20 Incredible Benefits of Parsnips

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most important health benefits of parsnips may include their ability to improve heart health, enhance digestion, reduce birth defects, aid in weight loss, and boost the immune system. Parsnips might also have the ability to enhance vision, promote growth, boost oral and skin health, as well as improve brain health.

What are Parsnips?

Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a root vegetable native to Eurasia and has been used extensively in that region since ancient times. This taproot is closely related to carrots and parsley, and for that reason, it is often mistaken for carrots in historical records. Parsnip is a hardy annual or biennial plant with a number of culinary applications. In the past, these vegetables were even used in herbal medicine and as an aphrodisiac.

Note: There is another variety of parsnip called wild parsnip, which is a Eurasian weed with edible roots. [1]

Parsnips Nutrition

Nutrition Facts

Parsnips, raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]79.53
Energy 75
Energy [kJ]314
Protein [g]1.2
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.3
Ash [g]0.98
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]17.99
Fiber, total dietary [g]4.9
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]4.8
Calcium, Ca [mg]36
Iron, Fe [mg]0.59
Magnesium, Mg [mg]29
Phosphorus, P [mg]71
Potassium, K [mg]375
Sodium, Na [mg]10
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.59
Copper, Cu [mg]0.12
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.56
Selenium, Se [µg]1.8
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]17
Thiamin [mg]0.09
Riboflavin [mg]0.05
Niacin [mg]0.7
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.6
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.09
Folate, total [µg]67
Folate, food [µg]67
Folate, DFE [µg]67
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]1.49
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]22.5
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.05
14:0 [g]0
16:0 [g]0.03
18:0 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.11
16:1 [g]0
18:1 [g]0.1
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.05
18:2 [g]0.04
18:3 [g]0
Sources include : USDA [2]

According to USDA, parsnips may contain high levels of minerals such as calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron. They have an impressive range of vitamins, including folate, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, C, E, and K. Additionally, they may also have high levels of fiber, water, protein and poly-acetylene antioxidants such as falcarinol, falcarindiol, panaxadiol, and methyl-falcarindiol. They are low in carbohydrates, sodium, and calories. [3]

Health Benefits of Parsnips

Let us discuss the probable and important health benefits of parsnips in detail.

May Improve Heart Health

Parsnips contain a high level of potassium, which may act as a vasodilator as well as reduce blood pressure and stress on the heart. The high levels of folate in this root vegetable can also reduce homocysteine levels in the blood, which are generally associated with higher risks of heart diseases. The fiber found in this root might even help reduce cholesterol levels. Thus, these root vegetables may help in preventing atherosclerosis and other coronary issues.

Can Be Rich in Dietary Fiber

Connie Weaver, a nutrition scientist, in a research paper titled, “White Vegetables: A Forgotten Source of Nutrients” suggests that white or near white vegetables like parsnips have been praised for their high fiber content, particularly, because they are composed of soluble fiber. This variety may even be closely associated with reducing cholesterol levels, lowering blood glucose levels, preventing diverticulitis, reducing obesity, enhancing digestion, and more. [4]

Close-up of fresh raw parsnip roots with leaves in a market

Parsnips can be eaten raw but are often boiled, roasted, fried, or steamed. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Can Help Reduce Birth Defects

Parsnips are rich in folate (vitamin B9 or folic acid). Vitamin B9 and folic acid are often associated with reducing neural tube birth defects including cleft palate, spina bifida, and brain damage in infants. These may also help in optimizing metabolic processes related to energy production and the nervous system.

Potentially Aids in Weight Loss

As a low-calorie option with high levels of soluble fiber, parsnips fill you up and prevent the release of ghrelin, which is a “hunger” hormone. This can significantly reduce your likelihood of snacking between meals aiding in weight loss. Also, the optimized digestive processes may help you eliminate waste and get the healthiest nutrients from your food.

Might Boost Immune System

Parsnips packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and organic compounds may improve immunity by protecting the body from foreign invaders as well as toxic by-products from our own cellular metabolism. Vitamin C and E in parsnips can act as antioxidants in the body and eliminate or neutralize the harmful free radicals, providing relief from oxidative stress.

Can Promote Growth

The full range of minerals and vitamins in parsnips can make them an ideal snack or dietary addition. They form a vital part of a balanced diet.

May Improve Oral Health

Vitamin C and folate in parsnips may boost overall oral health by preventing gingivitis, tongue inflammation, toothache, and bad breath. It can potentially maintain healthy connective tissue and gums as well as builds strong teeth.

