Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spice Remedies Part II: Love Affair with Cilantro

Exploring the digestive benefits of spices is a journey I began years ago and still often turn to when preparing food.  From smoothies to soups, herbs and spices can be used to create much more than flavor. This series began months ago in Part 1: Cardamom Cures and to this day happens to be the most popular and viewed post!  So, this got me thinking, maybe its time to continue looking at ways to enhance flavor and digestion.  Continuing with C's, next on the list is my love for coriander/cilantro.

Cilantro, generally known as the leaf portion, and coriander the seed, dates back to around 5,000 BC.  It is thought to be native to the Mediterranean as well as other parts of Europe and Asian countries.  While the leaf has a slightly earthy, pungent flavor the ground up spice of coriander takes on many personalities depending on what it is prepared with.  It can jump around from earthy and mild to sweet and nutty, even carry with it a slight twist of lemon.

A few years back, when I was first diagnosed, I remember reading about the benefits of cilantro and adding it to every dish I made, whether it be a single scrambled egg or small bowl of bright orange carrot-ginger soup.  Maybe I went a little overboard at the time but leaving behind a love affair with salads, kale and little broccoli trees took with it my favorite food color, green!  I found joy in the fine chopping of the fresh green leaves, taking in the aroma and slowly sprinkling a good pinch over my dish.  Suddenly, this small mini-meal looked alive and enticing, forcing me to eat slowly and enjoy each bite, not wanting to destroy it the fanciness too quickly.

So, months later, as I continue exploring GP-friendly foods and new things to fall in love with, I realized cilantro had taken a backseat.  This week it found its way back into my kitchen and in many dishes.  Now, for the many benefits this great plant has.

#1 - Digestive Aid - Produces digestive enzymes, acids and juices, helping to stimulate digestion through peristaltic motion.  This is HUGE for gastroparesis in so many ways but particularly peristalsis, which can be slow or even non-existent in both the stomach and the intestines.  By helping to regulate contractions it can reduce abdominal pains and promote waste removal.  Additionally this may help with the relief of gas, prevention of bloating and reducing the feeling of nausea.  Now, I'm not saying a sprinkle of cilantro will take away all of these symptoms, but it can possibly help to reduce and even prevent them occasionally.

Other beneficial properties include...
Nutrients such as iron and magnesium, promotes liver function, helps insulin secretion regulating blood sugar, anti- rheumatic, anti-arthritic, anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, and used to detox from heavy metal toxins assisting in the removal of mercury, aluminum and lead.

How can I find ways to add this to my cooking?

Photo credit to www.elanaspantry.com
Smoothie/Juicing - If you can tolerate green smoothies I encourage you to try this as the green, adding in whatever other ingredients (fruits, vegetables liquids, protein powder) work for you.  Try this smoothie with strawberry instead of pineapple if you have a Vitamix or similar blender, or make through a juicer.

Eggs - Add a pinch in to your scramble with a small amount of diced steamed potato, yam or lightly oiled hashbrowns.

Soups - Especially enticing with a squash or carrot soup, think orange and green.  Also good with a broth soup such as chicken noodle or congee.

Avocado - For those who can take in small amounts of this, try a slice or two with a squeeze of lemon or lime and sprinkle on cilantro.  Great on a light, crisp cracker such as Natural Nectar Gluten Free Cracklebred.

"C" Blend - I mentioned this in the Cardamom Spice post.  Combine coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and cumin.  Add as a rub to chicken, fish or use when making rice or other tolerable grains.

Tips: To prevent having to pull out the cutting board everyday, finely chop up a portion to keep refrigerated in tupperware then place the remaining leaves in a freezer bag.  Also you can mix with broth and freeze in an ice cube tray for a quick flavor add-in to soups.

Photo credit to Gina's Recipes at www.skinnytaste.com
Recipe for Coconut Ginger Sauce with Cilantro
4 servings

1 can lite coconut milk
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
1/2 tbsp of sugar or sucanat
2-3 tsp of finely chopped ginger root
1 cup diced sweet potato or carrot
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
Cooked chicken or shrimp*

In a deep saucepan bring the first 5 ingredients to a simmer over medium heat.  Add in diced vegetable and cook until fork soft.  Place the chicken/shrimp into sauce, heat through and serve by itself or over a small bowl of white rice, quinoa or noodles.**  Top with chopped cilantro and enjoy!

*This is for convenience but can also be cooked through while simmering sauce for more flavor!
**If on a soft foods diet, try pureeing and sipping slowly over an hour.  If mixing soft and solids, puree finished recipe and then serve over soft rice.

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