6 health benefits of parsnips you may not know

Find out how the root vegetable can help your health and how roast parsnips pack a nutritional punch.

The parsnip – it’s the creamy yellow vegetable that you can roast, puree, boil or turn into soup and is the sweeter-tasting relative of the carrot. Yet these root veggies are so much more than just a tasty addition to your Sunday roast. 

Not only have they been used as sweeteners before the introduction of cane sugar, but they also offer myriad benefits for your health when eaten as part of a balanced diet. They support lots of processes in the body from your immune system to your gut health and digestion.

Lots of parsnips – the root veggie supports your health in many ways.Credit: Shutterstock/ChameleonsEye
Parsnips contain a range of nutrients that provide benefits for your health.

Nutritional therapist Catia Soares explains it’s partly their nutritional value (they contain fibre, B vitamins and antioxidants) that makes parsnips a good vegetable to include in your diet.

What’s more, they are a low-cost and versatile ingredient, and perfect for “the winter months for when we tend to seek more comforting and warm foods, but still want to maintain a healthy and balanced diet”. 

They are in season for nine months of the year from August through April, and they are said to taste better and sweeter after they experience frost, so now is a great time to eat them. Here are a few ways parsnips support your health; you might want to make sure you’re eating enough of them.

Catia Soares is a psychologist and nutritional therapist who runs her own practice in London. She also freelances for other organisations. Her specialisms include nutritional psychology; gut health and weight management; and mindful and disordered eating.

1. Digestive health

Support healthy digestion

Drawn on smiley face on toilet paper on a holder with a toilet next to it.Credit: Shutterstock/Natallia Ramanouskaya
Parsnips promote good digestive health due to their fibre content.

Soluble and insoluble fibre are key for digestion, and parsnips are rich in both of them. Soluble fibre has prebiotic effects which increase the beneficial bacteria in your gut and the diversity of your gut microbiome. 

Meanwhile, “insoluble fibre mixes with other foods increasing the bulk of our stool and speeding up digestion, thus helping to prevent constipation,” says Soares. 

Some people with gut-related conditions find that parsnips are easier to digest than other starchy foods. For instance, they are low in fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs), Soares explains, which makes them easier to digest for people who experience bloating, gas, stomach pain and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) type symptoms.

2. Heart health

Contribute to a healthier heart

Two people cupping their hands around a red heart shape.Credit: Shutterstock/Ground Picture
Fibre and potassium, found in parsnips, can contribute to a healthier heart.

Here’s something that’ll warm your heart. Parsnips contain several nutrients that can support your heart health, such as fibre and potassium. Dietary fibre has been proven to lower levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and results in a healthier heart.  

Parsnips are also high in potassium which helps to relax your blood vessels; this lowers blood pressure which in turn reduces stress on your heart. 

Too much potassium can be harmful to people with certain conditions. Speak to a health professional before changing your diet. 

3. Mental health

Can have a calming impact

Man, wearing headphones, relaxing on a sofa in the living room.Credit: Shutterstock/Dejan Dundjerski
Parsnips contain an antioxidant that can contribute toward feelings of calm.

Falcarinol is found in both carrots and parsnips. Although it may sound like an unpleasanttasting medicine, it is actually a natural compound that protects against fungal infections. While a large amount is lost during cooking, the rest can be absorbed and can have a calming effect thanks to its neurological interactions.

Animal studies suggest falcarinol may improve anxiety and depression-like symptoms. More research is needed to confirm if this is similar for humans. 

4. Immune system

Aid immune function

Woman sat on a sofa blowing her nose, with a grey blanket around her shoulders.Credit: Shutterstock/fizkes

Parsnips are an excellent source of vitamin C. An 80g (3oz) portion of parsnips has nearly a third of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Although this amount reduces with cooking, they are still a good source.  

Vitamin C supports a healthy immune system, and there is some evidence that it can even reduce the duration of the common cold. For maximum vitamin C, try raw parsnips grated or shaved in a coleslaw or salad. 

As well as vitamin C, parsnips contain vitamin E. This means “they are also rich in antioxidant compounds,” says Soares, “which can help to defend our cells from damage caused by potentially harmful molecules called free radicals.” 

She explains that vitamin B9 (folate), vitamin B1 (thiamine) and B6, all found in parsnips, contribute to immune health too. 

5. Skin health

Support wound healing

Woman sat down outdoors, placing a plaster on her knee wound.Credit: Shutterstock/encierro
Parsnips are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is used in the process of wound healing.

Parsnips’ vitamin C content can not only boost your immunity but is involved in all stages of wound healing too. Vitamin C is used to produce collagen – a structural protein that our body naturally creates.

Around 80% of the skin is made up of collagen, which provides it with strength as well maintaining elasticity. It also plays a vital role in our skin’s natural renewal process (shedding old skin cells and regenerating new ones) and helps our blood to clot – a key part of wound healing.  

Our bodies can’t store vitamin C, so we have to make sure we get enough of it every day. Parsnips are also a source of Vitamin K, which is also needed for wound healing

6. Weight

Can help reach weight loss goals

Helping you to reach your weight loss goals is one of the health benefits of parsnips.Credit: Shutterstock/AlexLMX
Parsnips contain fibre which can help to manage your appetite levels and aid weight loss.

If you’re watching your weight, parsnips can be a great food to include in your diet as they are low in fat and calories. 

The fibre in parsnips also helps curb your hunger, which may help to stop you from snacking later.

Soares says: “Soluble fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance, slowing down digestion and helping to provide a feeling of fullness.” What’s more, this manages your appetite levels and supports weight loss. 

However, Soares explains that what works for weight loss is personal and that consideration of your health history and lifestyle is necessary before creating any weight loss nutritional plan.

Also, bear in mind that the cooking method you choose will affect the fat and calorie content – parsnips roasted in oil or butter probably won’t be low in fat. 

Bowl of creamy parsnip soup, surrounded by parsnips and an onion, which helps to retain the vitamins that usually dissolve in the cooking water when parsnips are boiled.
Parsnip soup is a good option for retaining nutrients that can be lost when parsnips are boiled.

In terms of cooking parsnips, Soares says that dry cooking methods, such as roasting or air frying, can keep more nutrients than boiling, where some of the nutrients will be lost in the cooking water. So if you’re making roast parsnips, don’t parboil them if you want maximum health benefits.

Or opt for parsnip soup, as you won’t lose the vitamins that dissolve in the cooking liquid. To begin, why not make this easy creamy parsnip soup or these delicious honeyroasted parsnips? 

Gemma Harris

Written by Gemma Harris she/her

Updated:

Gemma Harris has been a journalist for over seven years and is a self-confessed health and wellbeing enthusiast, which led her to specialise in health journalism. During her career, she has worked with top editors in the industry and taken on multiple high-discipline fitness challenges for certain outlets. She is particularly passionate about nutrition; after being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome in 2016, she discovered her fascination for gut health and founded thegutchoice.com – a dedicated space for providing a hopeful outcome for people with gut issues. Gemma’s core aim is to help others through her writing.

  • instagram
  • linkedin