The sedentary lifestyle accompanied by unhealthy dietary choices and poor sleep and food timings are gradually dooming the overall health wellness of the populace and leading them into the vicious cycle of several health anomalies. From heart problems, digestive issues, diabetes, thyroid and kidney disorders, obesity and insomnia, most people are getting diagnosed with some or the other disorder even in their 20’s. Even though it may sound difficult, reforming your lifestyle by adding a few healthy habits, like good food choices, a few stretches and exercises and maintaining food and rest timings, are bound to make you feel good and active. And here comes a wonderful food option that is blessed with umpteen health benefits and nutrition in the form of Parsnip. Although, it may look like a bleached, overgrown carrot, Parsnips provide so much more than meets the eye!
Parsnip with leaves tied

What Is Parsnip?

Parsnip, that goes by the botanical name Pastinaca sativa is a member of Umbelliferae (Apiaceae) family, belonging to the genus, Pastinaca. The word Parsnip is taken from the Latin word ‘pastus’ meaning food and ‘sativa’ meaning cultivated.  Owing to its close resemblance, it is often mistaken as another variety of carrot. While, the skin and flesh of parsnip are white to cream-coloured, the carrot showcases an orangish hue. It is also related to parsley, celeriac, cumin, dill leaves and parsley root.

Also Read: Carrots Can Contribute To Health & Beauty

It is a root vegetable that is native to Eurasia or the Mediterranean area and has been extensively cultivated and used in that region since the ancient times. But with its growing popularity owing to its to its wonderful health promoting nutritional value as well as its miraculous taste, it is now cultivated throughout the world in a similar way as that of carrots. Some varieties of parsnips growing throughout the world are Harris Model Parsnips, Cobham Marrow Parsnips, All American Parsnips, Hollow Crown Parsnips, The Student Parsnips, Skirret Parsnips, Andover Parsnips Panache Parsnips, Tender and True Parsnips, And Gladiator Parsnips.

Parsnip is an herbaceous, biennial plant with a rosette of roughly hairy leaves that have a pungent odour when crushed. Parsnips normally reach 2-5 feet and have a deep taproot that is thick and fleshy and can grow between 10 and 23 cm in length. The stem of the plant is erect, glabrous to sparsely hairy, and furrowed with a rosette of leaves. Leaves are once or twice-pinnate with broad, ovate, base with leaflets that are mainly yellowish-green in colour, shiny, oblong, and diamond-shaped. The plant produces yellowish flowers in a loose, compound umbel shape which later produces light brown colored fruits, or schizocarps, that are oval and flat, with narrow wings and short, spreading styles. Seeds enclosed within the fruit are normally pale brown, oval or globose, and narrowly winged. Parsnips are usually found growing in cool, temperate climate and prefers full or partial sun. It thrives pretty well in moist to mesic and fertile loamy soil.
Parsnips

Nutritional Content of Parsnips

Parsnip is an extremely versatile vegetable with a wide range of health benefits due to the presence of a number of nutrients and vitamins. It is blessed with a rather impressive nutritional composition including minerals like calcium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and iron. Parsnip is abundant in folate, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, C, E, and K. Additionally, it also has high levels of fiber, water, protein and poly-acetylene antioxidants such as falcarindiol, falcarinol, panaxadiol, and methyl-falcarindiol. Parsnips are low in carbohydrates, sodium, and calories.

Imbued with incredible range of nutrients exhibiting antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, astringent, digestive, hypolipidemic, hepatoprotective, diuretic and diaphoretic properties, parsnips confer exceptional health benefits and are widely used for the treatment and management of heart ailments, digestive disorders, birth defects, bone and joint problems, diabetes, cholesterol, anxiety, depression, obesity etc.

Health Benefits Of Parsnips

Promotes Cardiac Functioning

Parsnip is one such outstanding vegetable that has been found to have a positive effect on the heart. Being a natural antioxidant and a cardio-protective component, it plays a key role in treating a host of heart ailments. It relaxes the cardiac system, by soothing the mind, which is extremely advantageous for patients suffering from arrhythmias and palpitations. It is also beneficial in treating coronary heart disease, regulating blood pressure, strengthening the heart muscles, dropping cholesterol levels in the blood and preventing lipid accumulation, which in turn reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, heart blocks, heart attacks, blood clots.

Also Read: Top 10 Superfoods For A Healthy Heart

Treats Lead Toxicity

Lead Toxicity can be extremely harmful and causes a severe abdominal pain, cramping, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, low IQ in children. It may also damage the kidneys and cause a rise in blood pressure in adults. The abundance of Vitamin C can reduce levels of lead in the body. It also acts as a purgative medication and facilitates elimination of lead from the body via defecation process.

