Celery seems pretty bland and boring. It's either the flavorless crunch added to soups, added to your green juice or just the vehicle for peanut butter and raisins. But, the crunchy celery is actually incredibly healthful, and there's more than one way to work celery into your regular diet.
What Is Celery?
Celery is native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. We have evidence that it was brought all the way to Switzerland and elsewhere as early as 4,000 B.C., and it seems to have been used for its medicinal properties for centuries in China, India, Egypt, and Rome.
Celery belongs to the family of vegetables and herbs known as "umbellifers." Carrots and parsnips are in this family, and spices such as coriander, cumin, dill, and parsley. Some umbellifers, like hemlock, are poisonous.
Celery used to be hollow inside and taste much more bitter, but around the 17th century, the Italians started developing the celery we commonly eat today, known as Pascal celery. It's not just the stalk that is delicious and nutritious - celeriac (or the celery root) is used to add flavor to all sorts of soups and stews. Celery leaves make a delicious addition to a salad, and celery seeds are often added to tuna salad.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Celery?
Celery used to be known mostly as a low-calorie vegetable with high water content, making it a great snack for weight loss. And that's still true. However, recent research has uncovered many other health benefits of celery and celery seed extract.
- Anti Inflammatory Properties - Celery leaves can reduce chronic inflammation in the body with their high levels of certain bioactive compounds. These compounds affect cytokines, which are the messenger molecules responsible for increasing or decreasing inflammation.
- Lower Cholesterol Levels - The fiber found in celery may help reduce LDL or bad cholesterol. Celery also has phthalides that stimulate bile production, which also lowers cholesterol levels.
- Lower Blood Pressure - Those phthalides also lower the levels of various stress hormones. This allows your blood vessels to expand, giving your blood more room to move. The potassium in celery is a vasodilator and reduces high blood pressure. And the iron in celery seed will produce healthier blood.
- Lower Arthritis Pain - Celery has been used for centuries to treat arthritis, rheumatism, and gout. It does this by reducing inflammation, as we've already discussed, but also by acting as a diuretic. This way removes uric acid crystals that can build up around joints and contribute to arthritic pain.
- Lower Asthma Symptoms - Celery is high in vitamin A and C. Vitamin C, along with supporting the immune system, also helps to prevent damage by free radicals. Vitamin C, combined with anti-inflammatory properties, can really help reduce asthma symptoms.
- Diabetes Management - Celery has hypolipidemic, antidiabetic, and hypotensive properties. All of these can combine to help reduce insulin resistance.
- Prevent Oxidative Damage - Eaten raw celery may protect your kidneys, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder from oxidative stress that can lead to all sorts of diseases.
- Nerve Tonic - Celery has high levels of both calcium and magnesium. Those two minerals have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress significantly. It also contains calcium, which releases neurotransmitters. It further contains coumarins, which are being tested as treatments for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and more. In summary, celery can really help your nerves!
- Prevent Heartburn- This is mostly because celery is 95% water, but it does help to dilute stomach acid and keep heartburn at bay.
- Support Digestive Tract - Celery is high in dietary fiber, which not only helps in weight loss but also keeps your bowel movements regular. The antioxidants in celery also help your gut health by protecting the stomach lining and reducing the risk of gastric ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems.
- Support Bone Health - Celery contains a surprising amount of vitamin K - a single celery stalk provides about 15% of the daily recommended amount. Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting, wound healing, and strong, dense bones. Celery seeds are high in calcium, manganese, and iron, which also strengthen your bones.
However, there are some things to keep in mind when eating celery for health benefits. Celery has a fairly high salt content as far as vegetables are concerned, although not enough to be considered a high-sodium food. The fiber in celery is insoluble, which means that it moves things through your intestines but isn't well digested itself. This could lead to watery stools.
Celery is one of the most popular food for dieter because of its low calories and reputation of having “negative calories”. However, not only is celery low in calories but there other reasons for adding it to the diet.
Celery contains an excellent source of antioxidants and beneficial enzymes, in addition to vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin B6.
Celery Nutrition Fun Facts
- Celery is an important food source of conventional antioxidant nutrients, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese.
- Eating celery every day may reduce artery-clogging cholesterol
- The fiber that is found in celery works to scrape the cholesterol out of the bloodstream and eliminate it from the body with regular bowel movements, further boosting cardiovascular health.
- Eating this vegetable regularly helps to avoid diseases of the kidney, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder.
- Celery contains potassium, which is a vasodilator and helps in reducing blood pressure.
- Celery seeds help in the elimination of uric acid because it is commonly used for its diuretic properties, meaning that it stimulates urination.
- Celery is great for people suffering from arthritis, rheumatism, and gout. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce swelling and pain around the joints.
- Rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, celery greatly boosts the immune system and makes it more active and efficient.
- Celery is rich in both sodium and potassium, and both of these minerals help regulate the fluid balance in the body.
- Celery leaves are eaten for treating various diabetic conditions. This is because of their high fiber content, which has been shown to help manage diabetic symptoms.
- Dripping celery tea drops on eyelids is good for certain ophthalmological conditions and can improve your eye health, reduce your chances of developing cataracts, and protect you against macular degeneration.
- Regular drinking of celery juice before meals may help reduce your weight.
- Researchers believe celery nourishes the stomach, colon, and intestines due to the presence of chemical constituents, such as flavonoids, tannins, volatile oils and alkaloids, that control the level of gastric acid released while also improving the level of protective mucus.
- Celery seeds contain an odorless and oily compound known as NBP that has a diuretic effect and helps the body detox.
- When celery is boiled or blanched (dipped in boiling water) in soup, more than a third of the nutrients can be lost. To keep the most of its goodness intact, steaming is the best method.
How To Choose The Best Celery Stalks
Celery isn't ever really in or out of season since it can be grown in many places all over the world. It's readily available in any grocery store. Look for firm stalks that are bright green, have no yellowish discoloration, and have crisp leaves. If you buy it in bunches, celery will last longer in your fridge than separated and cut stalks.
How To Store Celery Stalks
If left on the counter or unwrapped in the fridge, those crunchy stalks will become limp and rubbery. Celery should be stored in your refrigerator, attached as a bunch to its base, and wrapped in plastic. It will stay fresh for up to two weeks that way.
Still, it's handy to have cut celery sticks on hand. If you'd prefer to cut your celery bunch into stalks, here are some tips to keep them fresh as long as possible.
- Fully submerge the chopped celery in water. Set fresh celery stalks in a glass or bowl, completely cover them in water and then cover the container with a lid.
- Place the stalks in a jar full of water, similar to a bouquet of flowers. It can be left uncovered, the tops sticking out.
- Get a paper towel wet, wrap it around the celery stalks, and cover the bundle with aluminum foil.
How to wash and prepare celery:
To clean and cut celery, discard the base that’s usually firm and white. You can save the leaves and use these in recipes, such as soups, stews or a sauté. Celery leaves are a good source of vitamins and minerals just like the stalks, so don’t waste them! Rinse the celery stalks and leaves well to remove any dirt and then cut the stalks into pieces.