Celery is a vegetable of the Apiaceae family. It is well known for its crunchy stalks, which people often consume as a low-calorie snack.
However, not only is celery low in calories, but there other reasons for adding it to the diet.
It is thought to benefit the digestive tract and the cardiovascular system, and the seeds of the plant are used in medicine to help relieve pain.
Celery is also known as Apium graveolens (A. graveolens). Other members of the flowering Apiaceae, or carrot, family, include parsnips, parsley, and the root vegetable, celeriac.
This article is part of a series on the health benefits of popular foods.
The possible health benefits of celery and its seeds include:
- lowering inflammation
- reducing blood pressure
- reducing the risk of cancer
- preventing age-related vision loss
Celery contains apigenin, a molecule that is currently being studied for its anti-cancer properties.
A study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research investigated whether this chemical might help modify or reduce damage caused by inflammation.
The authors conclude that apigenin and apigenin-rich diets reduced the expression of certain inflammatory proteins in mice. In this way, they can reduce inflammation and restore immune balance.
There is no strong evidence that celery seeds help to lower blood pressure in humans, but a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that it had this effect on rats.
The authors conclude that:
"Celery seed extracts have antihypertensive properties, which appears to be attributable to the actions of its active hydrophobic constitutes such as NBP (n-butylphthalide) and can be considered as an antihypertensive agent in chronic treatment of elevated BP."
The results suggest that celery may have similar effects on humans.
Celery contains a flavanoid called luteolin. Researchers believe that luteolin may possess anti-cancer properties.
A study published in Current Cancer Drug Targets said that "Recent epidemiological studies have attributed a cancer prevention property to luteolin."
A study published in Advances in Environmental Biology examined whether celery extract might be able to reduce hyperlipidemia in rats that consumed a high-fat diet.
Results indicated that the extract did indeed reduce the amount of LDL, or "bad," cholesterol in the blood.
Although this is an animal study, if it is replicated in humans it could provide another good reason to consume celery.
Apigenin is also believed to stimulate neurogenesis, the growth and development of nerve cells.
Research published in 2009 investigated the effects of apigenin in mice. Findings showed that, when injected or taken orally, apigenin improved learning and memory.
Further studies are needed to confirm these findings in humans.
Other possible benefits
Celery may also be useful in treating joint pain and soothing the nervous system, but there is not enough scientific evidence to fully support the claims at this stage.
The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM) say that celery seeds have long been used in medicine to treat, among others:
However, they note that these uses have not been confirmed by research.
Antioxidants: Celery is a rich source of antioxidants.
It contains the following phytonutrients:
- phenolic acids
Dietary fiber: Celery is mainly water, but it is also a good source of dietary fiber. One cup of chopped celery, or 100 grams of celery, equivalent to about two and a half medium stalks, contains 1.6 grams of fiber.
Celery can be eaten raw or cooked. Studies show that it loses very little of its nutrients when steamed.
In 2011, scientists published research that examined the loss of total phenolic antioxidant nutrients from celery when blanched for 3 minutes, steamed for 10 minutes, and boiled for 10 minutes.
Boiling and blanching resulted in significant antioxidant losses, between 38 percent and 41 percent. After steaming, however, celery retained 83 percent to 99 percent of its antioxidants.
Celery can be eaten with cheese, with dips, in salads, or as a crunchy addition to a peanut butter sandwich.
It also adds flavor to soups and risottos. Follow the links for some recipes recommended by dietitians:
Combined with cucumber, apple, spinach, and lemon, celery makes a tasty and healthful addition to a smoothie.
Celery seeds can be added to vegetable dishes, soups, and salad dressings for flavor.
Celery's cousin, celeriac, features in White bean and celery root gratin with bulghur crust.
Celery belongs to a small group of foods that can cause a severe allergic reaction, and this can lead to fatal anaphylactic shock.
Those who are allergic to the celery should be cautious and check food labels, as even small traces of celery can cause a reaction.
Celery also has a relatively high sodium content, at 35 milligrams per stalk. However, this is very little compared with the 1,500 milligrams a day recommended by the American Heart Association, and far less than the 3,400 milligrams a day consumed by most Americans. It is still a low-sodium food.