For centuries, humans have depended on edible plants and herbs to treat a variety of common ailments, from stomach aches to anxiety. According to Dr. Oz, one plant in particular doubles as an edible restaurant garnish and a protector from vision problems. Taking its name from the Greek word meaning "rock celery," parsley contains compounds that support the retina and other areas of the eye.
Research shows that vitamin A helps protect the surface of the eye, is an effective treatment for dry eye syndrome, and when combined with other antioxidants, appears to reduce risks for the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Parsley is a rich source of vitamin A and carotenoids like beta-carotene that stimulate production of vitamin A in the body. Adding parsley to other foods rich in beta-carotene like carrots, sweet potatoes, or spinach offers ultimate eye protection.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Additional carotenoids present in parsley include lutein and zeaxanthin, which offer more antioxidant benefits for good eye health. These compounds work to neutralize damage caused by UV radiation and other environmental influences that may lead to macular degeneration. According to the American Optometric Association, the consumption of lutein and zeaxanthin helps reduce risks for cataracts. In addition, lutein has been found to inhibit glycation, a process where sugar bonds with protein to form advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that can damage the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye.
Related: Bilberry for Retina Health
More Health Benefits
If better eye health isn't enough reason to consume parsley, here are some additional benefits:
Parsley is a rich source of volatile oils. Animal studies show that one of these oils, myristicin, may inhibit the development of tumors, particularly in the lungs. Acting like an antioxidant, myristicin can help neutralize certain carcinogens like those found in cigarette smoke and other types of smoke.
Support Urinary Tract Health
Myristicin and apiole, another compound in parsley, help boost the flow of urine, removing infection-causing bacteria and other impurities from the urinary tract. This diuretic property also helps prevent the development of kidney stones.
Promotes Good Cardiovascular Health
Parsley is a rich source of folic acid, a B vitamin that plays many roles in the body, one of which involves homocysteine. At high levels, homocysteine damages blood vessels and it has been linked to higher risks for heart attack and stroke in people with diabetic heart disease or atherosclerosis. The body uses folic acid to help covert potentially harmful homocysteine into a benign form.
Finding and Growing Parsley
Fresh parsley can be found year round in the produce section of any local supermarket, and shoppers can find dried parsley in the baking and spice aisle. While parsley does not need a lot of sun to thrive, it grows slowly, so yields may be less than expected. Parsley is a biennial plant, meaning it produces seeds after its second year of growth, and it will return to the garden each year.