Cilantro & Digestion

Cilantro, also called coriander, is an especially flavorful herb commonly added to Mexican, Chinese and Thai dishes. Its leaves are usually eaten raw as part of salads, salsas, stir-fries, and soups, while its seeds are typically dried and ground into a pungent spice. Like all plant foods, cilantro contains fiber, which promotes healthy digestion. Cilantro also displays a variety of properties that may help prevent gastrointestinal infections, inflammation, bloating, and heartburn.

Source of Fiber

Cilantro leaves are a fair source of fiber, similar to other herbs, but not as good as more fibrous leafy greens such as spinach. More specifically, 100 grams of raw cilantro leaves — a little less than half a cup — contain approximately 3 grams of dietary fiber and 92 grams of water. That’s not a lot of fiber — daily recommendations are at least 25 grams for adults — but every little bit helps to promote digestion by stimulating intestinal contractions and regular bowel movements. The high water content of cilantro leaves also helps prevent the mucous membranes that line the intestines from getting too dry, which increases the risk of constipation.

Antioxidant Properties

The leaves and seeds from the cilantro plant contain compounds that act as antioxidants, according to a study published in a 2004 edition of the journal “Food Chemistry.” The researchers concluded that cilantro contains phenols — more so in the leaves than the seeds — that inhibit unwanted oxidation processes during digestion. Antioxidants destroy free radicals, which help prevent oxidation damage to tissues that line the stomach, intestinal tract, and blood vessels. Oxidation damage causes inflammation and premature aging, which can negatively impact digestion and is linked to a higher risk of cancer.

Antibacterial Properties

Cilantro leaves also contain compounds that deter the growth and proliferation of certain bacteria, according to a study published in a 2004 edition of the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.” The researchers discovered that cilantro leaves display antibacterial activity against Salmonella species, which commonly contaminate food and cause digestive problems and severe gastrointestinal symptoms. Abdominal cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea are common symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning, which may be deterred by the addition of cilantro leaves to dishes.

Other Potential Digestive Benefits

Cilantro is reputed to have other carminative properties that can benefit digestion, such as the ability to relieve gas, bloating, stomach cramps, nausea, indigestion and heartburn, However, there is currently no scientific research that definitively proves these claims. On the other hand, cilantro is safe to eat in moderate amounts, fairly nutritious — especially in terms of vitamins A, C and K — and worth a try if you have digestive problems, but do so under the supervision of your doctor.


Important Notice: This article was originally published at www.healthyeating.sfgate.com by Johnathon Andrew where all credits are due.

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