A crunchy snack all by itself or with peanut butter added to round out the nutrients, celery is one of the most versatile vegetables in the garden, useful for its flavorful seeds and pale green leaves and stalks. It's a direct descendant of wild celery and a member of the Apiaceae family with parsnips, fennel, and parsley, possessing in appearance or flavor some of those characteristics. Celeriac or knob celery (A. graveolens rapaceum) is an example, although this cultivar has a light brown exterior with crisp, white, aromatic flesh inside. Each year, the U.S. produces a billion pounds of celery, 80 percent from California, Michigan, and Florida.
Because it's a veggie with high water content, celery requires fertile, moisture-rich soil. This may explain why this plant's origin has been traced from Sweden, south to Algeria, Egypt, and Asia and into the Caucasus Mountains of India. A large region in the Punjab is dedicated to celery seed production for export into Europe, where it's used as a condiment. Pascal is the celery variety seen most often in the States. Blanched celery, having been deprived of light for a paler, more tender consistency, is more popular in Europe.
Celery is a cool-weather crop, so it's best planted early in climates where the winters get cold and summers are hot. Because the seeds are tiny, they should be covered lightly with soil and watered evenly for three to eight weeks, or started indoors to be transplanted after about two months. Once they begin proliferating, thin them to a few inches per row, and they can grow one to two feet tall. When purchasing celery, make sure the leaves and stalks are crisp, not wilted or rubbery.
Celery is a great addition to tuna or egg salad. Stir fries are an excellent way to enjoy this vegetable, mixed with carrots, bell peppers, and onions, and teriyaki or orange sauce. It also adds an aromatic flavor to pot roast and vegetable soup.
However, 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. Studies show that steaming for even as long as 10 minutes retains 83 to 99 percent of the antioxidants celery is known to be loaded with. You can refrigerate raw celery for five to seven days, but they tend to absorb the odors of other foods, so keep them separated with a sealed container.
Health Benefits of Celery
In case you didn't notice it in the nutritional profile, celery is incredibly low in calories – only 16 per one-cup serving. This is one reason why it's so popular for dieters. The reputation celery has for being a "negative calorie" food may actually be deserved. At the same time, celery is worth its weight in fiber, which moves food through the digestive tract more quickly, and therefore helps lower your risk for colon cancer.
An interesting tidbit about this vegetable is the many different vitamins and minerals it offers - a little bit of a lot for a good balance: nine percent each of the DV in vitamin A and folate, eight percent of the potassium, and between two to five percent in manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium in the minerals category. In vitamins: vitamin C, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, niacin, and riboflavin. Vitamin K plays the most dramatic role – 37 percent of the daily value per cup.
Celery is a rich source of flavonoids like zeaxanthin, lutein, and betacarotene, which studies have shown lowers inflammation as well as the risk of heart disease, enhances the immune system, and inhibits the growth of abnormal cancer-causing cells. Antioxidants in celery include natural phenolic dihydrostilbenoids, such as lunularin, and furanocoumarins like bergapten and psoralen. The flavonols quercetin and kaempferol also are present.
Celery leaves (which contain the most vitamin C, calcium, and potassium) and seeds also contain a number of little-heard of volatile oils, such as terpenes (which consists mostly of limonene), and the sesquiterpenes β-selinene and humulene. The compound 3-n-butyl phthalide, which gives celery its fresh, earthy essence, may play a part in both reducing cholesterol and blood pressure levels by relaxing blood vessel muscles. Coumarins help thin the blood, and linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid. What all these and other compounds do for the body is pretty impressive.
(Don't miss this celery-related article: “Can Celery Be Useful to Treat Breast Cancer?”)
Celery Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie
Studies on Celery
Memory loss could be suspended with the addition of celery to the diet, according to a 2010 study at the University of Illinois. Luteolin, a nutrient in celery, was tested on two-year-old mice and withheld from mice aged three to six months. Results showed that the expected brain inflammation and subsequent memory loss in the older mice were not present. In fact, they performed learning and memory tasks better than the younger mice. Scientists believe the data suggests that the luteolin content in celery may also boost memory and halt age-related brain inflammation in humans to result in better cognitive health.1
The apigenen in celery and parsley was also shown to dramatically inhibit breast cancer cells in a celebrated study done at the University of Missouri. Scientists found apigenin shrank a certain breast cancer tumor stimulated by progestin, a synthetic hormone taken by women for menopausal symptoms.2
While apigenen was shown to be the natural flavonoid compound responsible for inhibiting breast cancer cells, it had not been tested against pancreatic cancer. Scientists undertook the study, noting that many chemotherapeutic agents had been used to treat pancreatic cancer without success. At the conclusion, apigenin also was reported as having the ability to inhibit growth in four pancreatic cancer cell lines.3
Celery Healthy Recipes:
Dandelion Greens with Celeriac and Tangerine Salad
|1 bunch chopped dandelion or spinach greens
||1 medium lime, juiced
||1/8 tsp. sea salt
||1 medium celeriac, shredded
|10 medium basil leaves, chopped finely
||1 medium tangerine, sliced
||¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
|1 medium tangerine, juiced
||3 Tbsp. olive oil
||1 tsp. lime juice
|¼ tsp. tangerine zest
||1 tsp. honey (optional)
- Wash and chop the dandelion leaves in half-inch pieces and discard tough ends. Pour lime juice into the chopped leaves and add the salt.
- Massage the dandelion leaves with the lime juice and salt for up to 3 minutes or until the leaves are wilted.
- Add the shredded celeriac, basil leaves and tangerine. Add the toasted pine nuts and mix everything together.
This recipe makes four servings.
(From Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type by Dr. Joseph Mercola)
Celery Fun Facts
In the 9th century medicinal annals, celery is noted for its use first as a medicine rather than a food. During the Middle Ages, celery become a common vegetable in Europe, and was only introduced to U.S. consumers in the 1900s.
Aromatic and crispy, celery is one of the most widely eaten and enjoyed veggies on the planet. Great in salads, stir fries, and soup as well as all by itself, this pale green garden offering is also highly nutritious.
For centuries, Ayurvedic medicine has used celery and celery seed as a treatment for colds and flu, poor digestion, arthritis, and liver and spleen disorders. Today, it's known as a diuretic, which only stands to reason with all the moisture it holds. Studies also indicate its effectiveness in deflecting mosquitoes. But eating it is the real key.
Celery is rich in electrolytes and has a cooling effect on the body, which may relate to its ability to fight inflammation. You can also count on celery to lower oxidative stress in the heart and help clear the digestive system. Studies also found that the apignen in celery has the ability to inhibit breast and pancreatic cancer, and the luteolin to boost cognitive function. Those items alone are good reasons to up your celery intake.