What are parsnips?
A member of the apiaceae family, parsnips (pastinaca sativa) are harvested in autumn and winter, and have a sweet, earthy flavour. When cooked and pureed, their sweet taste and soft texture makes them a popular ingredient for baby food.
An 80g serving of parsnips (boiled) provides:
53 kcals / 222 KJ
8mg Vit C
An 80g serving of parsnips contributes 1 of your 5-a-day. Check out our handy infographic for more information on what counts.
Top 5 health benefits of parsnips
1. Rich in soluble and insoluble fibre
Being a rich source of fibre, it’s no surprise that parsnips help promote digestive regularity. They may also benefit a number of other gut-related conditions, including reflux and diverticulitis. Rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre, parsnips help promote a greater mix of beneficial gut microbes.
2. May help with weight loss goals
Research suggests that including vegetables like parsnips in your diet helps increase fullness and a sense of satiation. Nevertheless, some weight loss plans, like low-carb diets, advise the avoidance of root vegetables, such as carrots and parsnips, because they’re rich in simple carbs. This approach ignores the other health benefits of these vegetables, including the fact that when eaten in their whole form, their structure, fibre and water content may help curb appetite, while their natural sweetness may be helpful when attempting to reduce other sugars in the diet.
3. Good source of protective antioxidants
Parsnips are a source of active plant compounds, such as furanocoumarins, flavonoids and polyacetylenes, including one called falcarinol. These compounds have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-cancer properties, and also act as vasodilators, which helps modulate blood pressure.
4. May have a calming effect
Falcarinol is found in both parsnips and carrots, which protects against fungal infection. Much of falcarinol, about 70%, is lost during cooking, but the remainder is absorbed and can cross the blood brain barrier where it may have a calming, sedative effect. Falcarinol is also serotonergic, meaning it influences the feelgood brain chemical, serotonin. Animal studies suggest falcarinol may improve anxiety and depression-like symptoms, however, it’s far too early to say whether similar effects may be replicated in humans.
5. May support immune function
Parsnips are a useful source of vitamin C, with one serving (80g) providing a fifth of your recommended intake. Vitamin C is one of the nutrients that contributes to our immune defences, helping to support both our innate and adaptive immune responses. In addition to this, the rich antioxidant content, which includes quercetin, kaempferol and apigenin, helps fight off infection.
Are parsnips safe for everyone?
For the majority of people, and as part of a balanced, healthy diet, parsnips are generally recognised as safe and are very rarely associated with allergy. Where an allergy may be present, it’s likely to be a pollen-food cross reactivity, most notably seen in those sensitised to birch tree pollen.
After harvesting, parsnips should be kept in cold storage to prevent microbial contamination.
Kerry Torrens is a Registered Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications, including BBC Good Food.