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Enjoy the Health Benefits of Cilantro All Year Long

5/2/2012 12:53:13 PM

Tags: Cilantro, Health Benefits, Coriandrum Sativum, Mexican Dishes, Tips, Gardening, Medicine Cabinet

J.PattonIt’s probably no surprise to you by now that I am a serious Mexican food fanatic. And after celebrating Cinco de Mayo, it makes sense to keep enjoying the health benefits of an cilantro, an herb found in many Mexican dishes.

Also known as Mexican parsley, cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a perky plant with lacey green leaves and stems, a distinct pungent flavor and countless health benefits. No wonder it is one of the most popular culinary herbs used worldwide.

Cilantro is one of the most popular culinary herbs in the world.
Photo by Lorenia/Courtesy

A main perk to eating cilantro is the herb’s low calorie count. Cilantro packs only one calorie per quarter cup, which basically means you can eat as much of it as you want. (At least, that's my takeaway!) Cilantro is also an excellent source of vitamin K, which helps your blood clot and supports the growth of strong bones. In addition, the plant contains iron, magnesium and manganese, and it is packed full of plant-based nutrients called phytochemicals. Phytochemicals act as antioxidants in the body and fight disease and aging.

Cilantro may even be an affective cure to salmonella poisoning. A study published in 2004 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that cilantro can kill salmonella as well as commonly used antibiotic drugs. A compound in the herb’s leaves, called dodecenal, acts as a natural antibiotic and can help the body in its fight against the salmonella bacterium.

Cilantro packs a host of health benefits, including the potential
to fight salmonella poisoning as well as popular antibiotic medications.
Photo by Michael_Lehet/Courtesy

Despite this plethora of health benefits, not everyone is a fan of cilantro—and their genes may be to blame. Those with a strong aversion to cilantro may complain of the herb’s “soapy” flavor. However, it may be the smell, rather than the taste, that repels these people. When we bite into cilantro, or any other food for that matter, the nose naturally picks up chemical compounds that contribute to the overall taste experience. For some genetically pre-disposed folks, the smell of cilantro overcomes the taste, leading to a distasteful “soapy” flavor that makes them turn their noses up in disgust.

For those of us who were born cilantro lovers, the plant is actually relatively easy to grow. Simply toss the seeds into a pot of rich soil in a sunny spot. Water your seeds well, and within a week sprouts will appear. When cared for properly, the plant reaches two feet in height. For best results, harvest your cilantro leaves weekly. 

For more tips on cooking with cilantro, as well as a few cilantro-packed recipes, check out Lucinda Hutson’s article “Cooking with Cilantro.”

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