Parsley Garnish My dirty little secret is that behind-the-scenes of a partially-raw, fully-vegan Holistic Nutritionist (in training), I am also a bartender and server. This means that, yes, while I’m learning about circadian rhythms and early-to-bed sleeps, I have to stay up late every weekend to work. Although this throws my system out of whack once a week, I have learned some really interesting things whilst watching the way people eat at a restaurant! 

For instance, the classic “sliders with fries, extra brie and a diet cola” always throws me into a stunned silence. Or the, “I’ll get the wings and fries – but only if the wings aren’t breaded, I’m on a diet.” However, while I may want to lecture, educate and inspire change, a bar late at night is not the time or the place for an impromptu nutrition lesson. So, I smile, hide the cringe deep down, and sweetly say, “Absolutely”.

But now there’s too many cringes hiding in there and it’s time for them to come out and play. And there is one thing on top of my list of all of the things I see, which really, really, really needs to be discussed: the garnish. Yes, that innocent, delicate, little green addition to your meal.

You might not have thought twice about it before, sliding it across the plate to the metaphorical “time-out” corner. You might not even have thought of it as your server took your plate away. But it’s my hope that you’ll think of it by the end of this post.

At the bar where I work, they use sprouts, arugula and parsley to garnish most of the main courses, and gooseberries to garnish some of the desserts. So why do I care so much when they get left behind on the plate?

Sprouts are such AMAZING nutritional power-houses! They’re the beginnings of full-grown plants, and often contain slightly less or the same nutritional value as the whole mature plant they might have grown up to be! For example, ¼ cup of broccoli sprouts contain the same nutrient-content as 2 ½ cups of mature broccoli! So even by consuming small portions of sprouts (let’s say, for example, a garnish!), you can reap some of the benefits of eating many more vegetables!

What about arugula, you ask? Arugula is an incredible salad leaf, or garnish. It’s got a good amount of vitamin K, which helps your blood clot properly when you get cut! Not only that, but the bitter taste of arugula helps to stimulate your digestive system. So the next time you see a couple of leaves thrown atop your meal, please give this green beauty the respect it deserves! Chew thoroughly, taste the slight bitterness, and allow your digestive system to excrete its acids, enzymes and bile to thoroughly break down the meal you’ve had prepared for you.

Okay, fine. Sprouts and arugula, check and check. I’ll eat those, but parsley? That’s just a common herb that was designed by mother nature to BE a garnish, yes? No. If it was in a movie, it would have a cape. For sure. This superhero herb contains volatile oils that have been shown in animal studies to stop tumor formation! And, on the lighter side of things, it’s an excellent breath-freshener. So the next time you see a couple of sprigs of parsley, you can put them in the corner of your plate, and eat them at the end of your meal to get rid of some of the less-desirable smells lurking in the corners of your mouth. Plus, you can look pretty smart telling your hot date about its “chemoprotective” properties (just make sure you don’t get any stuck in your teeth – that could ruin the mood).

Now, what the heck is a gooseberry and why is it making my dessert look extra-special? It’s a beautiful orange ball of anti-inflammatory wonder, wrapped in a delicate, paper-like shell. And why should you eat it? This little berry is full of vitamin C, which can nourish your adrenals (hello, stress management!), and act as an excellent antioxidant to promote overall health. Yipee! And to think you might have just left it on the plate…

And that’s only the low-down on four common garnishes. So the next time a lovely young server asks you, “are you all finished with that?” please (politely) say no, and EAT THE GARNISH!

Once you have, let me know! I’d love to hear about your new love-affair with one of the healthiest parts of your meal. And feel free to share this with your friends – that way the next time you go out with them, they’ll understand why you ate their garnishes, too!


Book: Staying Healthy with Nutrition by: Elson M. Haas, MD with Buck Levin, PhD, RD
Book: The World’s Healthiest Foods by: George Mateljan