Might Aid in Enzyme Production

Parsnips provide manganese, which is an essential component of many enzymes in the body. Thus, they help produce enzymes that aid in managing digestive health, antioxidant function, wound healing, and more.

Can Help in Digestion

The soluble dietary fiber in parsnips is a key component of our digestive process. So, it may just help facilitating the healthy movement of food through the digestive tract reducing constipation and preventing other gastrointestinal disorders.

May Enhance Vision

The research journal Scientific Reports suggests that ascorbic acid, which is also found in parsnip, is famed go prevent various eye issues including age-related macular degeneration, which causes blurred vision in older people. The antioxidants in the vegetable may also protect the eyes against damage caused by the sun. Overall it seems to be a very capable vegetable to boost eye health and vision. [5]

Other Benefits

Other benefits of parsnips include:

Can Potentially Strengthen Bones

Parsnips being rich in manganese, calcium, and zinc may help improve bone health. Manganese is a co-factor of glycosyltransferases, which may help in producing cartilage and strengthening bone as well as resolve skeletal issues like osteoporosis. Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory properties of the root vegetables may even reduce the symptoms of arthritis.

High in Folate and Potassium 

The excess potassium present in parsnips may help in controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium. The high amount of folate in this vegetable may also promote the growth of red blood cells as well as prevent neurodegenerative diseases.

May Boost Brain Health

Potassium and folate in parsnips might help fight anxiety, and other mental issues. They also can prove to be useful to augment your focus and alertness, thus, making a positive impact on overall neurological health.

Might Prevent Respiratory Illnesses

The anti-inflammatory properties of parsnip and carotenoids in it might help treat many respiratory problems and infections like sinusitis, asthma, wheezing, emphysema (damaged air sacs in the lungs), bronchitis, dyspnea (shortness of breath), and other respiratory illnesses.

Can Be A Rich Source of Vitamin C

Vitamin C in parsnips may help stimulate the production of white blood cells to attack foreign microbes in the body, in addition to functioning as a key element in the production of collagen, which is a fundamental building block of our body.

May Help Prevent Anemia

Vitamin C, vitamin B9, and iron present in parsnips may play a crucial role to increase blood flow and prevent anemia, especially in women. Additionally, as vitamin E is known to help build red blood cells, parsnips may just help in boosting oxygen transport in the body.

Might Aid in Skin Care

Parsnips, rich in vitamin C, have antioxidant and anti-aging properties. These properties might help prevent wrinkles, enhance skin elasticity, and repair damaged skin cells.

Other Benefits

Used as an aphrodisiac in the ancient times, parsnips may also have the ability to aid in producing sex hormones and aid in blood clotting. This is because of the presence of vitamin K and manganese in them.

Substitute for Parsnip

If your kitchen lacks parsnips and you do not wish to take another round to the grocery store you could substitute one of the following vegetables:

How to buy and store parsnips?

Following are the tips to remember while selecting and storing parsnips:

  • Parsnips season begins after the first frost. That’s when you get the fresh variety.
  • Choose fleshy, fresh, firm, medium-sized and even surfaced roots.
  • Avoid woody, over-matured, long, thin, and tail-like roots as they are off-flavored and have tough fiber, which is hard to digest.
  • Avoid purchasing soft, pitted, shriveled, knobby, or damaged roots.
  • Store these root vegetables in a plastic bag inside the refrigerator, not the freezer. [6]

How to use parsnips?

Here are a few tips to use these root vegetables:

  • Before using these root vegetables wash them, peel them, cut the ends, and then chop them as you desire.
  • They can be cooked in a similar way as carrots.
  • They can be baked, fried, roasted, and garnished as well as added to soups and stews.

Uses of parsnips

Here are a few uses of parsnips:

  • Parsnips were even used as a sweetening agent for foods before cane sugar became a major import to Europe.
  • They can be eaten raw but most of the common culinary applications require the root vegetable to be cooked.
  • While they are often substituted for carrots in recipes, they are slightly sweeter and nuttier in taste, which makes them even more valuable and versatile.

Word of caution: The leaves, stems, flowers of wild parsnips contain toxic sap which can cause phytophotodermatitis resulting in severe burns, rashes, or blisters. Wild parsnip intake by livestock may negatively impact their weight gain fertility.

Some people may experience dermatitis, bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and food allergy as well as oral allergy syndromes (OAS) like burning, itching, and swelling of lips and tongue, redness in the eyes, and breathing difficulty when consuming parsnips for the first time. Therefore, it is advised to consult your doctor before adding this root vegetable to your diet.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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