Cilantro is a leafy green herb with a pungent flavor and distinct fragrance. It is a part of the coriander plant, and is frequently used in Mexican, Asian and Caribbean cooking. Cilantro is available year round in most grocery stores, and can be used to add fresh flavor to food. Like other fresh herbs, cilantro possesses several health benefits.
Cilantro is virtually calorie and fat free. Nine sprigs of the herb provides only five calories. However, that same serving size contains 1,350 IU of vitamin A -- mostly as beta-carotene -- and 62 mcg of vitamin K. That is 27 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, and 52 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K.
Vitamins A and K are fat soluble vitamins necessary in the diet. Vitamin A is essential for normal cell differentiation and healthy vision. Vitamin K plays a role in the production of prothrombin, a substance required for blood clotting. Vitamin K is also necessary for bone formation. Adding cilantro to a dish is an easy way to get a source of both of these important vitamins.
Herbs, including cilantro, also contain phytochemicals, known for their role in the prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases. The National Cancer Institute has determined that cilantro is among the group of herbs with anti-cancer properties. It has also been determined that cilantro possesses qualities that lower cholesterol levels. One additional benefit of herbs is that they provide fresh and full flavor to food, so can help you use less salt in cooking.
Receiving the health benefits of cilantro can be as simple as combining it with foods you already eat. Cilantro can be chopped and added to just about any Mexican dish to add a fresh and authentic flavor. It can also be used to make salsa or guacamole, or a homemade pesto or chutney. Also try including it in scrambled eggs, potato salad, a quesadilla, soup or a salad.