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Cilantro Pepita Pesto Recipe

October 12, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

I often discuss the concept of complementary medicine wherein one uses an alternative or holistic strategy to improve the efficacy and safety of a conventional treatment. Today’s recipe could be considered a “complementary recipe”. You can add it to a variety of main courses or side dishes to enhance flavor and catapult its health promoting potential. In fact, this an excellent approach to take whenever constructing meals. Start with a nutrient dense menu item, then think about how you can make it even more beneficial by selectively incorporating antioxidant rich dips, marinades and sauces.

Traditional Italian pesto is typically made with fresh basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. But there’s no hard and fast rule that makes a pesto the exclusive domain of Italian cuisine. The most direct way of switching up a conventional pesto recipe by replacing the green leafy herb you use as a primary ingredient.

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is frequently associated with Latin American cooking. The same is true of roasted pepitas or pumpkin seeds. These two ingredients not only redefine the taste profile of today’s pesto recipe, they also yield an entirely different set of health benefits than you’d expect from basil and pine nuts.

The leaves of Corianrdum sativum have recently been shown to confer some very intriguing effects in animal models of aging and disease. The September issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture reports that adding cilantro leaves to the diets of both aged and young mice lowers cholesterol levels and improves memory scores via a mechanism that is very similar to that of medications used to manage Alzheimer’s disease (anti-cholinesterase activity). Two other recent studies demonstrate additional health and quality of life benefits of C. sativum: a) protection against heavy metal damage in the male reproductive system via sperm and testosterone preservation; b) an internal deodorizing effect that may rival that of parsley. (1,2,3)

Cilantro Pepita Pesto
2 cups of organic cilantro leaves
1/4 cup of organic extra virgin olive oil
2 organic garlic cloves
3 Tbs roasted pepitas
2 Tbs organic lime juice
fresh ground pepper and salt
red pepper flakes (optional)

Nutritional Information: Calories: 130. Protein: 2 grams. Fat: 13 grams. Fiber: 1 gram. “Net” Carbohydrates: 1 gram. Based on 5 servings.

Remove the leaves from a large bunch of washed cilantro and place in food processor along with the garlic cloves and pepitas. Pulse while scraping down the sides along the way until you reach a semi-smooth consistency. Gradually add the lime juice and olive oil as you continue to pulse the mixture. Once a pesto-like texture is achieved, add freshly ground pepper and salt to taste. Mix thoroughly until the seasonings are fully incorporated.

Pumpkin Seed Oil (Group B) May Improve Enlarged Prostate Symptoms
Pumpkin Seed Oil (Group B) May Improve Prostate-Related Quality of Life

Group A (Placebo) Group B (P.S.O) Group C (Saw Palmetto)  Group D (S.P. + P.S.O)

Source: Nutr Res Pract. 2009 Winter;3(4):323-327. (link)

Pumpkin seeds have a interesting track record as of late in both animal and human studies. A combination of dietary flax and pumpkin seeds has recently been shown to: a) protect the kidneys and increase systemic antioxidant levels in diabetic rats; b) lower lipids and support liver health in rats fed a high cholesterol diet (a harmful and unnatural diet for rats). Some of the benefits attributed to pumpkin seeds appear to come from its fatty acid composition, while others may be the result to its unique nutrient and protein composition. One of the more intriguing properties of pumpkin seed oil is its ability to inhibit an enzyme known as “5-α-reductase which converts testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone)”. This is a hormonal process which contributes to prostate enlargement in older men. (4,5,6,7,8)

We use this recipe in a number of ways in our home. It’s not uncommon to find me dipping or topping raw and roasted vegetables with this flavorful pesto. I think it makes a wonderful complement to fish and meat entrees as well. The appearance and consistency is ideal for serving along side hors d’œuvres at family get-togethers and parties. Another favorite option is to employ it as an alternative to salsa when having fajitas or other Mexican themed meals. This cilantro pepita pesto is sure to dazzle your taste buds and pleasantly surprise many a dinner guest. It’s also an excellent way to introduce a broader array of flavors and phytochemicals into your daily diet. Besides, food always tastes better when you know it’s making you healthier as you eat it.

Be well!


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2 Comments & Updates to “Cilantro Pepita Pesto Recipe”

  1. khadijah Says:

    visible from the basic view, very tasty mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  2. JP Says:

    Update: Pumpkin seed oil benefits men with symptoms relating to an enlarged prostate …


    J Pak Med Assoc. 2014 Jun;64(6):683-5.

    Pumpkin seed oil (prostafit) or prazosin? Which one is better in the treatment of symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia.

    OBJECTIVE: To assess the efficacy of drugs containing herbal extracts in the treatment of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia.

    METHODS: The clinical trial study was performed in 2011-2012 at Imam Reza Hospital, Mashhad, Iran. One hundred patients with Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia were randomly divided into 2 equal groups receiving prostafit and prazosin, respectively. Quality of life and International Prostatic Symptom Score questionnaire were filled and prostate specific antigen level, uroflowmetry and prostate volume were measured at baseline, 3 and 6 months after the medication. The data was analysed using SPSS 15 and repeated measure analysis of variance.

    RESULTS: No complications were observed during and after the treatment. International Prostatic Symptom Score had significant differences at baseline and 6 months after the treatment in both groups, specially in group 2 18 vs 22 (36% versus 44%). Quality of life was better in group 2, 25.5 vs 31.5 (51% versus 63%). prostate specific antigen level did not change after the treatment and there was no remarkable difference in either group.

    CONCLUSION: Prostafit is an effective and safe treatment in Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia but not as much as prozasin.

    Be well!


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