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Cilantro Kills

So, cilantro kills bacteria. That’s according to scientists at the University of California Berkeley and the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, if you want to trust Cal-Mex science, which has always been my favorite flavor. More specifically, 11 of 13 isolated cilantro compounds that were studied were demonstrated to have some effectiveness against pathogenic bacteria, especially Salmonella choleraesuis (the thing that causes the thing you get when you have unprotected sex with raw poultry) and, more specifically, one of those compounds, dodecenal, was “particularly effective.” This is all according to the New York Times, but I’m sure anyone really interested could find the original journals, if one were into that sort of thing; I’m not into that sort of thing.

Interesting news? Sure. I was even on board with the Times’ seemingly objective reporting up until the point it declared “Eat Cilantro,” which was actually the title of the snippet, so I guess I really wasn’t ever really on board. I know what some of you cilantro lover, bacteria hater-types (poor fools) are thinking: I can eat something I love and kill something I hate? Win-win! Easy Killer. Let’s backup for a moment.

First, each year only 40,000 cases of Salmonella are reported and only 600 people die from it*. OK. So, that’s kind of a lot, as compared to, you know, rabies’ 6 annual deaths, which The Office handled with its usual sensitivity and grace. But, let’s not go turning into Salmonella alarmists here; if you really want to avoid the disease, you’ll do as the CDC recommends and avoid the following: raw meat, at-all pink meat, hollandaise, tiramisu, cookie dough, cross contamination and pet turtles. If you can find a reason to keep living without these things, I suppose cilantro might as well be a part of the miserable life you’ll be left with.

Second, as my cousin the doctor, whom I always refer to as my cousin, the doctor, frequently suggests, we’ve become positively scared shitless of bacteria, and that, perhaps more than anything, is why we’re always so sick. I like the idea that she’s right — because who wants to worry about everything all the time? — but since she has an MD next to her name, she must be. So, you know, the way I see it, cilantro with its whopping 11 compounds of bacteria fighting, is actually slowly killing not only the bacteria you hate, but also the person you try not to — you.

Third, many studies have basically shown in countless ways that fruits and vegetables tend to be really good for you. The nuances of these studies I tend to find, well, sort of irrelevant. We should do as Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) suggests, which is to eat food (ie carrots and mushrooms as opposed to vitamins that would seem to carry the “compounds” their originals definitely have in combinations that work and our bodies can accept) and as I would add, we should eat what we like and not what we don’t. We should also cultivate palates that enjoy broccoli (which scientists in Estonia have proved kills cancer every time it’s consumed) at least as much as, say, creme brulee, or our health will be pretty screwed. We should also probably quit telling each other what to do.

So, you know what? Eat Cilantro or Don’t eat cilantro, but just remember every time you take a bite, you might be killing someone.

*The CDC suggests that the estimate might be “thity” or more times greater, whatever that means.

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