Can Pregnant Women Eat Cilantro (Coriander)? Is It Safe?

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Cilantro is a popular herb with a fresh and citrusy taste often enjoyed in soups, salads, and much more! However, is cilantro safe for pregnant women?

Cilantro leaves and seeds (coriander) are full of nutrition, flavor, and health benefits. When consumed in food amounts and prepared correctly, cilantro leaves and seeds are safe for pregnant women.

Let’s discuss the intricacies of eating cilantro during pregnancy, from the leaves to the seeds. 

Can You Eat Cilantro Leaves During Pregnancy?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes cilantro as a “Generally Recognized As Safe” flavoring agent or adjuvant. In this case, the FDA refers to cilantro and coriander as interchangeable.

Additionally, the Natural Medicines Database categorizes cilantro as “Likely Safe” in food amounts (source: Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics: Food & Nutrition).

Therefore, it is safe for pregnant women to consume cilantro in food amounts. However, avoid consuming large amounts of cilantro or consuming medicinal amounts of cilantro during pregnancy.

cilantro (coriander) plant in a vegetable garden

Since cilantro leaves are often consumed uncooked, such as in a fresh salad, it is essential to make certain food safety precautions. The first step is to wash your fresh cilantro!

Unwashed produce has an increased risk of containing harmful bacteria and viruses, though improbable (source: FDA). Rinse the fresh cilantro under running tap water before consuming it to lower the risk. Additionally, consider using cilantro in cooked dishes instead of raw to decrease the risk even more.

Furthermore, ensure that cilantro eaten raw is kept away from raw meat, eggs, poultry, or fish to prevent cross-contamination. For example, use separate cutting boards and knives for chopping your cilantro and meats. Wash your hands after handling raw or undercooked meats.

We have a dedicated article on prepping produce in pregnancy that you might also be interested in.

Are Cilantro (Coriander) Seeds Safe When Pregnant?

While often used interchangeably around the world, the seeds of the cilantro plant are referred to as coriander in the United States. Unfortunately, there is limited research available on coriander seeds or ground coriander consumed during pregnancy. 

The FDA’s food database recognizes cilantro leaves and coriander synonymously and as “Generally Recognized As Safe” for consumption (source: FDA). Therefore, as long as coriander seeds are used in food amounts, they are likely safe to consume during pregnancy.

Coriander seeds are often used in herbal tea blends or soaked in water to make “coriander water”. However, since the coriander is more concentrated in these products, it is best to avoid herbal teas with coriander and coriander water during your pregnancy. 

What are The Benefits of Cilantro for Pregnant Women?

Similar to many herbs and spices, both the leaves and seeds of the cilantro plant have many potential health benefits for pregnant women.

Primarily, cilantro is rich in antioxidants micronutrients, and compounds, including quercetin, terpinene, and tocopherols (source: Clinical Phytotherapy).

Antioxidants are beneficial compounds that prevent cellular oxidation in the body that can create harmful free radicals. In addition, research shows consuming a diet rich in antioxidants helps boost the immune system and reduces inflammation in the body.

During pregnancy, the body ensures additional oxidative stress, producing even more free radicals. While this is very normal, antioxidants in the diet can help reduce and balance this stress (source: Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity).

cilantro (coriander) seeds in a white bowl

Cilantro leaves and seeds are rich in essential vitamins and minerals that help the body function properly, especially during pregnancy. Let’s discuss some of the key players.

According to the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) food database, 20 grams (or approximately nine sprigs) of cilantro contains 104 milligrams of potassium.

Also found in bananas, tomatoes, and potatoes, potassium is an electrolyte that helps balance fluids in the body and supports nerve and muscle impulses (source: American Pregnancy Association). 

Cilantro is also rich in vitamin K with 62 micrograms in a serving size of nine sprigs of green leaves (source: USDA).

Per the National Institutes of Health Consumer Fact Sheet, vitamin K functions mainly in blood clotting and healthy bones. Pregnant women need 90 micrograms of vitamin K daily. Consuming adequate amounts of vitamin K can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and coronary artery disease.

Additionally, cilantro is rich in vitamin A, an essential fat-soluble vitamin. Also found in foods such as carrots, broccoli, and sweet potato, vitamin A functions to support eye health.

Specifically, vitamin A becomes even more important during a women’s pregnancy as it is integral to the baby’s organ and skeletal development (source: Nutrients). Vitamin A requirements increase during pregnancy for this reason.

Additionally, coriander seeds have been studied for their potential anticancer, anticonvulsant, and antimicrobial effects (source: Fitoterapia). They have a potential hypoglycemic effect, meaning they can lower blood sugar levels. Therefore, speak with your physician before consuming coriander seeds if you have diabetes.

I hope you found this article helpful in learning about cilantro, its many health benefits, and how to consume it safely during your pregnancy.