Long a top choice for low-calorie snacking, celery is a popular vegetable that can be found on nearly any veggie tray or alongside any dip. Most people are aware that celery is low in calories, but few realize just how much this antioxidant-filled vegetable can boost both short and long-term health.
It might not deliver the most exciting flavor, but what celery lacks in taste, it more than makes up for in nutrients. What's more, its mild flavor and aroma could be one of its greatest strengths, as it works well as a vehicle for dip and is included in a wide array of soups and salads.
A member of the Umbelliferae family, celery is closely related to carrots and parsnips. Historians believe it originated in the Mediterranean region, where it was prized for its medicinal properties.
Today, when most Americans think of celery, they picture the popular green stalks grown in California, Florida, and Michigan. Also known as Pascal celery, green stalk celery is available in local varieties such as Tall Utah and Golden Boy. Other versions such as Safir and Par Cel tend to have thinner stalks and more aromatic leaves.
Widely recognized as one of the healthiest snacks available, celery is a wonderful source of fiber. Its fiber content is especially impressive given the vegetable's low calorie count. This makes it a great option for those concerned with losing weight or maintaining healthy digestion.
Other key benefits of celery include:
Celery is loaded with antioxidants. These include well-known varieties such as flavonoids and vitamin C, as well as lunularin and bergapten. These and other antioxidants help to prevent the oxidative stress that contributes to cancer.
Celery is rich in a phytochemical known as phthalides. This compound is thought to relax artery wall tissues to promote healthy blood flow. This increased blood flow may lead to lower blood pressure. Participants in a notable study involving celery seed extract experienced reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Alzheimer's Disease Prevention and Treatment
Research suggests that a celery seed extract known as L-3-n-butylphthalide improves both cognition and memory. This extract could play a valuable role in both treating Alzheimer's and preventing it from developing in the first place.
Celery contains high levels of several types of antioxidants, including flavonoids. These fight free radicals to limit oxidative stress, and could play a role in reducing the risk of cancer.
Celery is also a good source of:
Nutrients per Serving
A cup of chopped celery contains:
- Calories: 14
- Protein: Less than 1 gram
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 3 grams
- Fiber: 1.6 grams
- Sugar: 1 gram
Things to Look Out For
Eaten in excess, celery can cause bloating or gas in some people. These side effects may stem from the vegetable’s high levels of the compound mannitol, which research links to gastrointestinal problems.
How to Prepare Celery
Celery can be found at grocery stores, co-ops, and farmer's markets. While it is easy to grow, many people believe this particular vegetable is best left to experienced gardeners, as it has specific needs for watering and soil quality. With proper care, however, it can produce a bumper crop.
When selecting celery, look for tightly-packed stalks that are crisp enough to snap off with minimal effort. These should have a pale green color. Avoid stalks with wilted leaves.
Celery is best stored in your refrigerator's crisper drawer. Wrap it in foil or place in a plastic bag. If stored properly, it can keep for up to two weeks in the fridge. Otherwise, it can also be frozen for long-term storage.
A variety of food preparation methods can be used to produce an excellent celery-based meal or snack. The vegetable has long been a favorite option for eating raw — especially with dip. Otherwise, it can also be boiled, blanched, or steamed. Keep in mind, however, that boiling and blanching celery dramatically reduces its phenolic antioxidant content. Steaming does not have a significant impact on antioxidant activity.
Try these options for including celery in your diet:
- Dip slices of celery in hummus.
- Top with peanut butter and raisins.
- Add chopped celery to tuna salad.
- Stir fry celery slices with red chilis for extra spice.
- Simmer with carrots and onion in chicken noodle soup.
- Blend in a green smoothie with spinach, banana, and apple.
- Stuff stalks with pimento cheese.
- Spread cream cheese on celery stalks and sprinkle with bacon bits.
- Add with crushed tomatoes, baby carrots, ginger, and garlic to a pot roast in the slow cooker.
- Include with a bloody Mary or spiced tomato juice for a virgin bloody Mary.