Like many fibrous vegetables, celery is a “negative-calorie” food, which means it typically takes more energy in the form of calories to chew and fully digest than you can get out of it. Although celery is low in calories, it does contain lots of nutrients and compounds in the stalks and seeds that are advantageous for health. So next time you have a cocktail garnished with celery, consider munching on it instead of just using it as a herbal stir stick.
Good Source of Fiber
Celery isn’t as dense as carrots, broccoli or spinach, but it’s still a good source of dietary fiber. For example, 1 cup of raw chopped celery provides about 1.5 grams of fiber. Most of the fiber in celery is cellulose, which helps to bulk up stool, clean out the large intestine and promote regular bowel movements. An advantage of celery is that it also contains quite a bit of water, so developing constipation from eating too much celery is less likely compared to eating too many carrots, for example.
Celery, especially celery seed, is a strong diuretic, which means it increases the rate of urination. The diuretic actions of celery seed are mainly related to its high potassium content, which is one of the main electrolytes in the body and important for the distribution of fluids around the body. For example, 1 cup of raw chopped celery contains about 260 milligrams of potassium. Diuretics are helpful in reducing edema and flushing out excess water, which aids the functioning of your kidneys. However, you should be cautious if you are taking any diuretic medication, because celery can enhance its action and increase the risk of dehydration.
Celery is especially rich in vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting and healing. One cup of celery contains about 37 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin K. Celery seeds contain linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, as well as luteolin, flavonoids and coumarins, which all help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease such as atherosclerosis. Furthermore, celery stalks contain compounds called phthalides, which lower blood pressure by relaxing or dilating arteries. Phthalides may also reduce cholesterol levels by increasing bile secretion.
Celery stalk and seeds are good sources of vitamins A and C, which are both strong antioxidants and antimicrobials. Antioxidants neutralize harmful free radicals and protect tissues, such as blood vessels, from damage. The antimicrobial actions of vitamins A and C can deter the growth and proliferation of infectious agents such as bacteria. Vitamin C also boosts the immune system by stimulating specialized cells called lymphocytes and leukocytes. Celery seed also contains acetylenics, which help to combat infections and the formation of tumors.
- The Nutribase Complete Book of Food Counts; Art Ulene
- Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine; Simon Mills and Kerry Bone
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.