Q: Why do some of us hate cilantro, while others love it? Am I missing out on nutrients if I avoid it?
A:You’re not alone in your distaste for cilantro, also called Chinese parsley, from the Coriandrum sativum plant.
IHateCilantro.comhas several thousand members. Even Julia Child was not a fan. (Interestingly, the plant’s seeds, called coriander, doesn’t provoke the same love/hate divide.)
Various compounds in cilantro give it its distinct scent, which plays a large role in how foods taste. In addition to pleasant aromatic factors, described by some as fresh, grassy, and citrusy, there are aldehyde chemicals, the same as found in soap. People who hate cilantro may detect the unpleasant soapy compounds more than the pleasant ones, or perhaps only the soapy ones. Research in identical twins suggests there may be a genetic basis for this.
Are you missing out nutritionally by avoiding cilantro? It does contain vitamin C, potassium, fiber, calcium, folate, and other nutrients—though you don’t get much in the relatively small amounts typically consumed. Lab research shows it has antioxidant and antibacterial properties—but so do plenty of other plant foods. There’s no compelling nutritional reason to eat cilantro if you don’t like it.
Still, if you want to give cilantro another try, crushing the leaves and letting them stand for a while may help. This allows enzymes to break down the offensive aldehydes.