Celery (Apium graveolens) is a biennial vegetable that belongs to the Umbelliferae (Apiaceae) family along with carrot, fennel, and parsley.
Native to the Mediterranean regions and the Middle East, celery has been cultivated for thousands of years and was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a seasoning.
The word “celery” comes from the ancient Greek word selinon, meaning “parsley” due to its leafy resemblance.
Unlike most other vegetables, nothing goes to waste with celery – all parts of the plant are edible, including the crisp stalks, leaves, seeds, and even the bulbous root.
There are three main varieties of celery: leaf celery, stalk celery, and celery root.
Leaf celery (Apium graveolens var. secalinum), also known as Chinese celery, is likely the oldest cultivated celery and is grown mostly for its aromatic leaves and seeds. Leaf celery has thin stalks and a stronger flavor than other types of celery. It is often used as a flavoring in soups and sometimes pickled as a side dish.
Stalk or pascal celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce) is the most common variety in grocery stores. It has thick, firm, light green stalks topped with a small bunch of green leaves. This variety is often eaten raw or as an ingredient in salads, but it can also be cooked as a flavoring in soups, stews, and pot roasts.
Celery root (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum), also called celeriac, is majorly grown for its large and bulbous root rather than the stalks. The root, once peeled, can be eaten raw, or boiled and mashed like potatoes. This celeriac has a mild flavor and taste.
Celery Nutrition Facts
Celery is a nutrient-dense vegetable that is packed with numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Celery is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K, which all help fight free radicals in the body. It also a great source of folate and potassium, both of which are important to keep your body functioning properly.
Here are the nutrition facts for one cup of chopped raw celery (about 101 grams) :
- Calories: 14.1
- Carbohydrate: 3 g
- Protein: 0.7 g
- Fat: 0.2 g
- Dietary Fiber: 1.6 g
- Sodium: 81 mg
- Vitamin A: 453 IU
- Vitamin C: 3.1 mg
- Vitamin K: 29.6 mcg
- Folate: 36.4 mcg
- Potassium: 263 mg
Health Benefits of Celery
1. Treats cancer
Celery contains flavonoids like apigenin and luteolin, which have been shown to have anticancer properties.
Several studies have found that apigenin may inhibit tumor cell invasion and metastasis, which could make it useful as a cancer treatment .
In a 2008 study, researchers looked at the effects of luteolin on cancer prevention. They proposed that luteolin may make cancer cells more susceptible to attack by chemicals in treatments .
2. Reduces heart disease risk
Celery consumption may help reduce the risk of heart disease due to its cholesterol-lowering effects.
In one study, when rats were fed a high-fat diet for eight weeks, ones that were given celery extract showed a significant decrease in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride compared to the control group of rats that didn’t receive celery extract .
In another study on rats, researchers found that celery seed extract lowered the levels of serum total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and significantly raised levels of HDL (good) cholesterol .
The fiber in celery may also help lower cholesterol levels by carrying excess cholesterol in your gut and pushes them out of the body through fecal waste.
Additionally, the 3-n-butylphthalide found in celery seed has antihypertensive properties that can help control blood pressure.
In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2013, rats given celery seed extract experienced significant blood pressure improvements when compared to rats not given the celery extract .
3. Maintains blood sugar levels
Celery has a low glycemic index, which means it does not cause spikes in blood sugar levels. It also a good source of fiber that slows down the release of sugar from foods into our cells.
Additionally, extracts made from celery leaf were found to help reduce blood sugar levels in older people with prediabetes .
4. Improves digestion
Fiber is well known for its digestive benefits as it helps keep your bowel movements regular. Since fiber is not digestible, it adds bulk to the stool and softens it, making it easier to pass.
The fiber content in celery also can help prevent diarrhea by absorbing water and solidifying your stool with roughage.
5. Relieves inflammation
Celery contains phytochemicals which have the ability to fight inflammation and ease the symptoms like joint pain and stiffness.
A study published in Planta Medica suggests that a compound found in celery called luteolin may be able to inhibit the production of COX-2, an enzyme that triggers inflammation .
Another study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that celery extracts may help reduce the activity of tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), proteins that are linked to inflammatory diseases .
6. Prevents ulcers
Regular consumption of celery has been shown to be effective in preventing or reducing the formation of ulcers.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Biology revealed that a type of ethanol extract found in celery is effective in preventing the formation of ulcers in the lining of the digestive tract. It was shown to significantly replenish depleted levels of gastric mucus that is needed in the stomach lining to heal and prevent ulcers .
7. Fights infections
Celery has been used for centuries to treat infections due to its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
A 2009 report published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology shows that celery seed contains special antimicrobial components which can be used to treat H. pylori infections and reduce the bacteria’s growth .
8. Keeps your eyes healthy
Celery contains vitamins A and C, and is loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are required to maintain healthy eyes and help to prevent eye problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
9. Helps in weight loss
Celery is a great aid when it comes to losing weight. It is relatively low in calories and filled with fiber, which helps you feel full for longer, so you’re likely to eat less during the following meal.
10. Protects liver
Celery is an ideal liver cleansing food. It has diuretic properties which can remove toxins and wastes from the body, keeping the liver in a healthy condition.
Tips on Buying and Storing Celery
When buying celery, look for crisp and thick stalks with fresh-looking leaves. The stalks should be green in color and have a solid, rigid feel. Also, avoid stalks with pithy, hollow or discolored areas.
Once you get celery from the grocery store, wrap it in a dry towel then place in a plastic bag and store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. It will keep fresh for up to two weeks if well stored.
Alternatively, you can freeze celery for up to two months. Wash and cut the stalks into one-inch lengths, blanch them for three minutes, cool, drain, and pack them into plastic bags. Frozen celery can only be used in cooked dishes.