Health Benefits of Cilantro

Cilantro is a good-for-you herb that offers important nutrients like vitamins A, K, and C as well as heart-healthy antioxidants. But it may taste like soap or dirt to some based on their genes.

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Cilantro—aka the leaves of the coriander plant—is a bright green herb commonly used in Mexican, Asian, and Middle Eastern cooking, as well as other cuisines around the globe. Apart from its somewhat citrusy, peppery flavor (to most people, anyway), cilantro is added to dishes for its potential health perks.

Here's the lowdown on cilantro's benefits, plus how to eat it and why some people simply cannot bear the way it tastes.

Cilantro Benefits

Although research on cilantro is pretty limited, it suggests a few potential health perks.

Cilantro Is 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 value (DV) of vitamin K, which supports bone health according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

It also offers 5% DV of vitamin A and 2% DV of vitamin C—two vitamins that are important for immune function.

Cilantro Contains Antioxidants

Beyond its vitamin value, cilantro also offers up important compounds called antioxidants, according to a 2022 review published in the journal Molecules. Antioxidants are substances that may prevent or delay certain types of cell damage.

While cilantro has many types of antioxidants, one class, known as polyphenols, is particularly important. Why? Polyphenols may reduce inflammation, according to a review published in 2019 in the journal Food and Function, and may prevent cell damage that would have otherwise contributed to premature aging and heightened disease risk.

Cilantro May Help Heart Health

Traditional medicine has long used parts of the coriander plant (including cilantro leaves) for pain, inflammation, gastrointestinal problems, and more.

While most of the medicinal properties of the plant have yet to be studied, the same 2022 review published in Molecules found the herb may have cardiovascular (heart) benefits, such as helping to regulate blood pressure and heart rhythm. The researchers theorize that this is due to cilantro's high antioxidant content.

However, of the 18 studies the review assessed, only two were conducted in humans. Therefore, you shouldn't expect munching on cilantro to ease any heart issues; a lot more research needs to be done.

Potential Drawbacks of Cilantro

In general, cilantro has very few downsides, especially when it comes to nutrition content. However, there are some people who may want to avoid cilantro. For example, a study published in 2012 in the journal Flavour found that 2% to 21% of individuals dislike cilantro, depending on the population.

A genetic variant—a permanent change to the DNA that makes up a gene—may make them highly sensitive to the smell of a compound in cilantro called aldehydes, according to a review of research on genetic approaches to food preferences published in 2019 in the journal Nutrients.

Since smell and taste are so closely linked, this can make the fresh, citrus-esque herb taste like soap or dirt instead.

Additionally, because cilantro is often consumed raw, it poses the risk of being contaminated with bacteria that would have otherwise been killed via cooking.

Between 2000 and 2020 at least 43 cilantro-associated foodborne outbreaks were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Outbreak Reporting System. This led to 970 illnesses and 75 hospitalizations, according to Colorado State University's Food Source Information site.

If you're at a higher risk of developing a more serious illness due to foodborne bacteria—for example, you're pregnant, over 65, or have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, per the CDC—you should talk to your healthcare provider about whether you should only consume cooked cilantro.

How To Eat Cilantro

If you're looking to easily bump your intake of antioxidants and vitamins, garnishing dishes with raw cilantro may be for you. Sprinkle it atop guacamole, salads, beans, stir-fries, soups, fish, curries, and more.

Even if you're not a huge fan of plain, raw cilantro, go online and find recipes that incorporate this herb, such as pico de gallo, pesto, chutney, and even drinks. Try pairing roasted corn with chopped cilantro and fresh lime. The key is to have fun experimenting with ways cilantro can freshen up a dish.

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