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Adding Celery to your diet and its incredible benefits

One of the most common vegetables around, celery does not come to most people's minds when we think about healthy food. Other than the fact that celery has few calories, it seems to most of us to be an after-thought when we are putting together a healthy shopping list. 

Celery has its place in salads and snacks. A little peanut butter and raisins and we have ants on a log—a favorites snack for kids. We all know to put some chopped celery into our soup stock. Of course, the celery stalk in a Bloody Mary is a common feature of any brunch menu around the country. But what else is there to celery?

It turns out celery has some surprising health benefits. Celery is more than just a vegetable filler for other things. It is a portion of delicious and incredibly healthy food. Simple and plain celery packs a few surprises. 

What exactly is celery? What are the health benefits of celery? What nutrition do we get from celery? We will explore the ins and outs of celery in this guide and show you the tremendous benefits of eating celery. 

What is celery?

Celery belongs to a family of plants called Apiaceae. This family includes carrots, parsnips, parsley, and celeriac. It has been cultivated as a vegetable since ancient times. Celery has a long fibrous stalk that tapers to its leaves. 

Native to the Mediterranean areas and the Middle East, celery was used as a flavoring by the ancient Greeks and Romans and as a medicine by the ancient Chinese. The ancient forms resembled smallage or wild celery. Celery with large, fleshy, succulent, upright leafstalks, or petioles, was developed in the late 18th century. The stringiness that characterizes most celery has been eliminated from some varieties.

In some regions of the world, the leaves of the celery plant are harvested and used in cooking. In the United States, we primarily consume stalks, although the leaves are used in some types of cuisine. 

Celery does have a history of natural herbal medicine. It has been used to make extracts that carry certain healing and therapeutic properties. A close cousin of celery is celeriac. Celeriac (Apium graveolens variety rapaceum), also called celery root or turnip-rooted celery, has a large edible root used as a raw or cooked vegetable.

Celery benefits

We know celery is great as a snack and as a source of delicious crunch in certain foods. Celery does add flavor to things like soups, and it can be made into a spice. But celery has many serious health benefits. Long thought to be little more than a fibrous stalk with no calories, there is some serious medicinal power to celery. 

Filled with antioxidants

Antioxidants protect blood cells from damage that can come with the presence of free radicals in the body and bloodstream. Free radicals cause oxidative damage to cell tissues both on the outside of the cell and on the inside leading to damage to DNA. 

The antioxidants in celery bind with these free radicals and make it possible for the kidneys and the liver to eliminate them. Celery contains vitamin C, beta carotene, and flavonoids—all powerful antioxidants. Celery also contains 12 additional antioxidant nutrients. Celery also contains phytonutrients which are known to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, cells, blood vessels, and organs. This adds to the power of the antioxidants. 

Reduces inflammation

Chronic inflammation contributes to several illnesses. These include arthritis and osteoporosis. Celery and celery seeds have about 25 anti-inflammatory compounds. These reduce inflammation in general and can prevent chronic inflammation. 

Helps digestion

The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties in celery already protect the digestive tract. But celery provides several additional benefits to the digestive system. 

Celery contains pectin-based polysaccharides including a compound called apiuman. These are known to reduce the incidences of stomach ulcers. They improve the lining of the stomach and modulate stomach secretions. 

The high water (about 95 percent) content in celery provides the additional benefit of providing large amounts of soluble fiber which helps maintain regularity. One cup of celery provides 5 grams of dietary fiber.

Contains vitamins and minerals

Celery contains vitamins A, K, and C. It also has minerals like potassium and folate. What is more, celery is low in sodium. Celery also has a low glycemic index which means it will not adversely affect your blood sugar levels. 

May help fight cancer

Celery contains a compound called apigenin. Recent research on this compound has shown that apigenin can contribute to a process called apoptosis which is a kind of programmed cell death. These findings have led researchers to see celery as a possible treatment for cancer since apigenin can cause cancer cells to die on their own. 

Further studies showed that apigenin and apigenin rich diets reduced specific inflammatory proteins and this restores the balance of the immune system. 

Celery also contains a flavonoid called luteolin. Luteolin may have some powerful anti-cancer properties. Luteolin appears to prevent the spread of cancer and also contributes to the process of cell death in cancer cells. 

Helps with blood pressure

Celery has traditionally been used by practitioners of Chinese medicine to treat high blood pressure. It turns out that modern medical science has found validity behind this practice. 

Studies on the effects of celery seed extracts have found that it does reduce blood pressure. What is more, the effect of lowering blood pressure appears to only occur in those who have high blood pressure. Celery has the effect of regulating blood pressure to normal levels. 

The presence of high quantities of dietary fiber in celery is also known to help regulate blood pressure in people who have hypertension.

Reduces the risks of heart disease and stroke

Celery contains large quantities of dietary fiber. Consuming celery and other types of dietary fiber reduce the levels of LDL or bad cholesterol in the blood. The long-term benefit of this is a reduction in the likelihood of developing heart disease. The fiber in celery can also reduce your risk of stroke. 

