Cilantro and Coriander
Cilantro looks like the “other parsley”.
Cilantro and coriander are the names used in the United States to describe two different parts of the same plant, Coriandrum sativum. It’s an annual herb, which means it blooms and must be replanted yearly. Cilantro is used to describe the green, citrus-flavored leaves. Coriander is the common name for the plant’s light brown seeds, which are dried and used as a cooking spice.
Although they come from the same plant, cilantro and coriander have different nutrient profiles. Cilantro has higher levels of vitamins, such as vitamins A, K and E, while coriander is more abundant in minerals like manganese, iron, magnesium and calcium.
Cilantro has a fragrant, refreshing and citrusy taste and aroma, while coriander has a warmer, spicy and nutty taste and aroma. Interestingly, some people may have a specific genetic trait that makes them perceive cilantro differently. Its pungent flavor is off-putting and people who react describe it as tasting “soapy.” If you think cilantro has a soapy taste, your genetics may be to blame. Research has shown that variations in specific genes may be responsible for your dislike of this herb.
For those who don’t like cilantro, there is a variety of other herbs available to experiment with. For example, parsley, which belongs to the same plant family as cilantro, makes an excellent replacement. When using parsley to replace cilantro in a recipe, try adding a bit of lemon juice or other citrus juice to enhance its flavor. Basil is another great choice when looking for a cilantro alternative that also offers impressive health benefits.
If you need a substitute for coriander seeds, caraway, cumin, and curry powder are good options.
Coriander seeds, extract, and oils may all help lower blood sugar. In fact, people who have low blood sugar or take diabetes medication should practice caution with coriander because it’s so effective in lowering blood sugar.
Coriander offers several antioxidants, which prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. Its antioxidants have been shown to fight inflammation in your body. These compounds include terpinene, quercetin, and tocopherols, which may have anticancer, immune-boosting, and neuroprotective effects, according to test-tube and animal studies. One test-tube study found that the antioxidants in coriander seed extract lowered inflammation and slowed the growth of lung, prostate, breast, and colon cancer cells.
A study including 68 people that experienced frequent migraine headaches found coriander helped. The authors asked participants in one group to take 15 milliliters (ml) of coriander fruit syrup in combination with a traditional migraine medication three times a day for 1 month. A control group took conventional migraine medication only. The group taking the combination treatment experienced a reduced severity, duration, and frequency of migraines compared to the control group.
Cilantro is a powerful, cleansing agent that specifically targets toxic metals. We are constantly exposed to toxic metals like aluminum, arsenic, and cadmium. Toxic metals tend to accumulate in the endocrine system, muscle tissue, and even deep within the bones. Once these metals reach dangerous levels, many serious health concerns occur. Common side effects of toxic metal exposure include hormone imbalance, oxidative stress from free radicals, and, in extreme cases, impaired organ function.
Cilantro helps cleanse the body of toxic metals by supporting the body’s natural detoxification processes. Compounds in cilantro leaf bind to toxic metals and loosen them from affected tissue. This process allows metals to be released from the body naturally. You can access these benefits by consuming the raw leaves or ingesting concentrated extracts.
- Cilantro herb is very low in calories and contains no cholesterol. However, its deep-green leaves possess good amounts of antioxidants, essential oils, vitamins, and dietary fiber, which may help reduce LDL
- Its leaves and seeds contain many essential volatile oils such as borneol, linalool, cineole, cymene, terpineol, di-pentene, phellandrene, pinene, and terpinolene.
- The leaves and stem tips are also rich in numerous antioxidant polyphenolic flavonoids such as quercetin, kaempferol, rhamnetin, and apigenin.
- The herb is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Iron is essential for red blood cell production. The human body uses manganese as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
- It is also rich in many vital vitamins, including folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-A, beta carotene, vitamin-C, which are essential for optimum health. Vitamin C is a powerful natural antioxidant. 100 g of cilantro leaves provide 30% of daily recommended levels of vitamin-C.
- It provides 6,748 IU of vitamin A per 100 g, about 225% of recommended daily intake. Vitamin A, an important fat-soluble vitamin, and antioxidant, is also required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin and is also essential for vision. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin-A and flavonoids (carotenes) may help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- Cilantro is one of the richest herbal sources for vitamin K; provide about 258% of DRI. Vitamin-K has a potential role in bone mass building through the promotion of osteoblastic activity in the bones. It also has an established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.
How to Buy
Look for fresh cilantro sold by the bunch in the produce section of most markets, right next to the parsley. You can find dried cilantro in the spice section. Fresh cilantro should be bright green and the stems should stand up when you hold the bunch in your hand.
How to Store
Cilantro doesn’t keep fresh for long. Don’t wash it until you are ready to use it or it will degrade swiftly. To keep it fresh for up to a week, place the stems in a glass of water and cover the top loosely with a plastic bag. Keep the cilantro cool by storing it in the refrigerator. Then you can cut off the leaves as needed.
How to Cook
Immediately before using cilantro, wash it well to remove dirt and grit. Pick off the leaves and discard the stems. Chop or tear the leaves to the desired size. Add cilantro to the recipe at the end of cooking or as a top dressing. You don’t want to cook this herb as it will lose most of its flavor. If you are making pesto or sauce, you can grind the stems as well with a food processor. Cutting with a dull knife or over chopping them will bruise the herb, and much of the flavor will end up on the cutting board surface.
Cilantro pairs well with many dishes, especially Mexican or Thai meals. The herb is also great with creamy vegetable dips and as a topping or garnish for soups and salads.
Here are some dishes that contain cilantro:
- Salsa: A Mexican side dish
- Guacamole: An avocado-based dip
- Chutney: A sauce of Indian origin
- Soups: Some may call for cilantro as a garnish to enhance their flavor
Coriander seeds have a warmer and spicier taste and are commonly used in dishes that have a spicy kick.
Here are some dishes that contain coriander:
- Rice dishes
- Soups and stews
- Pickled vegetables
- Dhana dal: Roasted and crushed coriander seeds, a popular Indian snack
Dry roasting or heating coriander seeds can enhance their taste and aroma. However, ground or powdered seeds lose their flavor quickly, so they’re best enjoyed fresh.