With their sharp, slightly peppery taste, parsley leaves make flavorful additions to salads, soups and side dishes, and a variety of other meals. They are very low in calories -- a half-cup serving of parsley leaves contains just 11 calories -- so they fit into calorie-conscious diets. Parsley leaves also have lots of nutritional value in the form of minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients, and eating them has several beneficial effects on your health.
Blood Cell Function
Parsley boosts your intake of iron and vitamin K -- two nutrients important for healthy blood. Vitamin K plays a key role in the function of platelets, the specialized cells tasked with forming blood clots. You need blood clots to control bleeding. Low vitamin K levels, which impair clot formation, can lead to abnormal bleeding and bruising. Iron supports the function of your red blood cells, helping them transport oxygen to your tissues. Each half-cup serving of parsley leaves provides 1.86 milligrams of iron -- 10 percent of the recommended daily intake for women and 23 percent for men. A half-cup of parsley leaves also contains 492 micrograms of vitamin K and provides your entire daily recommended intake.
Eating parsley leaves also promotes healthy eyesight, because they contain vitamin A, as well as the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Vitamin A makes up a component of rhodopsin, a pigment found in your eyes that plays a role in light detection. Each half-cup portion of parsley leaves has 2,527 international units of vitamin A -- 84 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and more than 100 percent for women. Parsley leaves also contain 1.7 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin per half-cup. These nutrients filter light, shielding the delicate tissues at the back of your eyes from harmful light rays that would otherwise cause damage.
Strong Skin and Connective Tissue
Season your meals with parsley leaves to maintain healthy and strong connective tissue. The vitamin A abundant in parsley maintains the integrity of your skin, and also maintains healthy mucous membranes -- the tissue found in your nasal passages and mouth. Parsley's vitamin C content promotes the synthesis of collagen, a protein found in several connective tissues, including your tendons, ligaments and bones. Each half-cup serving of parsley leaves contains 39.9 milligrams of vitamin C -- 44 and 53 percent of the recommended daily vitamin C intakes for men and women, respectively.
Add parsley to your diet to enjoy its potential anti-cancer properties. Parsley contains carnosol, a nutrient that regulates gene activity and fights the growth of several types of cancer, including breast, skin and colon cancers, according to a review published in "Cancer Letters" in 2011. An animal study, published in "Toxicology Letters" in 2013, notes that apigenin -- another nutrient obtained from parsley, according to a study published in "Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism" in 2006 -- fights pancreatic cancer cell growth in mice. While parsley's effectiveness in fighting cancer needs further investigation, including thorough clinical studies, it might have some benefits.