Health Benefits of Cilantro

The herb offers essential nutrients like vitamins A, C, and K antioxidants.

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Cilantro, known scientifically as Coriandrum sativum L., are the leaves of the coriander plant. It's a bright green herb commonly used in cuisines around the globe from Mexico to the Middle East.

Besides its somewhat citrusy, peppery flavor—to most people anyway—cilantro is added to dishes for its potential health perks like having antioxidants and vitamins that support bone and immune system function. Read on to learn more.

A Good Source of Nutrients

In addition to color and flavor, cilantro adds nutrition to your plate. A quarter cup of raw cilantro leaves—about the size of a golf ball—provides 16% of the daily recommended value of vitamin K. Vitamin K supports bone health.

Cilantro also offers 5% and 2% of the daily recommended vitamin A and C values, respectively. Those vitamins are essential for immune function.

Contains Antioxidants

Beyond its vitamin value, cilantro also offers important compounds called antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that may prevent or delay certain types of cell damage.

While cilantro has many antioxidants, polyphenols are particularly significant. Polyphenols are antioxidants that may reduce inflammation. Polyphenols may also prevent cell damage that could contribute to premature aging and an increased risk of chronic diseases.

Nutrition of Cilantro

In a quarter cup of cilantro, there are the following:

  • Calories: <1 calorie
  • Fat: <1 gram
  • Sodium: 1.84 grams
  • Carbohydrates: <1 gram
  • Fiber: <1 gram
  • Protein: <1 gram

Risks of Cilantro

In general, cilantro has very few downsides, especially regarding nutrition content. However, some people may want to avoid cilantro.

Allergic Reactions Can Happen

A cilantro allergy is not a common food allergy. However, it's possible to be or become allergic to cilantro, as any allergy to food can happen at any time.

It May Not Taste Good to Everyone

A genetic variant—a permanent change to your DNA—may make you highly sensitive to the smell of a compound in cilantro called aldehydes. Since smell and taste are closely linked, that genetic variant can make the fresh, citrusy herb taste like soap or dirt.

Raw Cilantro May Contain Bacteria

Because cilantro is often consumed raw, it poses the risk of bacterial contamination you would otherwise have killed through cooking.

If you're at a higher risk of developing a more severe illness due to foodborne bacteria, you should talk to a healthcare provider about whether you should cook cilantro. People with a higher risk include those who:

  • Are pregnant
  • Are over 65
  • Have a medical condition that weakens their immune system

Tips for Consuming Cilantro

If you're looking to bump your intake of antioxidants and vitamins, garnishing dishes with raw cilantro or cooking dishes with the herb is for you. The key is to have fun experimenting with ways cilantro can freshen up a dish. You can:

  • Incorporate it in pico de gallo, pesto, chutney, and drinks
  • Sprinkle it atop guacamole, salads, beans, stir-fries, soups, fish, or curries
  • Try pairing roasted corn with chopped cilantro and fresh lime

A Quick Review

Cilantro is part of the coriander plant that comes with nutrients like vitamin K and antioxidants. It's also a low-calorie, low-fat, and low-sodium herb. Though it does have its benefits, cilantro does come with downsides. For example, some people may not like the taste of the herb in their food, and it's possible to be allergic to cilantro. If you want to try the herb, you can use it in a variety of dishes from salads and soups to salsa and stir-fries.

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11 Sources uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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