Whether in soups, vegetable trays or topped with peanut butter, most people at least occasionally consume celery in one way or another. That’s a good thing, because the benefits of celery — not to mention celery seed — include that it’s high in antioxidants and beneficial enzymes, as well as fiber and certain vitamins and minerals.
Many years ago, parts of this vegetable were actually administered as natural anti-hypertensive agents in folk medicine. More recently, pharmacological studies have demonstrated both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities within celery that may help improve markers of heart health.
Plus, as a supplier of flavonoids and polyphenols, other benefits include its ability to support liver, skin, eye and digestive health.
What Is Celery?
Celery, which has the scientific name Apium graveolens, is a vegetable in the plant family called Apiaceae. It’s an extremely old vegetable, with records showing that parts of the plant were found in the tomb of the pharaoh “King Tutankhamun,” who died in 1323 B.C.
In the past, celery was grown as a vegetable mostly during the winter and early spring months. People mostly liked to eat it to help with “cleansing” and believed that it acted as a natural detox tonic that could prevent sickness.
As we know, it does in fact seem to help with detoxification thanks to its hydrating qualities and nutritional content.
Most people choose to eat celery stalks, but the green leaves and seeds of this vegetable are also edible and beneficial. For example, the leaves make a great addition to stir-fries and soups, and the seeds — which can be found either in whole seed form or extract products — have some impressive health benefits on their own, such as helping lower inflammation and fighting bacterial infections
Is celery a superfood? While it might not be as nutritionally dense as some other veggies, celery nutrition benefits include that it’s a good source of vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin B6.
It’s also about 95 percent water, the reason it’s so low in calories.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one cup of chopped, raw celery (about 100 grams) contains approximately:
- 16.2 calories
- 3.5 grams carbohydrates
- 0.7 gram protein
- 0.2 gram fat
- 1.6 grams fiber
- 29.6 micrograms vitamin K (37 percent DV)
- 453 international units vitamin A (9 percent DV)
- 36.5 micrograms folate (9 percent DV)
- 263 milligrams potassium (8 percent DV)
- 3.1 milligrams vitamin C (5 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram manganese (5 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (4 percent DV)
- 40.4 milligrams calcium (4 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram riboflavin (3 percent DV)
- 11.1 milligrams magnesium (3 percent DV)
Additionally, it’s a decent source of dietary fiber, especially when you eat more than one cup at a time, which means it may have digestive benefits.
Considering it has a high percentage of water and electrolytes — including about 80 milligrams of sodium per cup, which is fairly high for a vegetable — it can help prevent dehydration symptoms, while also acting as a natural diuretic that reduces bloating.
What are the benefits of eating celery? Here are some reasons to add this veggie to your diet:
1. May Help Lower High Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
Celery may have some cholesterol-lowering effects due to a unique compound called 3-n-butylphthalide (BuPh) that has been reported to have lipid-lowering action. Researchers believe this veggie likely has many other protective compounds too that are still emerging in research.
In one study, when rats were fed a high-fat diet for eight weeks, ones that were given celery extract showed significantly lower levels of lipids in their blood compared to the control group of rats that didn’t receive celery extract. The group supplementing with celery extract experienced a beneficial reduction in serum total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and triglyceride (TG) concentrations.
Additionally, extracts made from this vegetable have been found to help significantly decrease plasma glucose levels in adults who are prediabetic.
2. Can Lower Inflammation
Celery contains antioxidants and polysaccharides that are known to act as anti-inflammatories, especially flavonoid and polyphenol antioxidants. Research indicates these support overall health, especially as someone ages, by fighting free radical damage (or oxidative stress) that can lead to cellular damage and inflammation.
Researchers have identified over a dozen different types of nutritional compounds and antioxidants that are responsible for the benefits of celery products. These include phenolic acids like caffeic acid and ferulic acid, plus flavanols like quercetin.
Due to its inflammation-lowering potential, celery may useful for treating a wide range of conditions that are made worse by inflammation, including:
- joint pain (such as from arthritis)
- kidney and liver infections
- skin disorders
- irritable bowel syndrome
- and more
Consuming flavonoids from plant foods has even been associated with reductions in inflammation affecting the brain.
3. May Help Prevent or Treat Hypertension
It’s believed that certain nutrients found in celery can help decrease blood pressure by acting as a smooth muscle relaxant and improving the flow of calcium and potassium into and out of cells. There’s also some evidence that celery extract can help blood vessels expand and contract, improve blood flow, and aid in overall heart health.
4. Can Help Prevent Ulcers
This vegetable may help prevent or reduce the formation of painful ulcers due to a special type of ethanol extract that is useful in protecting the lining of the digestive tract.
Researchers believe celery nourishes the stomach, colon and intestines due to the presence of chemical constituents, such as flavonoids, tannins, volatile oils and alkaloids. These compounds control the level of gastric acid released while also improving the level of protective mucus.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Biology found that celery extract also has the ability to significantly replenish depleted levels of gastric mucus that is needed in the stomach lining to prevent tiny holes and openings from forming.
5. May Protect Liver Health
In one study, when rats were fed celery (along with chicory and barley), the rats experienced a reduction in the amount of dangerous fat buildup within the liver, as well as improvements in liver enzyme function and blood lipid levels.
Researchers found that the more celery, chicory and barley the rats in this particular study were given, the more their liver health improved.
6. May Have Benefits for Weight Loss
Celery is extremely low in calories and can be a valuable food to help you lose weight because of its ability to provide vital nutrients and help regulate lipid (fat) metabolism.
