Coming from the Mediterranean region of Europe, parsley is best known as a garnish. Most people think of parsley being chopped and topped onto your food. Not so fast! That isn’t the case. Actually, parsley is a very versatile herb that can bring massive flavor all while being a nice looking topping on your favorite meals and snacks.
What if you have a delayed allergy to parsley? What if you’re looking for a parsley substitute for whatever reason? There are many options out there if you indeed need a quick parsley substitute and that’s why we created this article.
Before we find your favorite parsley substitute, let’s go over parsley’s history. Parsley has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years. The ancient Greeks considered parsley to be sacred, using it to not only to attract victors, but also for decorating the tombs of the deceased. The practice of using parsley as a garnish actually has a long history that can be traced back to the ancient Romans.
Just a little bit of parsley can provide much more than a nice look on your plate. Parsley contains two types of unusual components that provide different health benefits. The first type is oil components—including myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene. The second type is flavonoids—including apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol, and luteolin.
Parsley Promotes Optimal Health
Parsley’s oils—particularly myristicin—have been shown to inhibit tumor formation in animal studies, particularly tumor formation in the lungs. Myristicin has also been shown to activate the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase, which helps attach the molecule glutathione to oxidized molecules that would otherwise do damage in the body. The activity of parsley’s volatile oils qualifies it as a “chemoprotective” food, and in particular, a food that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens (like the benzopyrenes that are part of cigarette smoke and charcoal grill smoke).
The flavonoids in parsley—especially luteolin—have been shown to function as antioxidants that combine with highly reactive oxygen-containing molecules (called oxygen radicals) and help prevent oxygen-based damage to cells. In addition, extracts from parsley have been used in animal studies to help increase the antioxidant capacity of the blood.
Parsley is a Great Source of Vitamin C
In addition to its volatile oils and flavonoids, parsley is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A (notably through its concentration of the pro-vitamin A carotenoid, beta-carotene). Vitamin C has many different functions. It is the body’s primary water-soluble antioxidant, rendering harmless otherwise dangerous free radicals in all water-soluble areas of the body. High levels of free radicals contribute to the development and progression of a wide variety of diseases, including atherosclerosis, colon cancer, diabetes, and asthma.
This may explain why people who consume healthy amounts of vitamin C-containing foods have reduced risks for all these conditions. Vitamin C is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, which explains its usefulness in conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. And since vitamin C is needed for the healthy function of the immune system, it can also be helpful for preventing recurrent ear infections or colds.
Beta-carotene, another important antioxidant, works in the fat-soluble areas of the body. Diets with beta-carotene-rich foods are also associated with a reduced risk for the development and progression of conditions like atherosclerosis, diabetes, and colon cancer. Like vitamin C, beta-carotene may also be helpful in reducing the severity of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. And beta-carotene is converted by the body to vitamin A, a nutrient so important to a strong immune system that its nickname is the “anti-infective vitamin.”
Parsley is a good source of folic acid, one of the most important B vitamins. While it plays numerous roles in the body, one of its most critical roles in relation to cardiovascular health is its necessary participation in the process through which the body converts homocysteine into benign molecules. Homocysteine is a potentially dangerous molecule that, at high levels, can directly damage blood vessels, and high levels of homocysteine are associated with a significantly increased risk of heart attack and stroke in people with atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease.
Enjoying foods rich in folic acid, like parsley, is an especially good idea for individuals who either have, or wish to prevent, these diseases. Folic acid is also a critical nutrient for proper cell division and is therefore vitally important for cancer-prevention in two areas of the body that contain rapidly dividing cells—the colon, and in women, the cervix.
Protection against Rheumatoid Arthritis
While one study suggests that high doses of supplemental vitamin C makes osteoarthritis, a type of degenerative arthritis that occurs with aging, worse in laboratory animals, another indicates that vitamin C-rich foods, such as parsley, provide humans with protection against inflammatory polyarthritis which is a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints.
This study was presented in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases and was based on more than 20,000 individuals who kept track of their diet using diaries. These people were arthritis-free when the study kicked off. Subjects who consumed the lowest amounts of Vitamin C-rich foods were more than three times as likely to develop arthritis than those who were taking higher amounts.
The findings, presented in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases were drawn from a study of more than 20,000 subjects who kept diet diaries and were arthritis-free when the study began, and focused on subjects who developed inflammatory polyarthritis and similar subjects who remained arthritis-free during the follow-up period. Subjects who consumed the lowest amounts of vitamin C-rich foods were more than three times more likely to develop arthritis than those who consumed the highest amounts.
If you don’t need a parsley substitute, you can get many health benefits from seeing it on your plate! If you do need a parsley substitute, let’s go over a few.
Fresh parsley can be substituted with fresh cilantro, chervil, or celery leaves.
Cilantro can be used as a fresh parsley substitute, in Mexican, Thai, or Vietnamese recipes. When compared to parsley, cilantro has a stronger flavor.
Chervil leaves are more mild than parsley, so if you’re looking for a slightly different taste this is a great option. The flavor from chervil releases slowly, making it better than parsley when you are using it for longer cooking times.
For Italian dishes, basil is an ideal replacement for parsley.
Though curly-leaf parsley is mainly used for garnishing, it can be used as a substitute for Italian (flat leaf) parsley.
Italian parsley has a stronger flavor. So you have to adjust the measurements accordingly. You may also use Italian parsley as a replacement for curly-leaf parsley.
Dried and Fresh Parsley
In some dishes, you may use dried parsley instead of fresh parsley and vice versa. These flavors will vary so be careful because you don’t want to ruin the flavor of your favorite dish.
As noted above, carrots are in the same family as parsley. Simply chop up some carrot greens as you would parsley and sprinkle it on as a garnish. Carrot tops also provide some of the bitterness that you would expect from parsley, so they pack a punch for flavor as well.
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