Friday, January 8, 2010

5 Ways to Enjoy the Surprising Pleasure of Parsnips

5 Ways to Enjoy the Surprising Pleasure of Parsnips
Sweet and tasty parsnips are more than the carrot's country cousin.
By Amy Ahlberg

Get a great dose of fiber, vitamin K, and folate.

If you normally pass up parsnips in the produce aisle, grabbing carrots, their orange cousins, instead, it's time to give this underrated root a chance. For starters, a cup of raw, sliced parsnips contains 6.5 grams of fiber, nearly double the amount found in carrots. The white veggie is also a good source of potassium and an excellent source of vitamin C and folate.

In addition, one cup of parsnips supplies nearly 40 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin K, which plays a role in blood clotting. And a study done in the Netherlands has shown that this vitamin, which is produced by bacteria in the intestines but is also available in foods, may also improve bone health. The researchers found that when 70 postmenopausal women consumed 1 milligram of vitamin K daily for three months, they experienced significant decreases in calcium lost through the urine. The vitamin may also help control blood sugar; research has shown that men (but not women) who took 500 micrograms of vitamin K a day for around three years were less likely to develop insulin resistance. More research is needed to determine if vitamin K can fend off diabetes.

The folate found in parsnips not only prevents life-threatening neural-tube defects during pregnancy, it's also essential for normal nerve functioning, helps support cell production, and helps prevent anemia and osteoporosis-related bone fractures. It has been shown to lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease and may help protect against cervical and breast cancers.

When shopping for this gently sweet, nutty-tasting vegetable, choose smaller, firm roots, as very large specimens may be woody. Avoid any that are soft, shriveled, or spotted.'

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