Prevents Birth Defects

Folate or Vitamin B9 is quintessential in reducing neural tube birth defects in infants, enhancing proper functioning of the brain and uplifting mental and emotional health. Parsnip being a rich source of folate when added to regular diet has been positively linked with lower levels of depression and maintaining the growth and replication of cells and tissues during the growing years such as during pregnancy, infancy, childhood and adolescence.

Diminishes Stress And Anxiety

The mood enhancing qualities of parsnip plays a significant role in thwarting off stress and eliminating various symptoms of anxiety which includes uneasiness, restlessness, cold hands, and feet, etc. The calming and grounding properties of the veggie also actively helps to uplift the mood and promote feelings of hope and joy.

Aids In Weight Loss

The abundance of antioxidants in parsnip helps the body shed excess weight faster. Owing to the presence of fibre and anti-obesity action, when consumed on a daily basis, this root vegetable satiates sudden hunger pangs and prevents overeating and hence can play a pivotal role in one’s weight loss regimen. The herb also improves metabolism and helps the body to maintain a proper weight.

Also Read: Belly Fat Burners From Your Kitchen Shelf

Reduces Risk Of Cancer

Although, it is not the ultimate remedy, but several researches and studies highlight that the presence of Vitamin K in Parsnip is extremely beneficial in managing benign as well as malignant cancers/tumors, especially prostate, colon, stomach, nasal, and oral cancers. The abundance of quinones actively helps in combatting the cancer cells in the colon, breast, and liver; and even manage cancer of the heart.

Promotes Digestion

Thanks to the mild carminative and digestive properties, Parsnip offers an absolute solution for all digestive woes. The anti-flatulent property reduces the formation of gas in the alimentary canal, thus treating conditions like flatulence, bloating, constipation, and abdominal distension. The antacid property of parsnip also prevents the formation of excessive acids in the stomach thereby treating indigestion, ulcer, gastritis and promoting better absorption of nutrients in the body. Additionally, the abundance of fibre, vastly improves the peristaltic movements of the gut and helps in complete evacuation of stools and prevents the formation of toxins.

Also Read: 5 Herbs For A Healthy Digestive System

Bolsters Immunity

Thanks to the presence of antioxidants and Vitamin C, Parsnip offers an absolute remedy for improving the immune system, fighting microbes and shielding the body against various infections. It also portrays the presence of strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and antifungal properties, which is extremely effective in preventing infections like fever, common cold, sore throat, and other respiratory anomalies.

Also Read: Top 8 Ayurvedic Formulations That Can Bolster Your Immunity

Boosts Bone Health

The herb is pivotal in improving bone health and reducing pain and inflammation at the joints. It promotes bone and dental health, reduces the risk of fracture, maintains overall body balance and provides the body with a strong and perfect skeletal structure.  It also increases bone and muscle mass and treats conditions like osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia. Presence of minerals like manganese, calcium, zinc, copper, and magnesium also help in diminishing spinal bone loss in post-menopausal women.

Also Read: Vitamin D – Functions, Food Sources, Deficiencies and Toxicity

Prevents Anemia

Packed with iron, Vitamin C and B9, recommended dietary intake of parsnips can help prevent anemia. It is also quintessential for treating the various symptoms of anemia like general fatigue, physical weakness and yellow discoloration of the skin, vertigo, laziness, shortness of breath, dizziness, swelling and headaches.
Parsnips for cooking

Other Uses Of Parsnips

Parsnips have a host of traditional folk remedies as well. It is used for treating kidney disorders, jaundice, and even brewed as a tea to remedy gynecological problems in women, and concocted into a strong decoction to provide relief from intermittent fever. A poultice of the roots has been used externally to remedy inflammations and sores and treat psoriasis and vitiligo.

Apart from medicinal uses, the roots and shoots of this plant serve as a good animal feed especially for pigs and dairy cattle. Decoction made from the leafy shoots and roots are used to make a domestic insect spray to control aphids and red spider mites.

Ayurvedic Indications Of Parsnip

Ayurveda, the holistic science of herbal remedies has extensively mentioned the use of this root vegetable for various indications which include Balya (improves muscle strength), Amahara (treats indigestion), Deepana (enhances stomach fire), Pachana (helps in digestion), Rochana (stimulates appetite), Medohara (prevents obesity), Vamana (prevents nausea and vomiting), Asra Dagdharuk (remedies wounds and burns), Vishaha (antitoxic), Hridaya (treats heart problems),  Rasayani (rejuvenates the whole body), Vayasthapana (prevents ageing), Jvara (useful in fever),  Amahara (treats indigestion), Dahahara (relieves burning sensation), Trutahara (relieves excessive thirst), Shonitasthapana (prevents bleeding), Pandu (treats anaemia), Krimihara (relieves intestinal worms), Arsha (treats piles), and Pushtida (good for nutrition).

