The Parsnip: Root for This Underdog Veggie

Freeze. That’s what makes the humble parsnip so darn sweet. After the first frost of the year, the cold New England weather starts to change this starchy vegetable into a sweeter root. Sadly, the parsnip is often overlooked in cold-season dishes. This underdog veggie—cousin of the glorified carrot—is often lost in the shuffle. That is, until now.

Parsnips have a naturally sweet and buttery flavor, especially when roasted.  They also pack one heck of a nutritional punch.

The vegetable is full of fiber, specifically soluble fiber, which turns into a gel-like material during digestion and works wonders for the body. Eating soluble fiber can reduce constipation and helps to lower cholesterol.  Parsnips have 3 grams of fiber per serving, which is about 10% of the daily recommended fiber goal. (See individual needs listed below.)


Daily Fiber Goals for Adults age 50 or younger

Daily Fiber Goals for Adults age 50 or older

Men 38 grams 30 grams
Women 25 grams 21 grams

Parsnips are also a great source of folate.  Folate is important for the development of new cells in our body and the formation of DNA (which is happening right now!). Another plus is that studies have found naturally occurring folate may decrease the risk of several types of cancer, especially colon cancer.

An added bonus: this root vegetable carries a number of other nutrients to your autumn table, with minimal calories (only 55 per ½ cup).

Parsnip Nutritional Value

Serving Size: 1/2 cup, sliced
Calories: 55
Protein: 1 g
Carbohydrate: 13 g
Fat: 0 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Dietary Fiber: 12%
Vitamin C: 13%
Folate: 11%
Potassium: 6%

To Cook a Parsnip:

Just in time for the New England chill, they can be used in hearty winter roasts, soups, and stews, making them a quintessential cold-weather root vegetable. Next time you need groceries, veer from your normal shopping spree and pick up a parsnip!

Wondering how to pick the perfect parsnip at the grocery store or farmers’ market?

• Avoid the larger roots, which tend to be more woody and fibrous (choose the smaller-sized ones).
• Select vegetables that are firm and even colored (versus limp and full of whiskers or brown patches).
• Store those roots in a sealable plastic bag for 1 to 3 weeks.
• Peel them before cooking.
• Thank yourself for buying a vegetable out of your comfort zone. After all, eating an array of vegetables keeps your diet filled with a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Learn how to make parsnips part of your repertoire with this recipe for Baked Parsnip Fries with Rosemary.

About the Author:
Jessica Sol Ismert recently moved to Boston to be a Dietetic Intern at Massachusetts General Hospital. She has two bachelor’s degrees, one in nutrition and one in marketing from Saint Louis University. Shortly after graduating, she worked in a public relations firm, during which she discovered her true passion was helping others live a healthy lifestyle through nutrition. 

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Our Be Fit Nutritionists are comprised of dietetic interns studying at Massachusetts General Hospital. During their internship, they receive training on acute care nutrition, ambulatory and community nutrition, food service systems management, and research. Their comprehensive work is done in collaboration with registered dietitians.

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