Most of you, who abide by a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, often turn to celery stalks for an evening snack because of their high nutrient and low-calorie content. You’ll be surprised to know that celery leaves and seeds are equally nutritious and can add flavor to your soups, sauté, and stews. The benefits of celery are multifacetedly ranging from lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels to alleviating the symptoms of chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and stomach ulcers.
Celery is also potent in minimizing episodes of a migraine and urinary tract infections. Read further to enhance your knowledge about various benefits of celery and know about its grand origin.
Top 12 health benefits of celery
One of the biggest health benefits of celery is the ability to lower blood pressure. All around the world, hypertension causes an estimated 7.5 million deaths either directly or indirectly. (1)
When blood flows at high pressure in your vessels, it leads to many complications in the long run like vessel wall weakening (an aneurysm), atherosclerotic plaque formation, and it also increases stress on your heart.
Hence, keeping your BP in check is of utmost importance.
Celery contains numerous compounds like hexanic, methanolic, and aqueous-ethanolic extracts which are responsible for the health benefits of celery such as lower blood pressure and serum LDL levels, improve circulation, and minimize inflammatory reactions.
A study on hypertensive rats published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that regular supplementation of diet with celery caused vascular smooth muscle relaxation which in turn expanded the blood vessels, lowered blood pressure, and reduced the workload on the heart. (2)
2. Lowers cholesterol levels
Lower cholesterol level is one of the many benefits of celery. High cholesterol levels have many detrimental effects on our heart and blood vessels which increases morbidity and mortality in the long run.
In addition to regular exercise and a stress-free life, you need healthy eating habits to prevent cardiovascular problems.
Celery contains 3-n-butylphthalide which was earlier considered to be a cholesterol-lowering agent. Latest experiments reveal that celery contains a lot of other compounds which not only lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides but also increase serum HDL (good cholesterol) levels. (3)
A study published in Planta Medica showed that rats who were fed a high-fat diet later showed lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels on the administration of aqueous celery extract as compared to the group deprived of celery. (4)
One of the major reasons behind not being able to lose those extra pounds is your body’s inability to lose stored-up water. This not only prevents weight loss but also creates uneasiness in the abdomen and makes you uncomfortable.
Celery contains a compound called NBP (3-n-butylphthalide) which has diuretic and anti-hypertensive properties. Hence, excess water is effectively passed out as urine and your bloated stomach in relieved. (5)
Celery also increases blood supply to your gut owing to its vasorelaxant property (relaxes smooth muscles in vessel walls) which results in improved digestion, and gut motility. As a result, it prevents bloating due to stagnation.
Weight loss benefits of celery come from its vast amounts of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and electrolytes with very little calorie content. (6)
Hence, you can enjoy a cupful of celery juice without the guilt of calorie build up in your body. Celery also contains lipid-lowering agents which keep your fat and cholesterol levels near the baseline.
Since it’s full of fibers, eating celery with your food will produce early satiety and better digestion.
5. Minimizes inflammatory reactions
Inflammation is our body’s reaction to injury. When this protective reaction continues for a long time, it starts damaging the body’s own tissues.
This leads to many problems like arthritis (joint pain), ulcers, skin conditions, inflammatory bowel diseases, and even cancers. Significant molecules which mediate these inflammatory reactions are TNF-alpha and NF-KB.
Anti-inflammatory benefits of celery come from its numerous anti-oxidants like phenolic acids (caffeic acid, ferulic acid), flavonols (quercetin), and flavones. These substances reduce the load of harmful free radicals and reactive oxygen species hence, prevent tissue damage.
Research shows flavones lessen the production of TNF-alpha and NF-KB which goes a long way in alleviating the symptoms of long-standing inflammation. (7)
6. Protects from ulcers
Your gut, especially the stomach, is lined by a protective layer of mucus which prevents damage of the gut wall by enzymes and acid inside the lumen.
Any change in the mucus composition or distribution which occurs in chronic inflammatory conditions, infections (by H. pylori) or toxin ingestion (smoke, alcohol) leads to ulcer formation.
A study on gastric ulcer model rats showed that the antioxidant activity of an ethanol extract of celery plant reduced the basal gastric acid secretion and protected the stomach mucosa from further damage.
Principal constituents of this extract which brought about its protective actions are flavonoids, sterols, volatile oils, alkaloids, triterpenes, and tannins. (8)
7. Helps in fighting harmful bacteria
One of the amazing benefits of celery is its ability to fight harmful bacteria. Celery contains certain compounds which have antibacterial activity and reduce the growth of harmful bacteria when it’s added to their culture medium.
A study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology showed that extracts from crushed celery seeds effectively inhibited the growth of H. pylori, a known cause of peptic ulcers. (9)
Regular intake of celery seeds, leaves or stalks boosts our immune system and makes us capable of warding off dangerous bacteria that cause chronic infections.
The anti-oxidant action of celery provides an added advantage as it protects your body tissues from chemicals and substances produced as a result of the immune reactions.
8. Increases immunity against UTI
Urinary tract infections are a common phenomenon, especially in senior men who are prone to suffer from BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia).
Adequate fruit and vegetable intake reduce the risk of getting a UTI because of compounds with anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties present in these natural foods. (10)
Celery is no exception to this and has time and again proved its worth in keeping illnesses at bay due to its high nutrient status and anti-oxidant activity.
9. Keeps cancer at bay
Health benefits of celery are also seen in cancer prevention and treatment. According to an article published in the Journal of Cancer Prevention, many fruits and vegetables like celery, parsley, chamomile, and kumquats contain a flavonoid called apigenin which induces apoptosis and autophagy in cancer cells. (11)
This prevents the growth of tumor size and also prevents metastasis, i.e., the spread of cancer to other sites in the body.