In addition to its nutritional content, especially its supply of antioxidants, electrolytes, and vitamins and minerals, it contains water and fiber that can help to make you feel full by adding volume to your meals. Eating celery whole provides more fiber than the juice, so this may be the best option.
7. Can Support Digestion and Reduce Bloating
Celery seeds contain an odorless and oily compound known as NBP that has a diuretic effect and helps the body detox. In a study involving rats published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods mentioned above, urine volume was significantly greater when rats were given celery extract compared to a control group.
The digestive benefits of celery are partly due to its diuretic effects — and also because it boosts circulation within the intestines, therefore helping improve digestion and relieving bloating and puffiness from water retention. Studies also suggest that when used in vegetable juice, it can provide polyphenols and fiber and that may have prebiotic-like effects, supporting the growth of beneficial probiotics.
Wondering, “But doesn’t it contain sodium?” Celery does have about 35 milligrams of sodium in one stalk, however this is a small amount in the scheme of things, especially if you eat a balanced diet.
Even most people on low-sodium diets can still enjoy this veggie, as long as they don’t eat excessive amounts.
8. Contains Antimicrobial Properties that Fight Infections
Celery seeds have actually been used for centuries as an herbal medicine with reported antibacterial effects. A 2009 report published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology demonstrated that celery products contains special antimicrobial components.
There’s some evidence that it may also significantly purify and reduce the bacteria’s growth, naturally supporting immunity against bacterial infections.
9. Can Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
Because celery helps reduce uric acid and stimulates urine production, it’s beneficial for fighting bacterial infections within the digestive tract and reproductive organs. Similar to cranberries, which are known for fighting urinary tract infections (UTIs), celery may help prevent UTIs, as well as bladder disorders, kidney problems and possibly even cysts on reproductive organs.
10. May Have Anti-Cancer Effects
Celery is in the same plant family as cancer-protective vegetables like carrots, celery, fennel, parsley and parsnips, which all contain chemo-protective compounds called polyacetylenes. Early studies have shown that polyacetylenes help reduce toxicity and fight against cancer formation, specifically breast cancer, intestinal cancer and leukemia.
Polyacetlynes have many immune-boosting effects, including tumor-fighting abilities that stop mutated cells from proliferating. According to faculty of the Department of Agricultural Sciences at the Aarhus University of Denmark, “polyacetylenes have shown many interesting bioactivities including anti-inflammatory, antiplatelet-aggregatory, cytotoxic, antitumor activity, as well as activity against bacteria and mycoplasma.”
How to Buy/Store
Today, in North America, the type of celery most grown and eaten is the type called “pascal” while in Europe “celeriac” is more popular.
Interested in growing your own? It’s considered a long-season crop and somewhat hard to grow, since it needs constant moisture and can’t withstand heat very well. It grows in cool, moist climates best and can be found most times of the year, especially during the fall through winter months.
Knowing that it’s one of the most chemical-sprayed vegetables there is, always look for organic celery whenever possible to get the most benefits without consuming toxins and chemicals. The Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” shows that it’s usually sprayed with multiple types of pesticides.
Here are some tips for buying celery and storing it at home:
- When picking out celery, make sure the stalks are firm, bright green and aren’t too limber. If the stalks have their leaves attached still, look for brightly colored green leaves that are not wilting.
- Don’t wash the stalks right away after bringing them home because this can cause them to go bad quicker. Store dry stalks, wrapped in a paper towel if you’d like, inside the refrigerator for about five to seven days at the most. After this time, celery tends to get limp, and its nutrient content starts to decrease.
- It’s also not recommended to freeze this veggie because it easily wilts and becomes mushy once defrosted.
How to Use (Recipes)
Here’s how to eat celery once you take it home from the grocery store:
- To clean and cut it, first discard the base that’s usually firm and white.
- The leaves are a good source of vitamins and minerals just like the stalks, so don’t waste them! You can save the leaves and use these in recipes, such as soups, stews or a sauté.
- Rinse the stalks and leaves well to remove any dirt and then cut the stalks into pieces.
How much celery should you eat per day? About one cup daily is a good amount, however you may wind up using more if you make celery juice often.
Compared to boiling, roasting or blanching this veggie, steaming it is a better option as it keeps more antioxidants intact. Celery’s compounds, including its flavonoids and polyphenols, are delicate nutrients that can be lost when you overcook it.
It’s best to eat it raw or to lightly cook it, such as steaming it for a few minutes to soften it.
Not sure what to do with it once you’ve bought some? Try adding some to a salad, egg or tuna salad, a big pot of soup, stir-fries, smoothies, or celery juice.
It also makes a healthy, low-calorie snack when dipped in hummus or another spread.
Here are a few recipes to try:
Risks and Side Effects
Why might celery be bad for you? Although an allergy isn’t very common, celery is among a small group of foods that is associated with causing severe allergic reactions in some cases, similar to a peanut allergy.
When someone who is allergic to celery is exposed to its oils, exposure can cause potentially fatal side effects. Celery seeds contain the highest levels of allergen content, which is not destroyed during cooking, so it should be completely avoided by anyone who has a known food allergy.
Certain people may need to limit how much of this veggie they consume if they are sensitive to oxalates — for example, if they have a history of kidney stones. This is something to discuss with your doctor if it applies to you.
- The benefits of celery are due to it being a good source of antioxidants and beneficial enzymes, in addition to vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin B6.
- It’s been shown to help support heart health, lower inflammation, fight ulcers, boost digestion, reduce bloating and more.
- Due to its supply of polyphenols, fiber, antimicrobial properties and other compounds, it’s a good vegetable for gut health, immunity and more.
- Try some in tuna or egg salad, soups, juices and smoothies. While juicing it is also an option, this will result in less fiber intake.