One of my favourite spring tasks is planting pots of herbs by my back door so I can easily add their fresh intense flavours to whatever I’m cooking. As I was happily potting containers of curly leaf and Italian flat-leaf parsley this past weekend, I was also thinking of all the antioxidants and vitamins in parsley, and of the recent study that showed that parsley’and its biological cousin celery’contain a compound that can keep certain types of breast cancer cells from multiplying and growing.
This study, done at the University of Missouri and published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, exposed laboratory rats with a certain type of breast cancer to apigenin, a common substance found in parsley, celery and other plants. These rats developed fewer tumours and experienced significant delays in tumour formation compared with rats that were not exposed to apigenin. (This compound, however, did not stop the initial formation of cancer cells within the breast.) The scientists say this research is of particular interest to women receiving hormone replacement therapy that includes a progestin called MPA, a synthetic hormone thought to accelerate breast cancer development.
While most abundant in parsley and celery, apigenin can also be found in apples, oranges and nuts, as well as other plants. Scientists are unsure of how much should be ingested, so the next phase of research should include human clinical trials to figure out the correct dosage amount.
Of course, apigenin isn’t the only healthy compound found in parsley. This leafy herb is also an excellent source of vitamins K, C and A, and contains lots of folate and iron. Plus a half cup contains just 11 calories.
One of my favourite ways to use parsley is in tabouli’a salad from the Middle East made with bulgur, lots of finely chopped parsley as well as chopped green onion, tomato and cucumber, and mixed with an olive oil and lemon dressing. It tastes great with grilled chicken or salmon. Or you can try Best Health recipes for Nut Free Parsley Pesto and Lamb Chops or Crumbed Fish with Parsley and Lemon. Easiest of all: sprinkle a handful of chopped parsley on just about any salad.
How do you add parsley, and other fresh herbs, to your meals?