2 RDs Break Down the Impressive Health Benefits of Cilantro
Cilantro, the name commonly used to describe the stems and leaves of the coriander plant, is a staple in many cuisines, bringing delicious, citrusy flavor to everything from fresh salsas to curry. Or at least that's true for most people.
For others, cilantro tastes exactly like dish soap. Studies suggest that this aversion may be due to genetics. According to a study by Cornell University, about 10 to 14 percent of the population perceives the flavor of cilantro as similar to the suds you use when you wash your dishes.
But whether you find cilantro irresistible or you avoid it at all costs, you may be curious whether including this herb in your diet offers any health benefits. The short answer? This small but mighty herb is jam-packed with nutrients and compounds that serve as a healthy addition to any diet. Here's a breakdown on the benefits of cilantro.
Cilantro Nutrition Facts
Cilantro packs a punch in both the nutrition and the flavor department. You do have to eat large quantities of cilantro to consume a significant amount of some nutrients, as a measly teaspoon of this chopped herb doesn't contribute too much when it comes to nutrient quantities.
What does your body get a boost of when you add some of this refreshing herb to your dish? Here are the nutrition facts for 1/4 cup of cilantro, according to the United States Department of Agriculture:
- Calories: <1 calorie
- Fat: <1 gram
- Sodium: 1.84 grams
- Carbohydrates: <1 gram
- Fiber: <1 gram
- Protein: <1 gram
- Calcium: 3 mg
- Magnesium: 1 mg
- Vitamin C: 1 mg
- Vitamin K: 12 mcg
What Are the Benefits of Eating Cilantro?
By now, you likely know that eating more plants is beneficial for a number of reasons — and because cilantro is technically a plant, eating it regularly certainly checks that box.
"Cilantro is definitely a positive addition to a healthy diet," Carrie Gabriel, MS, RDN, a California-based registered dietitian, tells POPSUGAR. "It contains a high concentration of phytonutrients like flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory effects and can aid in disease prevention, and it also adds flavor to various dishes without adding salt or sugar."
Nutrient-wise, eating roughly nine sprigs of cilantro will fuel your body with fiber, calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, and more in under 20 calories, per the USDA. It also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which help support eye health by potentially reducing the risk of developing macular degeneration., according to research.
And there may also be more health benefits from eating cilantro that extend far beyond getting more calcium or reducing sodium. Some research has linked eating cilantro to fewer seizures among those with epilepsy, and other data suggest that a compound found in cilantro, called linalool, may help combat anxiety and Alzheimer's disease. Animal studies suggest that cilantro intake may also improve memory and help balance blood sugars — though we need more research to confirm those benefits in humans.
And if you aren't a fan of eating cilantro, the simple act of smelling it may offer some benefit. Using that unique linalool compound found in cilantro as an aromatherapy addition may be linked to reduced anxiety, according to data published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology.
Potential Downsides of Eating Cilantro
Of course, there are some caveats to enjoying this herb in excess. For example, cilantro may interact with certain blood-thinning medications thanks to the vitamin K it contains. For certain people who have a true allergy to cilantro, eating it can result in an allergic response (which may include effects like nausea, vomiting, and developing a skin rash). If you take blood thinners or think you might be allergic to cilantro, your best move is to chat with your doctor.
And if you have that gene that makes cilantro taste like soap, a potential downside to eating this herb can be that you will not thoroughly enjoy your homemade guac if cilantro is added to it.
But generally speaking, cilantro can be an extremely healthy addition to your diet and a great substitute for high-sodium and high-fat ingredients when you want some serious flavor.
So, Is Cilantro Good For You?
Considering the low calorie, fat, and sodium content, paired with the powerful flavor and the boost of cilantro's micronutrients, there is no doubt that cilantro is good for you. Even if your cilantro servings aren't large enough to fuel your body with a significant amount of vitamins and minerals, adding them to dishes can be a fantastic substitute for added salt and sugar — two ingredients many of us are eating too much of.
So, if you're lucky enough to have the ability to taste the satisfying flavors that cilantro offers (and you don't taste soap suds when you bite into a sprig), feel free to enjoy it on your favorite recipes and know that you are doing something good for yourself when you take a bite.