May help your sex life

In the past several years there has been something of a buzz around the fact that celery contains high concentrations of androstenone and androstanol, to make pheromones. While some researchers conclude that the presence of these pheromones should increase men’s attractiveness to women. Others, however, maintain that the presence of these pheromones does not necessarily translate into sexual appeal. 

Other benefits of celery currently under study include:

  • liver disease and jaundice
  • urinary tract obstruction
  • gout
  • rheumatic disorders

Also, people use celery seeds to treat:

These benefits are not fully researched at this point, but there is evidence that celery can help in these areas. 

Celery nutrition

Celery is primarily made up of water. This is why, for many years, people thought celery was not very nutritious. As it turns out, celery has many valuable nutrients. A 4-inch stalk of celery (around 4 grams) provides about 0.1. a gram of fiber. 

Celery contains important antioxidants apigenin and luteolin. It also contains several other important antioxidant compounds. 

These include:

  • selinene
  • limonene
  • kaempferol
  • p-coumaric acid

Antioxidants of various kinds help prevent cellular damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. The body produces these substances as a byproduct of natural processes, but if too many build-ups, they can be harmful.

A single 4-inch stalk of celery contains vitamin K, folate, vitamin A, potassium, and vitamin C. 

How much celery should you eat a day?

How much celery you eat in a day is a matter of taste. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that eating four sticks of celery a day produces measurable improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The best rule is to include some celery in at least one meal a day. At the least, you will increase the amount of soluble fiber you consume, and this is healthy for a variety of reasons. 

Cooking tends to reduce the nutritional value of most vegetables. Steaming celery for a few minutes will reduce its nutritional value. Celery is best consumed raw. The good news for this is that celery makes a great snack on its own. 

Other serving suggestions include the old stand-by things like tuna salad and chicken salad. Try to include at least 5 grams of celery, about one large stalk, when you make salads. This will give you the nutritional benefits of celery. 

Another way of serving celery is to make tuna salad the way you like it. Serve the tuna salad with stalks of celery. This is something of a sophisticated “ants on a log” for grown-ups. By serving your salads this way, you will be eating even more celery and increasing the nutritional benefits and upping your dietary fiber. 

You can also include celery seeds in your diet. Celery seeds contain all the chemical compounds that provide benefits like antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. You can buy celery seed in most supermarkets in the herbs and spices section. 

You can include celery seeds in the following:

  • Soups
  • Sauces
  • Risotto

Another option is to eat celeriac. This is a close cousin of celery and contains the same healthy compounds and nutritional benefits. 

Other ways to include celery in your diet:

Leaves

We tend to throw the leaves away in America, but you can eat celery leaves and they make a great mild herb in many foods. You can season soups and stews with celery leaves. You can also dry the leaves and make your celery salt. 

Juices

Many whole food shops now offer fresh vegetable juices. Celery juice is incredibly healthy and pairs beautifully with other fresh vegetable juices. If you have your juicer, experiment with different combinations. 

Braised

We tend to not eat much-cooked celery beyond Thanksgiving stuffing. Braised celery is delicious. The slow braising brings out the natural sweetness in celery and makes a fantastic side dish. 

Celery side effects

Celery can produce severe allergic reactions in some people. The symptoms of this allergic reaction can include: 

  • hives
  • swelling
  • difficulty breathing

If you have difficulty breathing after eating celery, seek emergency medical attention. This is a sign of anaphylaxis which can be fatal. 

Women who are pregnant should avoid celery seeds since they have been linked to uterine stimulation. 

Finally, celery ranks as number 11 on the list of products that contain pesticides. Always wash celery well to remove any contamination. 

Celery FAQs

What is celery? 

Celery belongs to a family of plants called Apiaceae. This family includes carrots, parsnips, parsley, and celeriac. It has been cultivated as a vegetable since ancient times. Celery has a long fibrous stalk that tapers to its leaves. 

Is celery healthy? 

Celery contains several important vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C. It is rich in antioxidants which help fight inflammation and cancer. 

Is there any danger of eating celery? 

Some people are allergic to celery. The most severe symptom of celery allergies is anaphylaxis. 

Conclusion

We tend to not think much about celery. It is one of those ubiquitous vegetables that are not good for anything but maybe adding some crunch to tuna salad. And people used to view celery as having no real nutrition, the so-called empty calories that we once spoke of. 

We now know that celery contains some serious nutrition. Celery contains vitamins and minerals. It is loaded with powerful antioxidants. And it can even help fight cancer. There is much more to the simple celery that we once believed. 

Scientists are now taking celery seriously. There are powerful compounds in celery that may actively fight cancer. Some researchers are testing celery as a potentially useful tool in the fight against cancer. 

Celery can also help maintain the health of your heart and help maintain healthy blood pressure. Far from being a filler vegetable with no real value, celery is one more superfood in our arsenal of good health.  

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