Parsnips : nutrition, shocking 2 medical uses & adverse effects

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parsnips Nutritional Profile

• Energy value (calories per serving): Moderate
• Protein: Moderate
• Fat: Low
• Saturated fat: Low
• Cholesterol: None
• Carbohydrates: High
• Fiber: High
• Sodium: Low
• Major vitamin contribution: Folate, vitamin C
• Major mineral contribution: Potassium, calcium

How Many Nutrients in This Food

• Parsnips are roots high in starch and dietary fiber, including insoluble cellulose and soluble gums and pectins. They are an excellent source of the B vitamin folate and a good source of vitamin C.

• One-half cup cooked, sliced parsnips has 3 g dietary fiber, 25 mcg folate (11 percent of the RDA), and 10 mg vitamin C (13 percent of the RDA for a woman, 11 percent of the RDA for a man).

How To Serve Nutritious parsnips Food

• Boiled and drained.

Diets That May Restrict or Exclude Parsnips Food

• Low-fiber diet

How To Buying This Food

Look for:

Smooth, well-shaped, cream or tan small-to-medium roots. The larger the root, the woodier and coarser it will be.


Discolored parsnips. Parsnips that are darker in spots may have been frozen on the way to market. Gray spots or soft spots warn of rot inside the root.

How To Storing This Food

• Keep parsnips cold and humid so they won’t dry out. Store them in a root cellar or in the refrigerator. In storage, parsnips will convert some of their starch to sugar. As a rule of thumb, the sweeter the parsnip, the longer it has been stored.

How To Preparing This Food

• Scrub the parsnips with a vegetable brush under cool running water or simply peel them but not until you are ready to use them. When you peel or slice a parsnip, you tear its cell walls, releasing polyphenoloxidase, an enzyme that hastens the combination of oxygen with phenols in the parsnips, turning the vegetable brown.

• You can slow this reaction (but not stop it completely) by dipping raw peeled or sliced parsnips into an acid solution (lemon juice and water, vinegar and water).

• Polyphenoloxidase also works more slowly in the cold, but storing peeled parsnips in the refrigerator is much less effective than an acid bath. You can keep parsnips from darkening in a stew by blanching them before you add them to the dish.

• Boil the unpeeled parsnips for about 15 minutes to inactivate the polyphenoloxidase, then add them to the stew. If you prefer, you can freeze blanched parsnips for future use.

What Happens When You Cook Parsnips Food

• Heat dissolves the pectic substances in the parsnip’s cell walls, making the vegetable softer. At the same time, the parsnip’s starch granules absorb water, swell, and eventually rupture, releasing nutrients inside and making the vegetables easier to digest.

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How Other Kinds of Processing Affect Parsnips Food


When parsnips are frozen, liquids inside the vegetable’s cell form ice crystals that may tear the cells, allowing moisture to escape when you thaw the parsnips. As a result, when roots like carrots, potatoes, and parsnips are frozen and thawed, their texture is mushy rather than crisp.


Medical Uses and/or Benefits Of Parsnips

Lower risk of some birth defects.

As many as two of every 1,000 babies born in the United States each year may have cleft palate or a neural tube (spinal cord) defect due to their mothers’ not having gotten adequate amounts of folate during pregnancy.

• The current RDA for folate is 180 mcg for a woman and 200 mcg for a man, but the FDA now recommends
400 mcg for a woman who is or may become pregnant. Taking folate supplements before becoming pregnant and continuing through the first two months of pregnancy reduces the risk of cleft palate; taking folate through the entire pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects.

Possible lower risk of heart attack.

In the spring of 1998, an analysis of data from the records for more than 80,000 women enrolled in the long-running Nurses’ Health Study at Harvard School of Public Health/Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, demonstrated that a diet providing more than 400 mcg folate and 3 mg vitamin B6 daily, either from food or supplements, might reduce a woman’s risk of heart attack by almost 50 percent.

• Although men were not included in the study, the results were assumed to apply to them as well. However, data from a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December 2006 called this theory into question. Researchers at Tulane University examined the results of 12 controlled studies in which 16,958 patients with preexisting cardiovascular disease were given either folic acid supplements or placebos (“look-alike” pills with no folic acid) for at least six months.

• The scientists, who found no reduction in the risk of further heart disease or overall death rates among those taking folic acid, concluded that further studies will be required to determine whether taking folic acid supplements reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

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Adverse Effects Associated with parsnips Food


Like celery and parsley, parsnips contain psoralens, natural chemicals that make the skin sensitive to light. Psoralens are not inactivated by cooking; they are present in both raw and cooked parsnips.

• In laboratory animals, psoralens applied to the skin are known to trigger cancers when the animals are exposed to light. Among human beings, their only documented side effect is the skin inflammation common among food workers who handle and process vegetables without wearing protective gloves.

• In 1981, however, scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Toxicology and Entomology Research Laboratory in College Station, Texas, suggested that detailed epidemiological studies might link physiological effects to eating parsnips as well as handling them. The connection remains to be proved.


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