Various polyacetylenes like falcarinol, falcarindiol, and panaxydol found in carrots, ginger roots, celery, fennel, parsley, and parsnips have anti-inflammatory, antitumor, anti-platelet aggregatory, cytotoxic, and antibiotic activities.
These chemo-protective properties go a long way in preventing cancers of the breast, intestine, and blood (leukemia). (12)
10. Keeps your liver healthy
One of the primary functions of your liver is to flush out toxins that you knowingly or unknowingly ingest. For accomplishing this mammoth of a task, your liver requires certain minerals like iron, copper, zinc, etc.
which act as co-factors in biochemical reactions. Celery is a rich source of iron, and hence, its daily intake keeps your liver healthy.
A 2011 study published in the Pharmacognosy magazine showed that when hypercholesterolemic rats were given a mixture of celery, chicory leaves, and barley grains for four weeks, their liver enzymes, and blood lipids lowered gradually.
This proves that celery leaves prevent piling up of fat in the liver and keep it well-nourished. (13)
11. Alleviated the symptoms of arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which your body’s immune system is fighting against the tissues which make up your joints. This leads to pain in the joints, difficulty in movement, and morphological abnormalities if no corrective measures are taken.
Anti-oxidants in celery like flavonoids and polyphenols reduce the harmful free radicals produced by the overwhelming immune reactions occurring in your joints thus, alleviating your symptoms.
Luteolin, an anti-inflammatory compound also present in celery extracts, reduces the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. (14)
12. Relieves a migraine
Unlike a hypothetical headache that we gave our class teacher in high school, migraine is a real problem where an incapacitating pain occurs in the head.
Coumarin (an anti-coagulant) present in small quantities in celery improves the pain in a migraine most probably by reducing nitric oxide synthesis in the vessels of the head. (15)
Hence, in addition to conventional medications like acetaminophen (Excedrin) and ibuprofen, you can add celery to your recipes for a faster recovery.
Nutrient status of celery
The generous benefits of celery derive from a vast array of nutrients present in its stalk, leaves, and seeds. You already know about the low calorie and high nutritional content of celery stalks but what most people are unaware of is that the seeds and leaves are equally beneficial.
You can add celery leaves to your stir of soup or fries while the crushed seeds form an excellent source of apiol, an oily compound with medicinal properties which can also be used as a flavoring agent.
One cup of raw celery (101 grams) contains – (16)
- 2 calories
- 5 grams carbohydrates
- 7 gram protein
- 2 gram fat
- 6 gram fibers
- 6 micrograms vitamin K (37 percent DV)
- 453 international units of vitamin A (9 percent DV)
- 5 micrograms folic acid (9 percent DV)
- 263 milligrams potassium (8 percent DV)
- 1 milligrams vitamin C (5 percent DV)
- 4 milligrams calcium (4 percent DV)
- 1 milligrams magnesium (3 percent DV)
Celery also contains some sugars, manganese, vitamin B6, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and phosphorous.
A brief history of celery
Celery or Apium graveolens is a part of the Apiaceae family of plants which consists of a vast variety of edible plants and spices like carrots, parsnips, parsley, coriander, cumin, and fennel.
The use of celery dates back to the era of ancient Egyptian pharaohs when it was used as garlands for the dead. The presence of celery leaves in the remains of the tomb of King Tutankhamun, an Egyptian pharaoh who died in 1323 BC, confirms their use around that period.
In ancient Greece, wreaths and crowns made of celery leaves were gifted to the winners of battles. Over the years, health benefits of celery and its medicinal use in the alleviation of the pain of rheumatoid arthritis has been put to use by traditional practitioners.
As a vegetable, celery has been a part of our recipes for ages due to its excellent detoxifying and hydrating qualities.
Points to keep in mind while buying and using celery
Celery grows best in the cool, moist months starting from the fall, all the way through winter. You’ll find abundant ‘pascal’ celery in the United States of America while ‘celeriac’ celery in the mainstay crop in European countries.
Celery plants are heavily sprayed with pesticides and insecticides so make sure to look for organic celery and wash them properly before use.
On the contrary, if you wash the stalks right after buying them, they will wilt faster. So, store the stems in the refrigerator in a paper towel and clean them only before consuming the lot.
If celery stalks come with leaves still attached to them, try to look for brightly colored leaves that are not wilting. There’s no need to discard the leaves as they add great flavor and nutritive value if used in soups, sauté, and stews.
Precautions while consuming celery
- Celery has the highest content of known allergens and will produce severe allergic symptoms in susceptible people (similar to peanut or penicillin allergy). So, it’s better to test for allergies before consuming celery containing products like stalks, seeds, leaves, and oil extracts.
- If you’re pregnant, you must avoid celery ingestion because it causes your uterus (womb for your child) to contract which may lead to abortion.
- As we know, celery contains substances which lower your blood pressure. So, if you’re suffering from low BP, you must steer clear of celery products. Consult your physician regarding celery consumption.
Final words on the health benefits of celery
Looking at several health benefits of celery, it is essential to make it a part of our daily meal. Also, among all the plants of Apiaceae family, celery stands out because of its high content of anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, and low calories.
Celery stalks make an excellent diet food as they improve digestion and add minimal calories to your diet.
All parts of the celery plant, like stalk, leaves, and seeds, have beneficial effects on our health if correctly used. The anti-oxidants and polysaccharides in celery are responsible for relieving the pain in arthritis, prevent stomach ulcers, reduce episodes of a migraine, and keep cancer at bay.
NBP found in celery extracts helps to lower cholesterol and BP hence, keeping your cardiovascular system healthy. The anti-microbial action of celery and its ability to prevent urinary tract infections are slowly being used in addition to conventional medicines.