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Parsley vs. Cilantro: Is One Herb Better Than The Other?

Without labeling parsley and cilantro in the refrigerator, they could be easy to mix up. But despite the herbs' similar appearances, do they have anything in common?

Registered dietitians weigh in about the similarities and differences between parsley and cilantro and whether or not one is better than the other. 

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Parsley and cilantro benefits.

Cilantro (or coriander) and parsley both contain antioxidants, like vitamins C, A, and K.

"Vitamin A supports the eyes and bones while vitamin C aids in wound healing and supports immunity," women's health dietitian Valerie Agyeman, R.D., tells mbg. Since each of those vitamins has antioxidant properties, they also help prevent cellular damage in the body caused by free radicals. 

Both herbs also contain anti-inflammatory and immune-supporting antioxidants, called flavonoids. Cilantro contains the flavonoid quercetin1, and parsley contains myricetin.

According to Agyeman, the flavonoid (myricetin) in parsley has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and decrease insulin resistance2. It has also been shown to lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Cilantro may also lower blood sugar, and it does so by activating enzymes that remove sugar from the blood3, she explains. 

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What is the difference between parsley and cilantro?

Parsley and cilantro may look the same and even share similar nutrients and health benefits, but they are definitely distinct when it comes to taste. 

"Parsley is known for its mild, peppery, and bitter flavor. It can help to even out the taste of any savory dish with its earthy-yet-clean aroma," registered dietitian Brenna Wallace, M.S., RDN, LDN, says. "Cilantro has a much more pungent taste—you either love it or hate it," she says.

Unlike grapefruit or coffee, cilantro is not an acquired taste. In fact, many of those who dislike it are genetically wired that way. "This is because of a genetic variation that causes their olfactory genes to sense the 'soapy-smelling' aldehydes in cilantro," Wallace explains.

How to use parsley and cilantro. 

Cilantro and parsley can both be cooked into a dish or used as a garnish, but they're generally found in different cuisines. 

Parsley is commonly used in Italian, Mediterranean, and South American cuisines. Along with pastas and soups, Wallace says, it can be found in tabbouleh, fattoush, pesto, and chimichurri.

Cilantro, meanwhile, is typically used in Mexican and Asian dishes, like salsa, fajitas, curry, or Pho, Agyeman says. 

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So, is parsley or cilantro better?

Well, for someone who's genetically predisposed to think cilantro tastes like soap, parsley is probably the better option. In terms of nutrition, though, both offer similar benefits, and there's no right or wrong choice. 

"Herbs are a wonderful, fun, and natural way to add flavor to meals, and the great thing is that it gives the dish more nutrients too," Agyeman says. "More flavor and nutrition? Now that's a win-win." 

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