Parsnips: A Partner Against Stroke

The parsnip—like parsley, carrots, and celery—is a part of the Umbelliferae family. It looks similar to a carrot with a long, edible root and a green leafy top. Unlike carrots, however, parsnips are a creamy white color and they also can grow larger. They smell somewhat like celery, and have a strong, yet sweet flavor due to their sugar and starch content. In fact, because of parsnip’s relatively high sugar and starch content, they can be used to make beer and are commonly used in Northern Ireland to brew for wine. Though parsnips have an odd flavor and a rather pale look, they still provide a nutritional benefit that can't be ignored. 

Fiber is something that is of great importance to our health, and yet most Americans of today are greatly lacking in sufficient amounts of it. Parsnips are a great way to fill in this gap; one cup of parsnips has approximately seven grams of fiber—about twenty-eight percent of the recommended daily value. More than half of the fiber is the soluble kind, meaning it becomes gel-like in the digestive system. This helps to block the intestines from absorbing fats and cholesterol from foods, and it also helps to dilute bile acids in the intestines, which can help to prevent them from causing cancer. Parsnips also have insoluble fiber, which helps to speed up elimination and therefore prevent constipation. This is also important because the less time that bile acids have to sit in the intestines, the less likely they are to damage cells, which cause changes that can lead to cancer. Science has shown that diets high in fiber, both soluble and insoluble, help to protect against a wide range of cancers, especially stomach, pancreas, and colon cancers. Fiber also has been scientifically shown to help prevent hemorrhoids and other intestinal conditions. Lastly, fiber can also help to lessen the blood sugar swings that happen with diabetes. 

According to some researchers, folic acid is one of the most deficient nutrients in most diets, especially among younger individuals who tend to eat more junk and fast food and less fresh, high-nutrient foods. This is significant because getting enough folic acid has been shown to help prevent certain birth defects and has also been linked to reducing the risk of stroke. This is because folic acid helps to decrease the levels of homocysteine in the blood; homocysteine is a chemical that can block the arteries and reduce or stop blood flow. In a study known as the Framingham Health Study, researchers found that the men who ate the most folic acid had a 59 percent lower stroke rate compared to those that ate the least. 

Parsnips also have phytonutrients, natural compounds that give foods their color. Phytonutrients, among many other benefits, help to stop the spread of cancer cells. One phytonutrient in parsnips, called phenolic acids, are particularly capable of stopping the spread of cancer by attaching themselves to the potential cancer-causing chemical, making them too big to be absorbed by the body, and thus excreted. 

Parsnips are nutritionally comparable to potatoes and can actually be used in place of regular potatoes when making mashed potatoes. Parsnips have fewer calories and only about half of the protein and vitamin C that potatoes contain, however parsnips are higher in fiber. Both potatoes and parsnips provide high amounts of the B vitamins, but parsnips are higher in folic acid. Parsnips are a great source of vitamins B6, C, and E, folic acid, pantothenic acid, manganese, copper, niacin, potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, and fiber. While many root vegetables do well at room temperature, parsnips are best kept in the fridge, which helps to retain their moisture and nutritional value.

Parsnip-Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Vegan Version

  • 5-6 large Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and cut into equal-sized chunks
  • 1-2 medium-sized parsnips, washed, peeled and cut into smallish chunks
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 2-3 sprigs parsley, minced (optional)
  • 2 tsp sea salt or to taste
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 0.5-1 cup hot plain (unsweetened) soy, almond or rice milk
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Get the instructions at


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