Cilantro and its seed, coriander, are essential ingredients in a variety of cuisines. This leafy green herb looks similar to parsley, with a distinctive, potent aroma, thin stalks, and feathered green leaves. It's a common ingredient in salsas, chutneys, and other diced compound salads, as well as a flavoring agent, or "aromatic" in soups, stews, and sauces. Coriander seeds have a warm, almost nutty aroma, with a hint of citrus. Many Mediterranean and Indian recipes, such as curries, call for coriander. This common spice has a distinctive aroma, and also provides many of the same health benefits as cilantro leaves, in reduced amounts.
Certain conditions such as rheumatism and arthritis may benefit from two compounds in cilantro. Coriander contains both cineole, a terpene, and linoleic acid, a carboxylic acid. These compounds possess antirheumatic and antiarthritic properties that reduce swelling in the joints and surrounding tissues. Cilantro can reduce the severity of these conditions.
Coriander also acts as a mild diuretic, which may ease symptoms of kidney malfunction and anemia, as it helps remove excess water from the body. It can even ease cramps and bloating caused by pre-menstrual syndrome or PMS.
LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol, can build up in the walls of the arteries, leading to heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks. Several different chemical compounds in cilantro - linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) - prevent the buildup of LDL cholesterol. These chemicals interact with the cholesterol in the bloodstream, breaking it down and flushing it from the body as waste. Also, incorporating cilantro into your diet can raise levels of healthy HDL cholesterol, which works as a preventative line of defense against many different cardiovascular conditions.
Coriander and cilantro have properties that aid digestion, including maintaining proper functioning of the liver, bonding of bowels, and reducing diarrhea. Cilantro is especially helpful in curing diarrhea caused by microbial and fungal bacteria, due to the antibacterial compounds it contains. Add cilantro to spicy foods to take advantage of its cooling and soothing effect on the digestive system. The herb can settle nausea, prevent gas and bloating, relieve indigestion and heartburn, and ease stomach cramps. Cilantro leaves may also stop or reduce heartburn after eating spicy dishes.
Enjoying a diet rich in potassium helps control high blood pressure because potassium reduces the adverse effects of sodium in the body. High blood pressure can be dangerous and lead to heart failure, ischemic heart disease, and premature thickening of the heart muscle. Cilantro also relaxes blood vessel tissue, keeping your arteries supple and easing the flow of blood through your body. This effect can be especially beneficial during exercise. It even helps facilitate neural transmissions between the brain and the cardiovascular system.
Anemia is a condition caused by low levels of iron in the blood. This is common in women, especially younger, active women and those with a heavy menstrual flow. Cilantro has high iron content, which directly helps people who suffer from anemia. Low iron content in the blood can result in shortness of breath, heart palpitations, extreme fatigue, and a decrease in cognitive functions. Iron also benefits proper functioning of other organ systems, increases vitality and strength, and promotes bone health.
Cilantro is a surprisingly good source of calcium, a compound necessary to strengthen and rebuild bones and teeth. Maintaining the proper amount of calcium in your body can help prevent osteoporosis, also known as "brittle bones." This is important for postmenopausal women, especially. The central leaves of the bunch are the ones that contain calcium, so be sure to include those in your recipes to realize this particular health benefit.
Cilantro is a good source of iron, but it has a larger role to play in the "heavy metals" game. Other metals you pick up simply by eating, drinking, and breathing can have a degenerative effect on many different systems. Arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, lead, and mercury can reside in our tissues, leading to heart disease, hormonal imbalances, neurological conditions, and infertility. It contains a chemical that binds these heavy metals together, removing them from the tissues in your body and eliminating them as waste. In fact, those who have certain infections resulting from heavy metals can avoid relapse by using cilantro to eliminate the offending metals.
The natural sedative effect of cilantro can quell anxiety and enhance your ability to achieve restful sleep. In fact, high levels of cilantro extract have been demonstrated to produce the same anti-anxiety effects as prescription anti-anxiety medications. The extract made from cilantro leaves is the best form by which to experience these relaxing properties. Eating the leaves in a salad may not produce enough of the chemical compounds to have the desired result.
Although cilantro can be used to treat the effects of food poisoning, such as diarrhea and nausea, it also can prevent certain microbial diseases from establishing a presence in the gut. Cilantro can be incorporated into your diet to ward off certain foodborne illnesses, especially if you're traveling. The herb's natural antibacterial properties help to protect against both food- and water-borne diseases including food poisoning, dysentery, salmonella, cholera, and listeria.
Cilantro is a popular ingredient in salsa and vegetable garnishes for different ethnic cuisines, including legume and bean dishes. You can use it instead of or in addition to lettuce in salads, to top tacos, or in guacamole. Include cilantro in green smoothies, soups, and stews. You can even include chopped cilantro leaves into ground meat dishes, such as meatballs or salmon burgers.
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