Fresh herbs have a place in any health-conscious kitchen because they add bright, fresh flavor to your meals while being low in calories, fat and sodium. Cilantro and parsley are no exceptions -- a cup of either herb contains fewer than 25 calories and boasts less than half a gram of fat and fewer than 35 milligrams of sodium. Parsley and cilantro also share similar nutritional profiles, and adding either herb to your cooking boosts your vitamin and mineral intake.
Vitamin A Powerhouse
Both parsley and cilantro serve as excellent sources of vitamin A, a nutrient essential to healthy cell growth. Vitamin A interacts with your DNA, activating genes your cells need to develop from immature newborn cells into mature tissue. It also boosts your immune system by guiding the development of white blood cells and promotes healthy skin by supporting skin cell growth. A 1-cup serving of fresh parsley -- approximately 2 ounces -- provides 5,054 international units (IU) of vitamin A, while an equivalent serving of fresh cilantro contains 4,049 IU. A serving of either provides your entire recommended daily intake, which is 3,000 IU for men and 2,333 IU for women.
Folate and Vitamin K
Add parsley or cilantro to your diet as a source of folate (vitamin B-9) and vitamin K. Your body relies on folate to promote healthy cell growth by helping make DNA, as well as to maintain brain function. Vitamin K activates proteins essential for blood clot formation. Adults need 90 to 125 micrograms of vitamin K daily. A serving of fresh parsley contains 984 micrograms, while a serving of cilantro has 186 micrograms, both providing more than a day's supply of vitamin K. Both women and men need 400 micrograms of folate daily. A serving of fresh parsley contains 91 micrograms of folate, about 23 percent of the daily requirement, while a serving of fresh cilantro provides 37 micrograms of folate, which is about 9 percent.
Iron and Vitamin C
Parsley and cilantro provide iron and vitamin C. Your body uses iron to produce hemoglobin -- the protein that helps red blood cells transport oxygen. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron and strengthens connective tissues. One cup of fresh parsley provides 90 percent to 100 percent of an adult's daily vitamin C requirement. Cilantro has 16 milligrams of vitamin C per cup, which is 18 percent to 21 percent of daily requirement for adults. Each cup of fresh parsley contains 3.7 milligrams of iron, which is about 20 percent of daily needs for women and 46 percent for men. A cup of cilantro offers 1 milligram of iron -- 6 percent of a woman's daily needs and 13 percent of a man's needs.
Cooking with Parsley and Cilantro
Parsley and cilantro share similar uses in the kitchen, though they complement different flavors. Try adding roughly chopped parsley to a mixture of quinoa, chopped veggies and a lemon balsamic vinaigrette, or use fresh chopped cilantro in a black bean and toasted corn salad. Blend parsley with olive oil, parmesan and hazelnuts for a homemade parsley pesto, or go for cilantro pesto by combining fresh cilantro with red chilli pepper flakes, chopped almonds and olive oil. Alternatively, wilt parsley by stirring it into hot, steamed veggies -- such as peas or sliced carrots -- or add a handful of cilantro to turkey chilli to add flavor.