I'm not typically a negative person, but I have a confession to make: I hate cilantro. Not only has this harmless green leafy herb ruined many of my favorite Indian dishes, but I can smell its pungent aroma from miles away at the farmers' market. To add insult to injury, it even bears a striking resemblance to parsley, a garnish I love. (Cilantro is sneaky like that.)
I know I'm not alone. Chef Ina Garten (you might know her better as the Barefoot Contessa) recently expressed her distaste for cilantro on a Today Show segment. "I just can't stand cilantro," she said. "I just think it's such a strong flavor, it just overwhelms everything else." The great Julia Child was anti-cilantro too.
Yet whether you enjoy the flavor of this Eastern herb or, like me, you possess the gene that makes it taste like a bar of Dove (and not the chocolate kind), one thing is certain. Cilantro is good for your health. Traces of the plant have even been found in the tombs of ancient Egyptians like King Tutankhamen. Fast forward to the 21st century to find out four ways cilantro can benefit you.
Settle your stomach. Cilantro oils help to produce special enzymes, acids and juices that stimulate the digestion process. So it's no surprise that Dr. James A. Duke, a former botanist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, believes that cilantro banishes bellyaches. Simply drink a cup of tea made by steeping a handful of cilantro in boiling water to find relief.
An abundance of antioxidants. According to the scientific journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, cilantro contains high levels of antioxidants called carotenoids. These naturally occurring pigments found in fruits and veggies protect the body against heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Strengthen liver function. Cilantro contains two important compounds known to promote healthy liver function: cineole and linoleic acid. The latter is an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid, which is a nutrient your body needs to function, but can't manufacture on its own.
Defend against diabetes. Coriander (the cilantro plant) is often referred to as an "anti-diabetic." That's because this powerful anti-inflammatory flora can stabilize insulin secretion and lower blood sugar. It has also been shown to lower levels of LDL-"bad"-cholesterol while raising HDL-"good"-cholesterol levels in the body.
I'm still not sold, but am eager to hear your take on cilantro. Do you crave it? Do you detest it? Have you ever boiled a pot of cilantro tea?