Whether you like to eat it with peanut butter or cream cheese, as a summertime snack, or you’d rather add it to your soups, salads or your stir-fry dishes, celery (Apium graveolens) is one of those ingredients that can completely transform a meal. It’s flavourful and crunchy, fresh and tasty and it’s one of the few vegetables that are perceived, both by adults and children, as a snack option.
According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, during 2016 U.S. consumers used an average of 5 pounds of fresh celery per person per year. It may seem like a good number, but the truth is that celery is still widely underappreciated and underused, especially considering its numerous proven health benefits.
Celery / Celeriac / Leaf celery – What are the differences?
There are a few celery varieties that are widely cultivated, out of which graveolens, rapaceum and secalinum are the most popular.
The gravolens variety is the one that is most cultivated in North America. The plant has long, thick stalks, that grow in bunches and are typically sold fresh, without the roots and with just a few leaves. The stalks are eaten raw, as a snack or in salads, they are added in soups and stews or, sometimes, they are used as drink stirrers for cocktails.
In Europe, the popular variety of celery is rapaceum, or celeriac, which forms a large bulb that is used as a root vegetable in soups, salads and stews. The leaves are also used as aromatic herbs in various European dishes.
Secalinum, or “leaf celery”, is the variety specific to Asia and is considered to be one of the oldest varieties of cultivated celery. Its leaves have a stronger flavour and taste and they are usually used in soups or they are pickled and served as a side dish.
Celery – nutrition facts and calories
According to the National Nutrient Database of the United States Department of Agriculture, these are the most significant nutrient values for 100g of fresh celery:
Lipid (fat): 0.17g
Vitamin C: 3.1mg
Carotene, beta: 270 µg
Vitamin A: 449 IU
Celery also contains vitamins B1, B2, B6, and E.
Health benefits of Celery
According to the review article titled “Medical benefits of Apium Graveolens (Celery Herb)”, published in 2013 in the Journal of Drug Discovery and Therapeutics, celery is rich in antioxidant vitamins and pigments which fight against the effects of free radicals, such as tissue damage and premature aging. These biomolecules also contribute to preventing coronary and vascular diseases and tumor formation by inhibiting oxidative reactions.
Here are the medical uses of celery listed in the article:
- Relieves indigestion.
- Stimulates the uterus.
- It has anti-inflammatory properties.
- It is considered to be effective in treating arthritic pain.
- Wild celery reduces blood pressure.
- Wild celery is known to be useful in cases of hysteria, promoting restfulness and sleep.
- The essential oil obtained from Celery has a calming effect on the central nervous system. Some of its constituents have antispasmodic, sedative and anticonvulsant actions.
- Homeopathic remedies are made from the plant and they are used in treating rheumatism and kidney problems.
- Celery seeds are used in India to treat bronchitis, asthma, liver, and spleen diseases.
- The ripe seeds, herb and root are aperient (relieve constipation), carminative (relieve flatulence), diuretic, emmenagogue (stimulate menstrual flow), galactagogue (promote the secretion of milk), nervine (calm the nerves), stimulant and tonic.
- Several components from celery seeds were also reported to display anticarcinogenic activity.
Additional proven medical benefits of celery:
- Celery extracts have also been reported to possess hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic and anti-platelet aggregation (inhibit thrombus formation) properties.
- Celery extract can significantly protect the gastric mucosa and suppress basal (or spontaneous) gastric secretion, probably through its antioxidant activity.
- The leaves, stalks and roots of Celery were proven to be good sources of phthalides, known for their anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and insecticidal properties.
- A study on the anti-inflammatory activity of celery concluded that celery stems possess anti-inflammatory properties, which is why the plant has shown promising results in treating rheumatic diseases.
- Celery can lower blood glucose and serum lipid levels.
- Celery essential oil is strongly inhibitory against Escherichia coli and moderately inhibitory against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.
Other medicinal uses of celery:
Lowers cholesterol levels
A study published in 2014, in the journal Advances in Environmental Biology, concluded that celery consumption can reduce serum lipids due to the plant’s antioxidant properties and it can, therefore, be useful in the treatment of hyperlipidemia.
With only 14 calories / 100g, but rich in vitamins and nutrients, celery supports healthy weight loss. Because it is rich in fiber, it also prevents constipation and helps you stay regular. Its crunchy texture makes it a great snack option when dieting.
Prevent urinary infections
Due to its antibacterial properties, celery is, along with cranberries, one of the most recommended veggies for UTI prevention. Because it reduces inflammation, it can also help with symptoms such as pain, pressure in the abdominal area and the burning sensation.
- Because it stimulates the uterus, and emmenagogue (stimulate and increase menstrual flow) and abortifacient (causing abortion) activities were reported, celery should be avoided by pregnant women.
- If the plant is infected with the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, skin contact with it can cause dermatitis.
- Celery allergy is very common, especially in Europe. Actually, according to the EU law, it is one of the 14 major food allergens that must be declared in the ingredients lists whenever they appear in pre-packed foods. If after you’ve consumed celery or celeriac you experience symptoms such as nettle rash (or urticaria) anywhere on the body, swelling or itching in the face, mouth or throat, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, go to an emergency room or call 911 immediately. Celery allergy can also cause severe asthma and anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.
- Avoid eating celery if you have a low blood pressure, as it can drop it too much.