Cilantro – A Powerful Addition to Your Diet

Have you ever considered cilantro as a dark green leafy vegetable?

You’d be surprised at how versatile it is and just how many health benefits it holds. I know not everyone loves the unique flavor of cilantro. In fact, some people have a gene that predisposes them to experience the leaves as having an unpleasant soapy taste or smell. If you’re one of these people, there is nothing I can say to change how you feel about cilantro. It will likely never be appealing to you.

But if you like cilantro, it can be a powerful addition to your diet. Recently, I’ve loved switching up my boring kale smoothie with an entire bunch of cilantro and…VOILA…I get a refreshing and different flavor that leaves my taste buds singing. Summer is actually a great time to chop it up and throw into salads or add it to your favorite salsa recipe.

The entire plant of cilantro is completely edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. Coriander, the dried seeds of the cilantro plant, is used in cooking throughout the world. The biggest nutritional punch comes from the cilantro leaves, which are variously referred to as coriander leaves, fresh coriander, dhania, Chinese parsley, or in the U.S. and commercially in Canada, cilantro.

The fresh leaves are an ingredient in many South Asian foods (such as rasams, chutneys, and salads), Chinese and Thai dishes, Mexican cooking, particularly in salsa and guacamole and as a garnish, and in salads in Russia. Since heat diminishes the flavor of cilantro, it is best to consume it raw. The leaves spoil quickly when removed from the plant and lose their aroma when dried or frozen. I like to wrap freshly purchased cilantro in paper towels before putting it into plastic bags for storage in the refrigerator. The bunches will last much longer.

I’ve been buying 5-6 bunches a week, some for my smoothie, some for salads, and some for salsa, although I’m sure there are so many other uses (please let me know if you have one you love by writing in the comment section below).

The nutritional value of cilantro is not to be overlooked:

Cilantro leaves, raw – Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)

Vitamins:

Vitamin A equiv.

– beta-carotene (42%) 337 μg

– lutein/zeaxanthin (36%) 3930 μg

Thiamine (B1) (6%) 0.067 mg

Riboflavin (B2) (14%) 0.162 mg

Niacin (B3) (7%) 1.114 mg

Pantothenic acid (B5) (11%) 0.57 mg

Vitamin B6 (11%) 0.149 mg

Folate (B9) (16%) 62 μg

Vitamin C (33%) 27 mg

Vitamin E (17%) 2.5 mg

Vitamin K (295%) 310 μg

Minerals:

Calcium (7%) 67 mg

Iron (14%) 1.77 mg

Magnesium (7%) 26 mg

Manganese (20%) 0.426 mg

Phosphorus (7%) 48 mg

Potassium (11%) 521 mg

Sodium (3%) 46 mg

Zinc (5%) 0.5 mg

μg = micrograms • mg = milligrams

IU = International units

“A study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition showed that basil and coriander contained the highest levels of the carotenoids, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, all known for their antioxidant properties.”

A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2015 examined the ability of coriander leaf, or cilantro, extracts to protect skin against damage caused by Ultra Violet B (UVB) radiation. They tested an alcohol suspension of coriander on both human skin cells in a dish and skin cells from hairless laboratory mice. The results supported the potential of cilantro to prevent skin photoaging. Thumbs up for me! I love being in the sun!

A compound found in the leaves and seeds of cilantro – dodecanal – has also been found to have an antibacterial effect against Salmonella. In laboratory tests, dodecanal was twice as efficient at killing Salmonella than the commonly used medicinal antibiotic gentamicin.

“We were surprised that dodecanal was such a potent antibiotic. The study suggests that people should eat more salsa with their food, especially fresh salsa,” says Isao Kubo, lead researcher.

I am seeing cilantro being added to many juices available at the health food store recently. Most likely, the antimicrobial and heavy metal chelation factors of cilantro have led to its increased use in many “detoxification” juices and drinks.

Cilantro has been found to suppress lead accumulation in rats, which gives promise for the use of cilantro to combat lead and other heavy metal toxicity. Because of its ability to chelate (bond chemicals together), cilantro is also being studied as a natural water purifier.

My friend Meagan shared her salsa recipe with me, and now it has become a family favorite! I make it almost weekly.

Meagan’s Salsa

Ingredients

1 16 oz can of organic tomatoes (San Marzo are delicious) OR in the summer, use 2-4 cups of fresh tomatoes

5 garlic cloves

1 bunch of cilantro or more depending on your taste

salt and pepper to taste

juice of 2-3 limes

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 seeded jalapeno pepper (more if you like it spicy)

Add more of any ingredient to your liking (I add 1/4-1/2 of a yellow onion.)

Directions

Put all ingredients into a blender, Vitamix, or food processor.

Use short pulses until you like the texture of the salsa. 

This can store in the fridge for several weeks so doubling the recipe will allow you have salsa on hand and at the ready.

Enjoy!!

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