Cilantro? Why it's good for you and why some people absolutely (REALLY) hate it

June 1, 2018 Providence Health Team




Cilantro has a high concentration of antioxidants, which offer protection against many degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Cilantro tastes like soap to some people, and scientists at 23andMe have found the reason why.

Do not substitute the seed for the leaf in recipes: the two are not interchangeable.

Why are we talking about cilantro?

The word ‘cilantro’ is often used in reference to the leafy green part of the coriander plant. Cilantro (Spanish for coriander) has a surprisingly high food value containing a number of critical nutrients.

In addition to being versatile, this controversial plant packs an excellent source of antioxidants that can be helpful in protecting against many degenerative disorders including diabetes, heart disease and more.

Why do some people hate cilantro?

While cilantro is as versatile as it is ‘tasty’ in many cuisines worldwide, some people would not call it ‘tasty’ at all. In fact, they hate the flavor and smell of cilantro to the extent that the New York Times advises “Cilantro Haters, It’s Not Your Fault,” and publishes an I Hate Cilantro blog has accumulated over 5,000 members.

The aversion is shared by some impressive palates: In a 2002 television interview with Larry King, Julia Child, famous gourmet chef, author, and TV personality stated, “I would pick it [cilantro] out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.”

How can it be so objectionable? It’s just a plant! However, for some 4 to 14% of people (and it depends on one’s ancestry), they hated cilantro so much, and stated it so vehemently, that scientists at the personal genomics and biotechnology company 23andMe did research (watch this three-minute YouTube Video) to determine why. After asking some 30,000 people whether they liked cilantro or not, and what they thought it tasted like, the scientists determined there’s a gene some people have so they perceive a ‘soap’ smell and taste in cilantro dishes.

It turns out the people with that gene, OR6A2, have correctly detected by-products of soap making in the aroma they get from cilantro, and they cannot stand it. Julia Child must have had that gene!

Rachel Ray explains the difference between cilantro and coriander seeds

If you are one of the 4 to 14% of the people who cannot stand the smell or taste of a fresh cilantro leaf, you can still gain its positive effects by using the seed. The entire plant offers health benefits such as vitamins K, and C and minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium and more. Here’s the good news: the leaf and seed forms do not taste the same. Well-known TV personality Rachael Ray says, “Although they come from the same plant, they [fresh cilantro and coriander seeds] have totally different flavors. Cilantro and coriander seeds are not interchangeable, so we don’t recommend using one in place of the other.” The dried seed is sold whole and ground. Dried cilantro leaves can be found in the spices section of a store, and are not as flavorful as the fresh herb.

Many health benefits come can be found in all parts of the coriander plant—from the leafy fresh cilantro leaves all the way down to the whole seeds. Try these recipes, and if you are one of the 14% or so that cannot tolerate the taste and smell, try substituting dried for fresh cilantro to see if that makes a difference.

We’ve got no fewer than 19 recipes calling for cilantro (mostly fresh, but some dried, too) because of its health value. In this form, it is included in our healthy recipe catalog for all-around healthy eating and for diabetic patients as well. The dishes range from Vegetable Curry to Bean Dip to Fiesta Shrimp, Vegetarian Chili, and more.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.


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