and became a staple food. The benefits of parsnips include dense nutrient content and hardiness. They grow almost anywhere agriculture is possible, and have a long growing season. Planting before winter enhances their sweet flavor.
Many of parsnip's digestive and cardiovascular health benefits are due to the root's high fiber content. Dietary fiber reduces the risk of diverticulitis and helps prevent constipation or diarrhea. Most fiber in parsnips is soluble. This type of fiber dissolves in water, to a limited extent, but it is not absorbed during digestion. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol particles and carries those particles out of the body. It can help reduce cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease.
Parsnips are good for healthy bones and teeth. They are rich in calcium and contain manganese and zinc, which are necessary for absorbing that calcium. Vitamin K aids in keeping bones and teeth healthy and preventing osteoporosis by further enhancing calcium absorption. Manganese is part of the process of forming and repairing bone and cartilage.
Parsnips are rich in potassium, which the body requires for cell energy production, electrolyte balance, nerve signals, and many other essential functions. A single cup of parsnip contains 499 milligrams of potassium. An additional benefit of parsnips is low sodium content, so this vegetable is a good choice for people on reduced-sodium diets.
Parsnips contain a variety of polyacetylene antioxidants such as falcarinol, falcarindiol, panaxydiol, and methyl-falcarindiol. Falcarindol has anti-inflammatory properties and may have some ability to prevent colon cancer. Polyacetylene antioxidants protect skin cells from UV damage and lower the risk of various skin cancers. Sun exposure destroys these anti-oxidants, so replacing them by consuming parsnips and similar foods is one way to combat depletion.
Many manufacturers add thiamine or vitamin B1 to foods such as cereals and bread. This vitamin occurs naturally in many grains and vegetables, including parsnips. An illness associated with thiamine deficiency, beriberi, damages nerves and may cause heart failure. Thiamine is essential for breaking down carbohydrates in the digestive system and may help prevent deficiencies and certain cancers. One cup of parsnip contains over a third of the daily recommended amount of thiamine.
A cup of parsnips contains approximately 90 micrograms of folate. Pregnant women are advised to consume at least 600 micrograms of folate each day because it is essential for nervous system health and development. Experts associate folate deficiency with neural tube defects in newborns. Folate is also necessary for efficient metabolism, cell energy production, and nervous system health. Sometimes folate is recommended as a complementary supplement to treat postpartum and general depression.
Parsnips are a good source of vitamin C, a water-soluble antioxidant that helps the immune system fight infections. It may also remove some harmful free radicals from the body. Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, helps maintain healthy bones, teeth, skin, and blood vessels. Vegetables contain the most vitamin C when they are fresh, and this amount declines over time, so fresh parsnips are the best source of this vitamin.
People frequently obtain iron and phosphorous from animal products, so there are many benefits to parsnips for people following vegetarian or vegan diets. Eating parsnips regularly can help prevent anemia. The root plant contains several nutrients necessary for red blood cell production, including iron, vitamin C, phosphorous, and several B-complex vitamins.
The weight loss benefits of parsnips come from their high fiber content and sweet flavor. Fiber makes parsnips a very filling vegetable that reduces hunger for hours after consumption. The sweet flavor can satisfy cravings without the empty calories associated with many sugary foods. The manganese in parsnips also aids in blood sugar regulation. Parsnips are also low in fat and ideal for flavoring soups and other dishes.
Parsnips are an excellent source of vitamin K and potassium. The latter is a vasodilator, which means it helps blood vessels stay open, avoiding constriction that could inhibit blood flow. Potassium is essential for healthy circulation and reduces the risk of high blood pressure. The folate helps the body reduce homocysteine in the blood, high levels of which are linked to heart disease.
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