Smart Fuel: Parsnips

With a long narrow, knobby body and a tuft of green leaves, the parsnip could easily be confused for an anemic version of the carrot.

The missing link, if you will, is beta-carotene, the compound responsible for giving carrots their golden hue. But rest assured, parsnips have plenty of nutritional power. For example, the parsnip boasts a high volume of insoluble fiber, which is important for a healthy digestive system as well as for regulating cholesterol and reducing blood sugar fluctuations. It is also a good source of potassium, which helps reduce the risk of kidney stones. The vegetable’s high folic acid content, meanwhile, can help reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia and, for pregnant women, decrease the likelihood of birth defects. Rounding out parsnip’s nutritional power punch, its high vitamin C content has been associated with improved lung function—and even a reduction in asthma symptoms in children—and also gives skin a healthy glow.

With lower sugar content than its orange-hued friend, parsnips can serve as a low calorie substitute in fruit and vegetable juices, soups—especially sweeter varieties with apple— and bisques. Other recipes, meanwhile, recommend roasting parsnips or using them as a substitute in otherwise bland potato dishes.

Now that’s what I call parsnip power.

Marj Joly Flickr Photo (CC)

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20 thoughts on “Smart Fuel: Parsnips”

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  1. Parsnips have become the vegetable of choice in our house. We’ve found their sweet earthy flavor is far superior to potatoes, which we no longer miss at meals. We love them best roasted with carrots and red onion, sprinkled with a little olive oil, salt and pepper just until they carmalize – yum!

  2. I have never had parsnips in my life. But, I now have reasons to try them! There is a recipe in the Primal Blueprint Cookbook so I will have to give that a try!

  3. I adore parsnips roasted in a litte grapeseed oil with salt and pepper. Will try making oven fries with them!

  4. I’d want to followup on the psoralen content of parsnips before going too hog wild over them:

    Science 21 August 1981:
    Vol. 213 no. 4510 pp. 909-910
    DOI: 10.1126/science.7256284

    Natural toxicants in human foods: psoralens in raw and cooked parsnip root
    Parsnip root contains three photoactive, mutagenic, and photocarcinogenic psoralens in a total concentration of about 40 parts per million. These chemicals are not destroyed by normal cooking procedures (boiling or microwave); thus humans are exposed to appreciable levels of psoralens through the consumption of parsnip and possibly other psoralen-containing foodstuffs. The toxicologic consequences to man of such exposure may be speculated on the basis of medicinal and laboratory studies, but epidemiologic data are not available.

    1. I was wondering the same thing. I just this on another site, that parsnips are toxic. Legumes are not recommended for the same reason, because of toxicity. I hope Mark responds to this.

  5. I absolutely LOVE parsnips!
    They’re sweet, and in my opinion, making parsnip fries are BY FAR superior to potato fries.
    I recently discovered eating them raw, dipped in sesame butter – pure goodness!

    1. I have been wondering how the high GI value of some these yummy foods on the shopping list fit in with weight loss management. My understanding (recent and still researching. I just discovered this wonderful site today) is that we have to keep a meal within a certain GI range to not have insulin released which will cause fats in the meal to be stored. Soooo.. I feel a little paranoid about including parsnips in my mainly meat and low GI vegie diet right now.. Maybe I need to read a lot more in here before I get too panicky…


        The high glycemic index rating of parsnips is extremely misleading.

        Parsnips mainly consist of indigestible fiber… not M&M’s, as their GI might indicate.

        GI measures the insulin response per gram of CARBOHYDRATE in a given food, not per gram of the ACTUAL FOOD in question.

        Glycemic load (GL) puts things into proper perspective. GL is determined by multiplying the glycemic index by the percent carbohydrate content of a food.

        On the GL scale, parsnips take a nosedive from a (ridiculous) glycemic index of 98 (w/ glucose @ 100) to a GL of 10 (w/ glucose @ 100).

        1. Even a small helping of parsnips will drop my glucose through the floor, despite what you say about glycemic load. Maybe it’s an allergic reaction.

    2. Tubers were a part of the ancestral diet. Of course they were occasional and they also contained no fructose.

      They were also probably not eaten along with protein or fat. That’s where the real danger lies. When insulin is elevated by a starchy food lipolysis shuts down and triglycerides from the blood stream are stored in fat cells. If there is no fat in the bloodstream when eating carbohydrates then no fat will be stored, unless there is a massive overfeeding of carbohydrates. This is why the real danger lies in eating carbohydrates and fat at the same time, which is not what our ancestors did.

      Matthew Caton

  6. Hey, thank you for that. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how to use the GL figures. Much appreciated.

  7. Superb posting, I share the same views. I wonder why this particular world truly does not picture for a moment like me and also the blog site creator 😀

  8. Parsnips are pretty good but be careful not to overeat it because of its high glycemic index which averages around 97! (glucose is 100)

  9. Parsnips DO contain Fructose. Unlike potatoes that store energy in form of starch, they have a lot of sucrose, which
    is formed from fructose linked to glucose.
    As we all know, almost every cell of our body can utilize glucose directly, therefore glucose is instantly absorbed by our digestive system, (with excess converted to glycogen and stored inside our liver), and hence the high GI of 97. Fructose, on the other hand, is only metabolized by our liver and converted to bLDL. No fat is required in the process. With a GL of 10, in my humble opinion, parsnip is safe for us, only a little common sense and moderation is essential.

  10. Excellent to hear this! ive only just started the primal diet and my husband loves parsnips way more than potatos.
    I think, as with everything, moderation is the key.