Health Benefits of Cilantro

Cilantro, the leafy part of the coriander plant, is one of the superfoods that modern nutritionists are just beginning to truly appreciate. The Greek physician, Hippocrates, known as the “Father of Medicine”, recognized its medicinal benefits nearly 2,000 years ago, and the Greeks and the Romans were known to use it as a spice. Today, the herb is used in a wide variety of dishes and types of cooking, especially, Mexican, Asian and Caribbean, for its flavor as well as its health benefits.

Despite the widespread and growing popularity of cilantro especially in San Diego, not everyone is a fan. Don’t you have that one friend or family member who invariably overreacts to just the mention of cilantro? It turns out that we may have been misjudging them. For roughly somewhere between 4 to 14 percent of the population, cilantro actually tastes like soap. Citrus-spicy to most people but pure soap to them. Scientists have determined that these folks share of a group of genes, OR6A2 to be specific, that cause them to detect certain chemicals that are present in both cilantro and soap. Fortunately for the rest of us, we didn’t get that gene!

Fortunate is truly the operative word because cilantro is loaded with health benefits. Besides containing an incredibly long list of vitamins and minerals, cilantro is a key player in the battle against free radicals because it is such a good source of antioxidants, and it also has the rare ability to help the body get rid of toxic metals, which is becoming more and more of a problem all the time.

Health Benefits of Cilantro

While not all-inclusive, these are some of the more common attributes of cilantro:

  • Promotes digestion and may help alleviate gas but more research is needed to definitely make this claim.
  • Known to have strong antioxidant benefits. Free radicals are formed when the body’s molecules lose electrons and have been linked to cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other serious condition. Antioxidants are the body’s best defense against free radical damage and oxidative stress.
  • May help manage diabetes. Studies conducted with diabetic rats showed that cilantro was effective in lowering blood glucose levels and reducing cholesterol. Human trials will need to be conducted but researchers are optimistic that the same is happening with people, making cilantro even more of a superfood.
  • Supports strong bones. Cilantro is packed with vitamin K which is one of the best ways to support bone health and growth. The vitamin K in cilantro is also effective in boosting the body’s blood clotting ability.
  • Aids in protecting against food poisoning by destroying bacteria like Salmonella that are the cause.
  • Removes heavy metals through the process of chelation. Mercury, aluminum, lead and other harmful metals bind to compounds in cilantro and are expelled from the body before they can cause damage.
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. Many of the compounds present in cilantro, like vitamin C, linoleic acid, and cineole, are effective in reducing inflammation throughout the body, including the swelling that often accompanies arthritis.
  • Protects the skin from damage caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
  • May aid in weight loss. Adding cilantro to beverages or food enhances flavor and overall satisfaction without increasing calories.

One small herb with so many benefits! There is, of course, a glaring omission from the list of cilantro accolades. It may be classified as a superfood because of all of the wonderful things it can do to keep us healthy, and this last comment may seem somewhat trivial. Nevertheless, without cilantro, we would have a far lesser version of guacamole, and that would be a sad state of affairs indeed!  

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