Health Benefits of Celery: What’s New and Beneficial: Crunchy, crispy celery is well known for being low in calories, but its health benefits go far beyond use as a diet food. Celery contains useful phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. It’s a convenient on-the-go snack as well as a vegetable that can be incorporated into cooked dishes, stir-fries and salads.
What’s New and Beneficial:
- If you have become accustomed to thinking about celery as a crunchy, low-cal vegetable but not a key part of your health support, it is time to think again. Recent research has greatly bolstered our knowledge about celery’s anti-inflammatory health benefits, including its protection against inflammation in the digestive tract itself. Some of the unique non-starch polysaccharides in celery—including apiuman—appear especially important in producing these anti-inflammatory benefits. (Unlike starchy polysaccharides that provide plants with a way to store simple sugars, these non-starch polysaccharides in celery help provide this vegetable with its unique structure and are not made from simple sugars but rather from pectins.)
- In addition to well-known antioxidants like vitamin C and flavonoids, scientists have now identified at least a dozen other types of antioxidant nutrients in celery. These antioxidants include dihydrostilbenoids like lunularin as well as furanocoumarins like bergapten and psoralen. The antioxidant support we get from celery is largely due to its phenolic nutrients that have been shown to help protect us against unwanted oxidative damage to our cells, blood vessels, and organ systems
- If you are planning to steam vegetables as part of your meal, you can include celery without having to worry about excessive loss of its phenol-based antioxidants. In a recent study, researchers compared the impact of steaming (10 minutes) versus boiling (10 minutes) versus blanching (3 minute submersion in boiling water) on the total phenolic antioxidant nutrients in celery. Both boiling and blanching resulted in substantial loss of these antioxidants, in the range of 38-41%. With steaming, however, 83-99% of these antioxidants were retained in the celery even after 10 minutes. While we encourage the practice of steaming as a cooking method of choice for many of our WHFoods vegetables, it’s great to see how nutrient-preserving steaming can be in the case of celery.
- Based on multiple recent studies involving nutrient changes in stored, refrigerated celery, we recommend a period of 5-7 days as a window of time for consuming fresh celery. While some nutrients appear to be stable in whole, refrigerated celery for longer periods of time, several studies show greater losses of phenolic antioxidants in celery after this week-long period. In addition, based on changes in flavonoid content, we also recommend that you wait to chop up your celery just before you are adding it to a salad or cooked dish (rather than chopping it up the night before and leaving it stored in the refrigerator overnight). This will help to preserve its maximum nutrient potential.
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- Anti-inflammatory: Celery is rich in phytonutrient antioxidants that contain anti-inflammatory properties
- Hydration: Celery is about 95 percent water. This can make it a good way to keep necessary fluid levels up. Because of its high water content, celery is a great snack to have on hand during the hot summer months to prevent dehydration.
- Heartburn: Celery is an old folk remedy for heartburn
- Cholesterol and blood pressure: Celery’s fiber may help lower cholesterol levels because it picks up excess cholesterol compounds in your gut and pushes them out in the elimination process.
- Digestion: Fiber is well known for its digestive benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic. One cup of celery provides about 6 percent of your daily fiber needs.
- Cancer: Antioxidants, flavonoids and phytonutrients in celery are associated with reduced cancer risk
- Sex: In recent years, celery has gotten buzz for its purported arousing benefits. Celery contains high levels of androstenone and androstenol, which are male pheromones.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking: To clean celery, cut off the base and leaves, then wash the leaves and stalks under running water. Cut the stalks into pieces of desired length. If the outside of the celery stalk has fibrous strings, remove them by making a thin cut into one end of the stalk and peeling away the fibers. Be sure to use the leaves—they contain the most vitamin C, calcium, and potassium—but use them within a day or two as they do not store very well. Celery should not be kept at room temperature for more than several hours. That’s because warm temperatures will encourage its high water content to evaporate, causing the celery to have have a tendency to wilt too quickly. If you have celery that has wilted, sprinkle it with a little water and place it in the refrigerator for several hours to help it regain some of its crispness.
How to Enjoy: A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
- Add chopped celery to your favorite tuna fish or chicken salad recipe.
- Enjoy the delicious tradition of eating peanut butter on celery stalks.
- Use celery leaves in salads.
- Braise chopped celery, radicchio and onions and serve topped with walnuts and your favorite soft cheese.
- Next time you are making fresh squeezed carrot juice give it a unique taste dimension by adding some celery to it.
- Add celery leaves and sliced celery stalks to soups, stews, casseroles, and Healthy Stir-Fries.
- Consider the purchase of celery in its non-Pascal varieties. Root celery can be served as a major plate vegetable all its own, and leaf celery can be substituted for parsley in almost any recipe.
Birch-Mugwort-Celery Syndrome: Some health problems are related to a phenomenon called “cross-reactivity” in which a person with environmental allergies also develops allergies to certain foods. In most of these cases, a small area on the surface of a food protein is exactly like a small area on a protein found in a plant’s pollen. If a person’s immune system reacts to the pollen, it will react to the food as well. In the case of celery, researchers have identified a syndrome called birch-mugwort-celery syndrome in which this exact type of cross reactivity occurs. (In technical terms, they have found that the Api g 1 epitope on some celery proteins is a homologue for the Bet v 1 epitope in birch pollen.) If you are a person with a known allergy to birch trees or mugwort, celery should definitely be excluded from your meal plan. If you are a person who suspects that you might have environmental allergies but don’t know for sure, you may want to consult with an allergy specialist who can help you determine if you have allergies and what plants are involved. Finally, if you are a person who suspects that you might be having allergic reactions to celery, you may want to check and see whether you test positively for environmental allergies to birch and mugwort pollen as well. While birch-mugwort-celery syndrome is relative rare, it can sometimes be quite severe and is worth identifying if you suspect any of the allergies described above.
Celery is a rich source of phenolic phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These phytonutrients include: caffeic acid, caffeoylquinic acid, cinnamic acid, coumaric acid, ferulic acid, apigenin, luteolin, quercetin, kaempferol, lunularin, beta-sitosterol and furanocoumarins. Celery is an excellent source of vitamin K and molybdenum. It is a very good source of folate, potassium, dietary fiber, manganese, and pantothenic acid. Celery is also a good source of vitamin B2, copper, vitamin C, vitamin B6, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids). Celery also contains approximately 35 milligrams of sodium per stalk, so salt-sensitive individuals can enjoy celery, but should keep track of this amount when monitoring daily sodium intake.
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