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The Health Benefits of Parsnip

By Sylvie Tremblay

A relative of carrots and parsley, parsnips' long shelf life and generally low cost make them an economical addition to your diet. Larger parsnips can have a woody texture, but smaller roots -- up to 2 inches thick -- have a tender texture and sweet flavor. At 100 calories per cup, they make a relatively low-calorie addition to your diet, and they provide minerals and vitamins that support healthy tissue function.

Folate and Potassium

Parsnips come packed with potassium and folate, two nutrients important for cardiovascular health. Potassium helps protects you from high blood pressure, while folate helps lower your blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Folate also promotes red blood cell growth, while potassium supports nerve function. A 1-cup serving of parsnips offers 499 milligrams of potassium -- 11 percent of the daily intake recommended by the Institute of Medicine -- and also provides 22 percent of your daily folate requirement.

Vitamins C and E

Consuming parsnips also boosts your intake of the antioxidant vitamins C and E. These nutrients prevent cell damage caused by free radicals -- dangerous compounds that contribute to heart disease as well as cancer. Vitamin E also helps you make red blood cells -- the cells you need for proper oxygen transport -- while vitamin C helps you make the collagen needed for healthy connective tissue. A 1-cup serving of parsnips contains 23 milligrams of vitamin C -- 26 percent and 31 percent of the daily intakes for men and women, respectively, set by the Institute of Medicine. Parsnips also contain 2 milligrams of vitamin E -- 13 percent of the recommended daily intake -- per cup.

Vitamin K and Manganese

Parsnips offer additional health benefits from their manganese and vitamin K content. Both nutrients play an important role in the health of your bones. Manganese helps you produce sex hormones, while vitamin K proves essential to blood clotting. Each 1-cup serving of parsnips boosts your vitamin K intake by 30 micrograms and provides 24 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 33 percent for women, according to intake guidelines released by the Institute of Medicine. Parsnips also contain 0.75 milligrams of manganese per cup -- 42 percent and 33 percent of the recommended daily intakes for women and men, respectively.

Consuming More Parsnips

Parsnips' hearty texture stands up well to roasting. Try combining it with other root vegetables -- including carrots, beets and sweet potatoes -- seasoned with fresh rosemary, and roast until tender. Alternatively, use parsnips to add bulk and nutritional value to your favorite soups and stews, or steam chopped parsnips with carrots and turnip, and then mash for a nutrient-packed substitute for mashed potatoes. Parsnips also make hearty salads suitable for cooler months -- try a combination of wheat berries, chopped roasted parsnip, unsweetened dried cranberries, fresh sage and a maple mustard vinaigrette.

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