Spice Up Your Health: Coriander and Cilantro

by Sheetal Parikh, MS, RDN, LDN


Coriander is one of the oldest herbs and spices on record. Coriander was mentioned in the Bible, and the seeds have been found in ruins dating back to 5000 B.C. Its name comes from the Greek word koris, meaning a stink bug. Coriander, also called cilantro or Chinese parsley, is the feathery annual plant of the parsley family (Apiaceae), parts of which are used as both an herb and a spice. Coriander grows wild over a wide area of Western Asia and Southern Europe. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems. 

Native to the Mediterranean and Middle East regions, the plant is widely cultivated in many places worldwide for its culinary uses. Its dry fruits and seeds, which are also known as coriander, are used to flavor many foods, particularly sausages, curries, Scandinavian pastries, liqueurs, and confectioneries, such as English comfits. Its delicate young leaves, known as cilantro, are widely used in Latin American, Indian, and Chinese dishes. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. Coriander is used in cuisines throughout the world.

Nutritional Value

The word “coriander” in food preparation may refer solely to these seeds (as a spice), rather than to the plant. The seeds have a lemony citrus flavor when crushed. It is described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavored. Raw coriander leaves are 92% water, 4% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and less than 1% fat. The nutritional profile of coriander seeds is different from the fresh stems or leaves. In a 100 gram reference amount, leaves are particularly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, with moderate content of dietary minerals. Although seeds generally have lower content of vitamins, they do provide significant amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese.

Coriander is said to contain several properties that can heal the body and is used to treat the following symptoms:

  • Treats urinary tract infections.
  • Aids digestion.
  • Restores a loss of appetite.
  • Used for gastric disorders.
  • If prepared as a herbal tea, infused with hot water, coriander can help to relieve headaches, particularly those that are caused by a cold or flu.
  • Coriander is sometimes an ingredient of lotions and creams that can be applied to the skin in order to treat aching joints and rheumatism. This is because it is known to have anti-inflammatory qualities.
  • In research on rats, it was proven that coriander lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and raises HDL (good) cholesterol.
  • It can alleviate PMT and menstrual problems in women.
  • Coriander can promote sleep.

Tips for Cooking with Coriander / Cilantro

Gently heat seeds in a dry pan until fragrant before crushing or grinding to enhance the flavor. The seeds can be crushed using a mortar and pestle or ground in a spice mill or coffee grinder. Seeds are used whole in pickling recipes. Cilantro is best used fresh as it loses flavor when dried. Clean cilantro bunches by swishing the leaves in water and patting dry. For the best color, flavor and texture, add cilantro leaves at the end of the cooking time. The stems have flavor too, so tender stems may be chopped and added along with the leaves. Chutney can also be made out of it. Store cilantro stem in a glass of water in the refrigerator, with a loose plastic bag over the top.

Cilantro is paired best with avocado, bell pepper, coconut milk, corn, cucumber, rice, figs, yogurt, carrots, potatoes, soups, stews, root vegetables, basil, chives, dill, garlic, ginger, lemon grass, mint and parsley. This is one of the reason it is widely used with Mexican and Indian cooking. 

My favorite recipe for cilantro is Cilantro Chutney. This recipe takes 10 mins to make and it can be relishes with sandwiches, tofu, salads, pita bread, crackers, and dip for any kind of raw vegetables. 

  • Cilantro – 1 bunch
  • Ginger- 1 inch 
  • Grated coconut – 2 Tbsp
  • Mint leaves – 2 Tbsp
  • Green chillies – depending on how much hot you will prefer
  • Peanuts(can be substituted with any nuts) – 2 Tbsp
  • Lime juice – 1 Tbsp
  • Brown Sugar- 1 Tbsp
  • Salt to taste
  1. Wash and chop the cilantro.
  2. Add it to the mixer with all the ingredients mentioned and run the mixer for couple of minutes and its ready to enjoy!

Sheetal Parikh, MS, RDN, LDN is specialized in Plant-Based Nutrition and has been vegetarian all her life. She brings unique versatility in the nutrition world blending eastern and western cultures and traditions. She believes that “You are what you Eat”. Currently she is an Author for Vegan/Vegetarian diets in Nutrition Care Manual, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, Florida State Coordinator and Diversity Liaison for Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group, Advisory Board Member for Keiser University and she loves to create new recipes and cook healthy and yummy plant based meals for her colleagues, friends and family. 

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