Herbs and Nutrition
Herbs are more than just a garnish to be added to a meal for visual appeal. They are even more than just flavour. They are powerful foods that contain powerful anti-cancer phytochemical. There is a lot of talk about the traditional Mediterranean diet in the cancer research world. Often this talk focuses on olive oil and it’s contribution to the Mediterranean diet. But, I like to emphasize that the Mediterranean diet is more than just olive oil. A big part of this cuisine is the use of herbs and spices. Common herbs used in Mediterranean cooking includes basil, oregano, rosemary, cinnamon, thyme, saffron, mint, dill and of course parsley.
The main types of parsley are the flat leaf and the curly leaf. The flat leaf is also called Italian parsley, while the curly leaf is called French parsley. Both are easy to grow in the garden, with the flat leaf being somewhat preferred for its rain and sunshine tolerance. But chances are you have a preference related to the taste or the look of the leaf and not how it grows in your garden. Both are affordable and easy to find at the produce section.
Many shoppers have difficult distinguishing flat parsley vs cilantro. The parsley smell will be one clue. I find parsley has a more grassy smell. The parsley taste is also somewhat grassy and similar to celery.
Apigenin – Cancer’s Enemy
The reason that celery and parsley have a similar taste is that they both contain the phytonutrient apigenin. A phytonutrient is a nutrient found in a plant (phyto) that is not a vitamin, and not a mineral. Apigenin has received a lot of attention lately and celery juice has become very popular because of this.
In laboratory work, these phytonutrients have been shown to reduce inflammation, reduce proliferation of cancer cells, stop angiogenesis (creation of blood supply by the cancer) and induce apoptosis (natural cell death by the cancer). Parsley is truly is a super green.
As well as being super green in colour, this recipe, with its cancer-fighting potential, is like a super hero on your plate. Let’s call it “Super Green” to the rescue!
Here’s a Tip: When you harvest parsley, you don’t have to pull out the entire plant, just pick off the leaves you will use. The leaves will grow back and you can get a second harvest.
Many herbs have been shown to have important anti-cancer and other medicinal properties. So much so, I recommend you feature them as the main ingredient in your recipes and not just the garnish. For more on herbs, check out my blog post called 7 Herbs Every Cancer Survivor Should Grow.
Pesto Combinations Are Endless!
A great way to feature an herb as a main ingredient is to make pesto. Which is usually basil, but could be any number of fresh herbs or combination of herbs, plus olive oil, toasted pine nuts, parmesan and usually garlic. For a twist on traditional basil pesto, here is my version. It’s a Parsley Pesto Vegan and includes toasted pecans. To make parsley pesto vegan, I use nutritional yeast in place of parmesan cheese. Which has a similar umami flavour.
Parsley Pesto - Vegan Version
- food processor
- fry pan
- measuring cup
- 3 cups parsley freshly harvested or freshly purchased, washed and patted dry
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast Vit D and B12 fortified preferred
- 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil extra virgin preferred
- 1/4 cup pecans toasted
- Lemon zest
- Toasted pine nuts or other nuts in place of pecans
- Place parsley in food processor.
- Add nutritional yeast and olive oil and process until smooth
- Add toasted pecans and process until desired texture. I think it's nice to keep pieces that you can chrunch on as you enjoy this pesto
- Serve over hot pasta or use as a spread on fresh whole grain bread as an appetizer or sandwhich spread
Parsley and other herbs feature prominently in the Cancer Risk Reduction Guide. This is a food guide that I created specially focus on diet and lifestyle choices to reduce risk of cancer.