Eat.Fit.Well

What Are the Health Benefits of Cilantro or Coriander?


by Carissa Andrews - October 14, 2019


Photo Credit: Courtesy by Carissa Andrews
Photo Credit: Courtesy by Carissa Andrews

Most people know cilantro as an herb they find in either guacamole or salsa and either they gobble it up or they pick it out. It’s true, you either love it or hate it, but either way, cilantro is an amazing herb that packs a health punch. Even the haters can’t deny it. However, did you know cilantro is actually the leafy greens from the coriander (Coriandrum sativum) plant? In many countries, they don’t even differentiate the two, which can sometimes make recipes difficult. However, in the United States and most of Canada, the two are broken out individually – and for good reason. They have different health components and vastly different flavors. Let’s take a closer look at this interesting herb.

3 Important Facts about Cilantro and Coriander

1. Cilantro is the leafy part of the coriander seed.

We touched on this a bit in the intro, but I can honestly say, as someone living in the US, I never knew the herb I love so much (cilantro) was actually the plant from a seed I really don’t like (coriander). Maybe I was living under a rock, but when researching this article, I was definitely intrigued by this. While cilantro has a clean, fresh smell and taste to me, coriander seems warmer, with a strange spice that goes along with it. This explains why cilantro is used in things like salsas, guacamole, and chutney, while coriander is used in curries, soups and stews, meat rubs, and even pickling veggies.

2. Cilantro/coriander is related to parsley, celery, and carrots.

With similar uses and nutritional profiles, cilantro can be used in their place, depending on what you’re using them for. Because of this similarity, they also back similar health bunches, particularly in the way of vitamins and minerals.

3. Not everyone experiences cilantro the same.

While no one complains about the taste disparity of coriander, some people perceive cilantro as tasting like soap. As it turns out, genetics plays a big role. According to the NY Times, researchers have found a set of genes called the olfactory receptors (OR6A2, if you want to get technical) that make it possible for some people to smell the aldehyde in coriander. You might be able to guess it, but aldehyde is also found in soap. Since smell makes up 80% of what we perceive as taste, these folks are predisposed to not enjoying the taste as much as the rest of us.

Health Benefits of Cilantro

Moving on to the health benefits of the Coriandrum sativum plant, let’s break them out between the leafy green cilantro and the coriander seeds. Since they have such a different nutritional base and taste, I figured that makes the most sense. So, let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of cilantro.

• Lowers blood pressure

Coriander can reduce the body’s blood pressure thanks to its high potassium content. Potassium can reduce sodium in the blood stream, which in turn lowers overall blood pressure.

• Prevents heart disease

The coriander plant has been found to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both of which are major players in the risk for heart disease. It can also prevent oxidative damage that’s linked with heart disease.

• Immune system booster

Cilantro is full of a variety of antioxidants that can protect you from free radicals and prevent cellular damage. This, in turn, lowers inflammation and some of the associated effects that inflammation can have on the body.

• Nourishes your eyes

Because cilantro is high in carotenoids, beta-carotene in specific, it’s an incredible herb for protecting your eyes against eye disease and certain eye cancers. It’s also high in beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin – all of which are known for their antioxidant punch. The leaves are also full of vitamin C, which protects the collagen in your cornea. Both beta-carotene and vitamin C are listed as nutrients needed for aging eyes.

• Detoxes the body

Cilantro has been found to suppress heavy metal accumulation in the body, including that of lead. Because it has a natural ability to bond chemicals together (or chelate) heavy metals, cilantro has been added to plenty of “detox” health drinks, juices, and even as a way to naturally purify water.

Health Benefits of Coriander

There is some crossover in the health benefits for coriander versus cilantro. However, let’s take a closer look at the ones more closely associated with coriander next.

• Reduces pain & inflammation

Inflammation, when left unchecked, can cause a bunch of problems from digestive issues to heart problems and plenty of pain. Coriander (both the leaves and seeds) have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have found the antioxidants in coriander reduces and even inhibits the growth of certain cancer cells, from stomach and prostate to breast and lung cancer.

• Lower’s blood sugar

Anyone with type 2 diabetes can tell you that high blood sugar is a risk factor. Coriander seeds (as well as oils and extracts) can help to promote the enzyme activity that removes excess sugar from the blood. While this is good news for people trying to lower their blood sugar, coriander is actually powerful enough that people who already have low blood sugar should consume it with caution.

• Fight off bacterial infections

Both cilantro and coriander have shown in studies to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which can help you fight off certain infections. Cilantro’s compounds have been shown to be effective against foodborne infections like salmonella, while coriander has been shown to fight the bacteria that causes urinary tract infections (UTIs).

• Helps regulate endocrine glands

Your endocrine system affects a lot in your body. It’s a complex network of nine glands and over 100 hormones in the body. It influences almost every organ, cell, and function in our bodies. This includes reproduction, metabolism, and energy or mental clarity. It’s known to stimulate a menstrual cycle in women and impact obesity levels in both sexes.

• Protects against cancer

The antioxidants in cilantro are shown to be great anticancer compounds, but there’s more to the anticancer story. As it turns out, meats cooked with coriander were found to have significantly lower HCAs; which have been associated with a higher risk of cancer. HCAs are chemicals that form when meats are cooked at high temps and consuming them frequently increases your risk of developing cancer.

3 Simple Ways to Eat Coriander or Cilantro

* Salsa

Fresh salsa is the best and one of my favorite parts of late summer and early fall. One of my go-to recipes includes fresh tomatoes, yellow onion, avocado, garlic, cilantro, and a little dash of lime juice. Chop tomatoes, onion, and avocado into scoopable bite-size chunks, then dice the garlic and cilantro. Add them to a bowl and mix with a couple dashes of lime juice to make the flavor pop. You can also add a sprinkle of salt and a couple drops of taco sauce if you like the added Mexican flare.

Photo Credit: Courtesy by Carissa Andrews
Photo Credit: Courtesy by Carissa Andrews

* Detox Drink

If you’re looking for a way to detox your body, clear up your skin, and maybe lose a little belly fat, this one is for you. All you need is 6 stalks of celery, ginger root, 1 beet, cilantro, and a little bit of lemon juice. Be sure to cook the beet (boil for 1 hour or roast at 350 for 1 hour). Once it’s cooled, peel and add all solid ingredients in a blender. Once everything is mixed, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Blend again and enjoy.

* Steak Rub

For those of you who are fans of the coriander seed, they do make great steak rubs—especially when added to other great spices. Try this one for a savory caramelized steak. You need 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, a dash of salt, ½ teaspoon of ground cumin, ½ teaspoon ground coriander seeds, and ¼ teaspoon of ground red pepper. Combine all the ingredients together and rub on both sides of your steak. Then grill or pan heat the steak. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Courtesy by Carissa Andrews
Photo Credit: Courtesy by Carissa Andrews

Staying healthy is a priority of many of us and we know health starts with what we put in our bodies. Hopefully you learned some new things about coriander and cilantro today (I know I did), and you’re ready to head to the grocery store to give it a try in a meal or detox drink soon. Here’s to better health!

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