By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist
“Do you like cilantro?” was the subject line of an email I recently sent out to a few people coming to my home for dinner. A cilantro-hating ex-boyfriend taught me that when you dislike the herb, it’s with a passion. (To find out why, check out the “I hate cilantro” Facebook page with more than 13,000 likes, and the blog of the same name.)
If you fall into that camp, then you can stop reading now (or, continue, just to see what you’re missing). No matter how you feel about its taste, there’s no denying that nutritionally, it’s a bona fide super food. Here’s why:
- It’s very rich in carotenoids. This group of antioxidant phytonutrients is important for the skin and eyes, as well as overall health. When tested along with other common herbs (basil, dill, mint, parsley, rosemary), cilantro was the richest in beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
- It may fight cancer. In test tube research at University of Malaya, ground up stems, leaves, and roots help kill breast cancer cells, a benefit that can be chalked up to cilantro’s plentiful carotenoids and other antioxidants.
- Its scent might relieve depression and anxiety. Granted, the research from Romania was done with rats with dementia, but the ones that inhaled cilantro’s volatile oils perked up, ran mazes better, and moved around a lot more.
- It kills bacteria. Test tube experiments at Swansea University in the United Kingdom found that cilantro’s essential oil kills off a strain of E. coli bacteria prevalent in the guts of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Antibiotics are already a treatment for IBS, but the study authors point out that cilantro oil would be a better solution as it doesn’t contribute to the world wide problem of antibiotic resistance. Stay tuned for human studies.
- It may boost bone health. Just four tablespoons of cilantro (the amount I put in my salad—but I’m a fan) offers 14 percent of your vitamin K needs for the day. In addition to making sure the blood clots properly, this vitamin also plays a role in preserving bone. By the way, those four tablespoons amount to just 1 calorie!
Are you a fan of cilantro? Try These Recipes: