20 Incredible Benefits of Parsnips

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most important health benefits of parsnips include their ability to improve heart health, enhance digestion, reduce birth defects, aid in weight loss, and boost the immune system. Parsnips also 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.

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 [1]

According to USDA, parsnips 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 also have high levels of fiber, water, and protein. They are low in carbohydrates, sodium, and calories. They also contain poly-acetylene antioxidants such as falcarinol, falcarindiol, panaxadiol, and methyl-falcarindiol. [2]

Health Benefits of Parsnips

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

Improve Heart Health

Parsnips contain a high level of potassium, which acts as a vasodilator as well as reduces blood pressure and stress on the heart. The high levels of folate in this root vegetable reduce homocysteine levels in the blood, which are generally associated with a higher risk of heart diseases. The fiber found in this root helps reduce cholesterol levels. Thus, these root vegetables help in preventing stroke, atherosclerosis and other coronary issues.

Rich in Dietary Fiber

Connie Weaver, the 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 is closely associated with reducing cholesterol levels, lowering blood glucose levels, preventing diverticulitis, reducing obesity, enhancing digestion, and more. [3]

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

Reduce Birth Defects

Parsnips are rich in folate (vitamin B9 or folic acid), which is also connected with reducing neural tube birth defects including cleft palate, spina bifida, and brain damage in infants. They also help in optimizing metabolic processes related to energy production and the nervous system. Additionally, these vegetables help new mothers to cope with postpartum depression.

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, thus, aid in weight loss. Also, the optimized digestive processes help you eliminate waste and get the healthiest nutrients from your food.

Boost Immune System

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

Promote Growth

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

Oral Health

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

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.

Aid Digestion

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

Enhance Vision

The research journal Scientific Reports suggests that ascorbic acid, which is also found in parsnip, prevents various eye issues including age-related macular degeneration, which causes blurred vision in older people. The antioxidants in the vegetable also protect the eyes against damage caused by the sun. Overall it helps boost eye health and vision. [4]

Other Benefits

Other benefits of parsnips include:

Strengthen Bones

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

Anticancer Potential

Falcarindiol, an antioxidant present in parsnips, may have anti-cancer properties which look for and destroy tumorigenic cells. [5]

High in Folate and Potassium 

The excess potassium present in parsnips helps in controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium. While the high amount of folate in this vegetable promotes the growth of red blood cells as well as prevents neurodegenerative diseases.

Boost Brain Health

Potassium and folate in parsnips fight depression, anxiety, and other mental issues. They also help you become more focused and alert, thus, making a positive impact on overall neurological health.

Prevent Respiratory Illnesses

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

Rich Source of Vitamin C

Vitamin C in parsnips stimulates 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.

Prevent Anemia

Vitamin C, vitamin B9, and iron present in parsnips are crucial for increasing blood flow and preventing anemia, especially in women. Additionally, vitamin E helps in building red blood cells, thereby, boosting oxygen transport in the body.

Skin Care

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

Other Benefits

Parsnips 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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