Effect On Doshas:

Parsnip inherently portrays Kashaya (i.e., astringent), and Tikta (i.e., bitter) Rasa. It is blessed with Rukhsha (i.e., dry), Tikshna (i.e., sharp) and Laghu (i.e., light) gunas. It has Ushna Virya (i.e., hot potency) and Katu Vipaka (pungent metabolic property). The bioactive ingredients in this root vegetable balances the Kapha (earth and water) doshas and Vata (air) doshas and often an excess of it can aggravate the Pitta (fire and air) doshas.

Owing to the intrinsic properties and doshas, Parsnip portrays a positive effect on the various Dhatus (i.e. body tissues) which are Rasa (i.e. Plasma), Rakta (i.e. Blood), Mamsa (i.e. Muscles), Asthi (i.e. Bones) and Shukra (i.e. Reproductive Fluids).

Also Read: Introduction To Ayurveda: Learn About Vata, Pitta And Kapha Doshas

Culinary Applications Of Parsnip

Parsnips can not only be eaten raw but also consumed after cooking, boiling, frying or roasting. 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. This root vegetable is extremely delicious when baked and alternately may also be used in salads, soups, stews, casseroles, pies and puddings and even dried for seasoning soups and processed for canning. It can also be used for making jams, marmalades and converted into sweet flour for making cakes. In Britain and Ireland, parsnips are used for making wine and beer. Apart from the roots, the leaves and young shoots of this plant are cooked with other greens as a vegetable or added to soups. Parsnips were even used as a sweetening agent for foods before cane sugar became a major import to Europe.

Parsnip Recipes

Parsnip Salad
Parsnip salad

Ingredients:

1 cup parsnip (finely sliced as ribbon)

½ cup parsley (roughly chopped)

¼ cup onion (minced)

4 tbsp curd (homemade)

3 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Method:

In a large bowl, take all the freshly cut vegetables.

Add curd, ACV, lemon juice, olive oil and spices to it.

Use a big spatula to mix everything.

Serve it alongside main course as an appetizer.

Nutrition:

Packed with antioxidants both parsley leaves and parsnips improve bone and heart health. While curd bolsters immunity and promotes digestion, onion remedies respiratory problems and enhances oral health. The addition of ACV helps in shedding extra weight.

Honey Glazed Parsnip
Honey Glazed Parsnip

Ingredients:

3 cups of parsnip (peeled and cut into halves or quarters)

1 cup potato (sliced)

2 tbsp olive oil

Black salt (as per taste)

2 tsp black pepper

½ tsp chilli flakes

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tsp sesame seeds (freshly roasted)

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp honey

Method:

Take a thick-bottomed iron pan.

Add olive oil to it and lightly roast the parsnips and potato with occasional tossing until it becomes golden brown and soft.

Keep it aside in a bowl.

In a separate vessel, melt the butter, and add vinegar, honey and spices to it.

Add this sauce to the roasted veggies and mix well.

Sprinkle the roasted sesame seeds on top for added flavour.

Enjoy this side dish warm.

Nutrition:

Being a good source of fiber, potatoes keep you satiated for a long time and also keeps heart ailments and high cholesterol at bay. While black salt eases digestion and controls bloating, olive oil prevents obesity and also good for heart. Honey imbued with phytonutrients helps soothe sore throat, prevent cough and cold and also heals ulcers and wounds.

Parsnip Side Effects:

Thanks to the presence of potent bioactive components, this root vegetable showcases no recorded side effects when used after proper cleaning and in proper proportion. The leaves, stems, flowers of wild parsnips contain a toxic sap which on contact or when consumed can cause phytophotodermatitis resulting in severe burns, rashes, or blisters. Intake of wild parsnip may negatively impact the weight gain and fertility. In some cases, people consuming parsnip for the first time may also experience allergic conditions like dermatitis, bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and food allergy symptoms like burning, itching, and swelling of lips and tongue, redness in the eyes, and breathing difficulty. Hence, it is strictly advised to consult your doctor before adding this root vegetable to your diet.

Conclusion

Parsnip is an exceptional root vegetable that has been widely used for its therapeutic applications and commercial uses. Thanks to the ensemble of essential bio-active ingredients, and host of therapeutic properties, it is a pivotal remedy for treating heart problems, remedying indigestion, bloating, preventing obesity, relieving emotional distress, preventing infectious conditions and many more.