When it comes to the best foods for gut health, perhaps you fixate on some of the more famous probiotic-rich players, like sauerkraut or kimchi. We absolutely love those choices (they’re superstars for a reason!), but according to integrative gastroenterologist Marvin Singh, M.D., we also shouldn’t ignore the underdogs. Namely: the herbs and spices.
See, herbs and spices are so versatile—you can sprinkle them onto any dish and instantly upgrade it to a gut-nourishing meal. Now that’s something worth celebrating. And if Singh had to pick a favorite herb? He would select cilantro: “I consider cilantro a super-herb,” he says on the mindbodygreen podcast. Here’s what makes the underrated (and flavorful) herb so powerful.
What makes cilantro a “super-herb.”
First, cilantro is chock-full of antioxidants, like vitamin C and vitamin A. “Vitamin A supports the eyes and bones, while vitamin C supports immunity,”* women’s health dietitian Valerie Agyeman, R.D., once told mbg about the herb. But cilantro is also rich in quercetin—you know, that potent flavonoid with antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties to support the natural immune response and provide respiratory and sinus health support.* Talk about an impressive plant bioactive.
But Singh, of course, is a gut doctor, so we can’t ignore cilantro’s ability to nurture your tummy. “We use cilantro in detoxification as well,” he says. (It contains linalool, which helps support the liver.) “And it has an impact on blood sugar.” (Specifically, the herb activates enzymes that remove sugar from the blood.)
As for the taste? Well, it’s a bit polarizing. People either love or hate the pungent flavor—some even have a genetic variation that makes cilantro taste and smell like soap. But Singh certainly falls into the pro-cilantro camp: “I love this as a garnish to salad or any kind of dish,” he says. “Throw some cilantro on there, and it’s very flavorful.”
If you’re new to the herby salad game, a few cilantro leaves will, no lie, transform your meals. “People say, ‘Oh, my salad is monotonous. What’s so fun about a salad?'” Singh continues. “Well, put some cilantro in there, put some arugula in there, and see how it changes the taste.” (Arugula actually earns the No. 1 spot on his “best foods for gut health” list; find it here, if you’re curious.)
According to Singh, cilantro has some super benefits for overall health. Not only is it rich in antioxidants, but the herb can also aid immune support, detoxification, and blood sugar balance. If you’re a fan of cilantro’s spicy flavor, Singh suggests taking full advantage of the herb’s power.