Like many root vegetables, researchers have discovered that parsnips contain a lot of important chemical compounds (photochemicals) which are thought to have cancer-fighting properties too.
Health & History
Parsnips pack a nutritional punch providing plenty of essential vitamins and minerals including folate, potassium and some vitamin C.
They are also a good source of dietary fibre. Just one medium cooked parsnip provides nearly 5g, which is more than the same amount of most ‘high-fibre’ breakfast cereals. Most of the fibre found in parsnips is soluble; soluble fibre is known to help keep the heart healthy by reducing levels of cholesterol in the blood.
And here’s why eating these vitamins and minerals is fantastically good for you:
Helps to keep skin supple and smooth
Increased potassium in the diet is associated with a lowering in blood pressure
Folic acid plays a role in reducing heart disease and may help prevent dementia and osteoporosis bone fractures. Along with B vitamins, folic acid is also important for women who are planning a family as it reduces the risk of certain disabling birth defects
Parsnips are high in soluble fibre, the type that helps lower cholesterol and keep blood sugar on an even keel
Parsnips are higher in energy boosting starchy carbohydrates than green vegetables. Traditionally a winter crop, parsnips are one of those gifts that nature gave us when we needed it most. When temperatures send us scurrying to find woolly scarves and cosy gloves, these are precisely the vegetables to which we should be turning, since our most pressing need during the winter is to keep warm. Put simply, we need to eat more calories to help us generate heat from within. Relatively high in sugars, as most of them are, root vegetables including parsnips are an excellent source of the extra energy our bodies crave.
The History of Parsnips
Parsnips were held in high esteem in ancient times and in addition to being a staple part of the diet were also valued for their medicinal uses and even purported to be an aphrodisiac. They have been cultivated for at least 2,000 years.
Nowadays, while wild parsnips are found across Europe and Asia, most people will be familiar with the cultivated parsnip or Pastinaca sativa, which belongs to the umbelliferae family which includes carrots, chervil, parsley, fennel and celeriac. In Roman times, it appears that carrots and parsnips were actually often referred to by the same name (pastinaca was used by Pliny to describe both).
For centuries in Europe they were a ubiquitous and nutritious staple food. Before sugar was widely available parsnips were used to sweeten dishes such as cakes and jams. Their popularity declined following the introduction of the potato from the New World, and this decline continued as sugar became more readily available. The parsnip is now less commonly eaten outside N. European countries but is gaining popularity in North America and Australia.