Most of us have chowed down on celery at some point – even if it’s just as an appetizer in a restaurant. But few of us may actually bother to include it regularly in our diets. You may want to reconsider that stance, however, because there are apparently a wide range of benefits that celery can provide when eaten – from reducing your blood pressure to helping prevent certain cancers. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for these simple stalks.
These days, there’s more of an emphasis than ever on the importance of a balanced diet. After all, healthy eating can boost your immune system, protect you from diseases and increase your life expectancy. So it’s worth paying attention to the healthier food groups, such as those outlined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In fact, the USDA highlights fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy as the five food groups to focus on when planning meals. But you don’t need a government organization to tell you that fruit and veg are better for you than foods crammed with sugar. The tricky bit, though, is to actually make sure you stick to those healthier options.
How, then, do people manage to eat a balanced diet? Well, simply opting for a Mediterranean diet can set you in the right direction. That’s because it’s filled with fresh fish vegetables and other heart-friendly foods. And if that still sounds like too much work, then there are a few golden rules that you can follow.
For example, focusing on unprocessed, whole foods can be a great way to go. If you’re unsure, ask yourself whether it’s a food that you could grow yourself at home. If it is, then chances are you’re on the right path. And one go-to snack that would fall into that category is – you guessed it – celery.
If you’re somehow totally unfamiliar with celery, then you’ll want to get yourself acquainted. After all, it can reportedly offer myriad benefits to those who partake in it daily. The crunchy green stalks are a vegetable belonging to the Apiaceae family, the other members of which are carrots and parsley.
Alongside celery’s more complex and involved benefits, one simple plus to the food is that it’s low on calories. In fact, if you’re looking for a quick snack that won’t mean piling on the pounds but that will still fill you up, celery can be a great choice. It’s no surprise, then, that the U.S. produces more than 1 billion pounds of the stuff every year.
That’s not the only advantage to eating celery, of course. For one, it’s absolutely packed with vitamins, such as vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and K. And it’s also got plenty of minerals, from calcium and copper to potassium and magnesium, alongside a healthy dose of dietary fiber to help out your digestive system.
While some studies have shown that steaming certain vegetables, such as broccoli, can decrease the amount of nutrients they contain, celery is a much safer bet. According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, you see, celery can retain up to 99 percent of its antioxidants when steamed. And it’s those antioxidants that are so beneficial to our bodies that seemingly make celery such a great choice.
Put all those vitamins, minerals and antioxidants together, and the effects on the body can be powerful. For instance, eating celery may help reduce blood pressure. And while there haven’t been any studies to confirm that it works for humans, a 2013 study conducted on rats suggested that it could.
Another study in 2009 found that apigenin, which celery contains, helped improve memory and learning capabilities in mice. It’s therefore believed that the vegetable could have the same effect in humans, encouraging the development of nerve cells. However, more research is needed to confirm that theory, says Medical News Today.
A more concrete benefit of celery is its ability to lower your cholesterol. That’s thanks to a one-off compound found in the stalks named 3-n-butylphthalide (BuPh). This unique component works to boost your heart’s health by lowering your lipoprotein cholesterol as part of reducing your total cholesterol.
Remember how we said that celery contains plenty of vitamin C? Well, the good news is that this – alongside all the other antioxidants contained in the crunchy vegetable – is exactly what you need to give your immune system a boost. And that means lowering your chances of coming down with a cold in addition to helping you fight off other diseases.
And as well as those simpler, more everyday benefits, celery has some pretty powerful ones too. Thanks to its luteolin content, for example, it may have the ability to help ward off certain cancers. Plus, it works to boost your white blood cells, which can then also play a part by neutralizing “free radical” cells before they become cancerous.
Celery also boasts a handful of very specific benefits, beyond wide-ranging, universal applications. Like cranberry juice, it’s a useful tool for fighting off urinary tract infections and other digestive tract issues, and it can even be used to relieve the symptoms of arthritis and gout. Additionally, its vitamin C content can help reduce the impact of certain inflammatory conditions such as asthma.
Like anything in life, though, moderation is key – at least according to LIVESTRONG. While celery contains all sorts of vitamins and minerals, you see, you shouldn’t make it the primary focus of your diet. And because it’s high in fiber, suddenly adding lots of celery to your meals can apparently cause gastrointestinal problems.
Overconsumption of celery can also bring potential complications, says Lori A. Selke. Writing for LIVESTRONG in 2017, Selke pointed out that celery is “a very common allergen” and that its consequences can even be “life-threatening.” The food can also reportedly cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight in rare cases, and its high water content can apparently be problematic for people with kidney disorders.
If you do choose to slowly add celery to your diet, however – and you’re sure that you’re not allergic to it – then there are plenty of ways you can do so. For instance, you can simply eat the stalks whole, perhaps paired with a dip or cheese. Alternatively, you can use it to give a flavorful boost to risotto or cook it into a soup. And if you’re not a fan of the taste, you can always mask it in a smoothie.
The World’s Healthiest Foods recommends eating fresh celery within a week of purchase to maximize the nutrients it contains. Indeed, studies have shown that beyond that time, the vegetable begins losing some of its healthiest properties. A similar effect occurs when storing chopped celery overnight, so it’s best to add it to a dish directly before eating.
So while there are a few potential downsides to adding too much celery to your diet – and too quickly – it can bring your body many benefits. It therefore may well be worth upping your consumption of the crunchy green vegetable. Just remember to keep it a part of a balanced diet.