Cilantro ranks as one of the most controversial herbs out there — either you love it or you hate it. Often used in Latin American and Middle Eastern cooking, this leafy green herb is quite healthy — it helps regulate blood sugar and increases levels of good cholesterol, while simultaneously decreasing bad cholesterol. A novice could easily mistake it for parsley in a grocery store, and unknown to many, the plant also produces seeds that you can buy in the spice section — more commonly known as coriander.
Although many people pile cilantro on everything from guacamole to banh mi, others keep a healthy distance. A common claim among naysayers is that cilantro smells and tastes “soapy” or “dirty,” and groups of cilantro-haters have come together online to share their displeasure for this leafy herb.
So why do some people hate this herb and others love it? Studies have identified at least one gene that specifically influences whether we perceive cilantro as soapy-smelling. People with these genes are more likely to dislike both the smell and taste of cilantro — among others, Julia Child was an avowed cilantro hater.
Researchers are finding that cilantro isn’t the only food linked to genetics, although DNA studies in this area are still few and far between. And while your genes may dictate whether you have a predisposed dislike for cilantro, it’s not impossible to overcome. If you don’t like cilantro, scientists recommend grinding its leaves into a subtle pesto and tossing it with pasta, which just might change the way you think about this herb.