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Celery is part of the Apiaceae family, which includes carrots, parsnips, parsley, and celeriac. Its crunchy stalks make the vegetable a popular low-calorie snack, and it may provide a range of health benefits.

The fiber in celery can benefit the digestive and cardiovascular systems. Celery also contains antioxidants that may play a role in preventing disease.

This article looks at the possible health benefits of celery, as well as the vegetable's nutritional contents and some ways to prepare it.

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The apigenin in celery may help lower inflammation.

The nutrients in the celery plant and its seeds may provide a range of health benefits.

It is worth remembering, however, that these nutrients occur in relatively small amounts in celery. Eating celery alone is not likely to prevent or cure any disease.

Preventing inflammation and cancer

Celery contains a plant compound called apigenin, which plays a role in traditional Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and antioxidant agent.

It may also have properties that help combat cancer.

According to the authors of a 2016 review, lab tests have shown that apigenin may contribute to apoptosis, a kind of programmed cell death, which could make it useful as a cancer treatment.

In 2015, researchers behind a study in mice concluded that apigenin and apigenin-rich diets reduced the expression of certain inflammatory proteins. In this way, these substances may reduce inflammation and restore the balance of the immune system.

Celery contains a flavonoid called luteolin. The authors of an article published in 2009 suggested that luteolin may have anticancer properties — it may help prevent the spread of cancer cells and induce cell death. They proposed that luteolin may make cancer cells more susceptible to attack by chemicals in treatments.

Learn more about the link between cancer and a person's diet.

Blood pressure

Some practitioners of Chinese medicine use celery and celery extracts to reduce blood pressure.

One study looked at the effect of celery seed extracts on blood pressure in rats that either had normal blood pressure and or artificially induced hypertension.

The authors concluded that the extracts reduced blood pressure and raised heart rate in the rats with high blood pressure but not in those with normal blood pressure. There is no strong evidence, however, that celery seeds help lower blood pressure in humans.

Celery is also a good source of fiber, and results of a 2016 Cochrane review suggested that people with a high fiber intake may have lower blood pressure than those on a low fiber diet.

The authors called for further research to confirm their findings and to identify the precise impacts of different types of fiber.

Which other foods can help reduce blood pressure?

Hyperlipidemia

Hyperlipidemia refers to an increase in fatty molecules in the blood. There are often no symptoms, but it raises the long-term risk of heart disease and stroke.

A 2014 study in rodents found that celery extract reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, in rats that consumed a high-fat diet.

Meanwhile, the 2016 Cochrane review noted that people who follow a high-fiber diet appear to have lower total and LDL cholesterol levels than those who consume less fiber.

Which foods to eat or avoid when you have high cholesterol? Find out here.

Neurogenesis

Apigenin may also stimulate neurogenesis, the growth and development of nerve cells.

In a 2009 study, researchers gave rats apigenin and found that it stimulated nerve cell generation and improved the ability to learn and remember.

Confirming these effects in humans, however, will require further research.

Other benefits

Some researchers have suggested that extracts from celery may also help prevent:

However, confirming these potential benefits of celery and celery seeds will require further research.

Learn more about foods that contain antioxidants.

Celery is mainly made up of water, but it also provides dietary fiber. One 4-inch stalk of celery, weighing around 4 grams (g), provides about 0.1 g of fiber.

Beyond apigenin and luteolin, celery contains other plant compounds that have powerful antioxidant properties.

These include:

  • selinene
  • limonene
  • kaempferol
  • p-coumaric acid

Antioxidants of various kinds help prevent cellular damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. The body produces these substances as a byproduct of natural processes, but if too many build up, they can be harmful.

Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and prevent them from causing damage that may otherwise lead to disease development.

A stick of celery also provides small amounts of vitamin K, folate, vitamin A, potassium, and vitamin C.

People can eat celery raw or cooked.

Raw vegetables usually contain more nutrients than cooked ones. Steaming celery for 10 minutes may not affect the antioxidant contents significantly, but boiling celery may do so, according to one study.

Celery pairs well with:

  • cheese
  • dips, such as humus
  • peanut butter

Combining celery with cucumber, apple, spinach, and lemon can produce a tasty and healthful smoothie.

Or, try adding celery or celery seeds to:

  • salads
  • soups
  • risottos

Below are some recipes that dietitians recommend:

Celery's cousin, celeriac, features in:

Learn more about celeriac here.

Authors of a review published in 2017 note that celery can trigger a severe allergic reaction in some people.

Symptoms may include:

  • hives
  • swelling
  • difficulty breathing

If anyone has trouble breathing after eating celery, they need emergency medical attention. Some people experience a reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be fatal.

Anyone who is allergic to celery should carefully check food labels, as even small traces can cause a reaction.

Also, pregnant women should avoid celery seed supplements, as they can cause uterine stimulation.

Another risk involves pesticides. Celery ranks at number 11 on the Environmental Working Group's 2019 list of 15 types of produce most likely to contain pesticides. Wash celery well to remove any traces of contamination.

Celery can make a crunchy, tasty addition to many dishes, and its seeds and extracts may offer a range of health benefits. It can also make a handy low-calorie snack.

It is worth noting that traditional medicine and most research has focused on celery extracts rather than the consumption of celery sticks.

However, there is evidence that consuming a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables can benefit a person's health in many ways.

Celery seed extract is available as a supplement, but as with any supplement, it is important to check with a doctor about whether using it is safe and advisable. Some supplements can interact with medications or be otherwise unsuitable for certain people.

Celery seed, dried celery, and other celery products are available for purchase online.

Q:

In my local supplement store, the assistant told me that celery seed is a powerful healer and can prevent all kinds of health problems. Is it a good idea to take it?

A:

Like many other herbal supplements, celery seed should be taken with caution. Unlike the amounts that people use in cooking and baking, celery seed supplements contain very high doses of either the seed or seed extract.

These concentrated supplements may offer some health benefits; however, they may cause serious side effects and interact with common medications and other herbal supplements.

Some research in animals suggests that celery seed extract may have antioxidant, antihypertensive, and heart health-promoting effects. Yet, research in humans to support these potential benefits is lacking.

Although some evidence demonstrates that celery seed may offer some benefits, it’s important to note that these supplements are not safe for everyone. For example, pregnant women should avoid celery seed supplements, as they may cause uterine stimulation and increase the risk of bleeding. They may also cause health issues in those with kidney inflammation or kidney disease.

Additionally, celery seed supplements may interact with common medications, such as those used to treat diabetes, thyroid conditions, and high blood pressure.

Overall, the safety of high-dose celery seed supplements on a long-term basis is unknown, as research in this area is lacking. Although celery seed supplements are often promoted as a powerful healer, it’s always best to consult your healthcare provider to ensure safety and proper dosage, especially if you have a health condition or are currently taking medications.

Jillian Kubala, MS, RD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.