How Cilantro Can Help You Detox
Cilantro has a reputation as one of the world’s most polarizing herbs. Some of us love its pungent and citrusy leaves. Some of us equate it with eating hand sanitizer. For those of you who think cilantro tastes like soap, apologies, and have a nice day. For the rest of you, I think you’d better read this.
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Cilantro and Your Thyroid
Did you know that cilantro is a powerful detoxifying herb? Or that it can help stabilize blood sugar, fight infection, protect the heart, reduce anxiety and help you sleep? These are just a few of the benefits which abound in both Cilantro (aka Chinese Parsley) and the seed form of cilantro, commonly referred to as coriander.
In this article, we’re going to focus on the natural chelating abilities of cilantro, or in other words, its ability to help remove heavy metals from our tissues. This is especially important for thyroid patients because heavy metal toxicity in the body (from substances like lead, mercury, aluminum, cadmium, and arsenic) is closely intertwined with our thyroid health.
How Heavy Metals Accumulate in the Body
Heavy metals set up camp in our tissues, where they get stored along with other toxins. This is especially true for our thyroid because the thyroid metabolizes things quickly; therefore, more toxins pass through it. Sometimes those toxins are so chemically similar to iodine, which is utilized by the thyroid to make thyroid hormone, that the thyroid absorbs them.
Heavy metals are everywhere—the air, the water, the soil. It’s impossible to avoid them completely. They are a part of life on Earth and have been a detrimental byproduct of modern life and the industrial age.
One major source of heavy metal pollution is the burning of coal and fossil fuels, which puts stuff like mercury into our environment. Yep, driving your car creates heavy metal pollution. Those toxic metals make their way into our bodies through the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. As the world becomes exponentially more populated and polluted, heavy metals increase in our environment, and therefore our bodies. Health issues like autoimmune-related thyroid disorders are part of that great web. It’s all inter-connected: our planet, diet, and well-being.
The Link Between Mercury and Thyroid Antibodies
The presence of thyroid antibodies can be an indicator of Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism) or Graves’ Disease (autoimmune hyperthyroidism). Doctors don’t know what causes the immune system to attack the thyroid; therefore, effective treatment can vary greatly from patient to patient. Potential triggers include (but are not limited to) genetics, viruses, bacteria, and estrogen fluctuations. There are also environmental triggers, like mercury exposure. Studies have shown a direct link between mercury exposure and an increase in thyroid antibodies.
What Can We Do To Minimize Our Mercury Levels?
For starters, we can minimize our exposure to heavy metals by filtering our drinking water, avoiding mercury amalgam fillings, avoiding smoking, and carefully selecting which types of fish to consume. This is good practice for anyone and especially important for children.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch is an amazing resource for consumers. Their handy wallet cards can help us make seafood choices that are healthy for both our bodies and our oceans. Click here to find a printable consumer guide for your state, outlining which seafood choices are lower in mercury. They offer specific recommendations for sushi if you’re into that, and they also have an app.
In addition to avoiding mercury, we can add things to our diet that help remove toxic metals from the body like turmeric and—you guessed it—cilantro!
Further Reading: Is Turmeric Good for Thyroid Thrivers?
This medical study provides evidence that cilantro can accelerate the body’s urinary excretion of mercury and lead from the body. Another study showed that lead levels in tissues were significantly decreased in laboratory mice by administering coriander (the seed form of cilantro, and the name for leafy cilantro in some cultures).
The takeaway: Incorporating more cilantro into our diets can help support the body’s natural detox pathways, especially when it comes to heavy metals like mercury and lead.
How Can I Incorporate More Cilantro Into My Diet?
Cilantro can be so much more than just a garnish. These mouth-watering recipes make it easy to add more cilantro to your thyroid-friendly diet.
- Chicken Cilantro: This recipe takes the cake as far as cilantro-centric cooking goes.
- Thai Chicken Soup with Coconut Milk: This delicious soup is quick, easy, and full of bright flavors.
- Hearty AIP Breakfast Bowl: Packed with anti-inflammatory goodness, this breakfast bowl will get you ready to take on the day.
- Thai Beef Salad: This entree salad is salty, sour, spicy, sweet, colorful, crunchy, and just plain good.
- Tri-tip Street Tacos with Grilled Pineapple & Onion: Smoky beef, sweet juicy pineapple, lightly grilled onion, creamy avocado, and lots of fresh cilantro.
- Mango Salsa: This colorful salsa is a sweet, salty, spicy, and sour fiesta in your mouth.
- Sticky Garlic & Lime Salmon with Coconut Chutney: This sweet and sour salmon is complemented by an irresistible coconut, mint, and cilantro chutney.
- Vietnamese Chicken Salad: Crisp greens, aromatic herbs, shredded chicken, colorful carrots, crunchy macadamias, and a zippy lime dressing.
- Turkey Albondigas Soup: This comforting soup features tender turkey meatballs flecked with fresh cilantro and mint.
I hope you’ve found some food for thought here, and a little added inspiration to load up on that garnish.
If you're anything like me, when I started down the path of thyroid-healthy eating I had questions-- lots of them. What to eat? What to avoid? And HOW do I do this? I wasted a lot of time trying to piece together bits and pieces of information from blog posts, infographics, books, and podcasts. What I didn't have was a step-by-step system. A roadmap, if you will, for how to put those bits and pieces together, in a way that got me where I wanted to go. That's why I created the Thyroid-healthy Meal Plan Kickstart. It includes recipes, meal plans, instruction, and a 4-week roadmap to get you started and on your way with thyroid-healthy eating! Learn more HERE.