Celery is a vegetable under the Apiaceae family. It is well known for its use in cocktails, as well as a low calorie snack. However, celery is not only good for those well known things. There are several very good reasons why you should include celery in your diet. But first, let’s touch a bit on its history.
Where did celery come from?
It’s generally believed that celery originated in the Mediterranean region. Ancient literature states that a very similar plant was cultivated for medicinal purposes before 850 B.C. It’s claimed medicinal purposes were probably attributable to it’s volatile oils, contained in all portions, but mostly in the seed. During ancient times Ayurvedic healers used celery seed to treat conditions like colds, flu, water retention, poor digestion, various types of arthritis, and liver and spleen ailments. Interestingly also, woven garlands of wild celery are reported to have been found in early Egyptian tombs.
In Greece, celery was considered holy and was worn by the winners of the Nemean Games, similar to the use of bay leaves at the Olympic Games. The Nemean Games were conducted every second year, starting in 573, in the small city of Nemea in southern Greece in the Poloponnes peninsula.
The Romans valued celery more for use in cooking than for use in religion; although much superstition was connected with it. The celery plant was thought to bring bad fortune under certain circumstances.
Indigenous “wild” relatives of celery are found in southern Sweden, the British Isles, Egypt, Algeria, India, China, New Zealand, California and southernmost portions of South America. However it is doubtful that it’s center of origin was that extensive.
It was the Italians who started growing celery as a vegetable. Early stalk celery had a tendency to produce hollow stalks. After years of domestication, selection eliminated this characteristic as well as bitterness and strong flavors.
There are two types of stalk celery varieties, self-blanching or yellow, and green or Pascal celery. In North America green stalk celery is preferred and mainly eaten raw although it is also eaten cooked. In Europe and the rest of the world self-blanching varieties are preferred. Celeriac is very popular in Europe where it is eaten cooked or raw. Source: www.foodreference.com
Potential health benefits of celery
Celery is often used in weight-loss diets, where it provides low-calorie dietary fibre bulk. Incorrectly celery is thought to be a “negative-calorie food,” the digestion of which burns more calories than the body can obtain. In fact, eating celery provides positive net calories, with digestion only consuming a small proportion of the calories taken in.
Lowering blood pressure?
A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food assessed the effect that celery (Apium graveolens) seed extracts have on blood pressure (BP) in normotensive and deoxycorticosterone acetate-induced hypertensive rats.
The authors of the study concluded that “celery seed extracts have antihypertensive properties, which appears to be attributable to the actions of its active hydrophobic constitutes such as NBP and can be considered as an antihypertensive agent in chronic treatment of elevated BP.”
A Pilot Study to Evaluate the Antihypertensive Effect of a Celery Extract in Mild to Moderate Hypertensive Patients suggests that celery seed extract may have clinically relevant blood pressure-lowering effects.
Celery contains a flavanoid called luteolin. Researchers believe that this particular flavonoid may posses anti-cancer properties.
A study published in Current Cancer Drug Targets said that “recent epidemiological studies have attributed a cancer prevention property to luteolin”. The authors of the study say that “Luteolin sensitizes cancer cells to therapeutic-induced cytotoxicity through suppressing cell survival pathways.” Luteolin, inhibits the growth of cancer cells, especially in the pancreas. Another study suggests that the regular intake of celery could significantly delay the formation of breast cancer cells.
Celery aids digestion
The high water content of celery, combined with the insoluble fiber in it, makes celery a great tool for intestine cleansing, and for easy passage of stool. The saying is that celery tastes like “crunchy water,” and that is the reason it is so good for your digestive system. Note: because celery has diuretic and cleansing properties, those with diarrhea should avoid eating it.
Celery reduces “bad” cholesterol
There is a component in celery called butylphthalide. It gives the vegetable its flavor and scent. Guess what: this component also reduces bad cholesterol! A Chicago University research shows that just two stalks of celery a day can reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) by up to 7 points!
Vitamins, antioxidants and minerals
One large stalk of celery can deliver up to 10 percent of your daily need for Vitamin A, a group of nutrients that protects the eyes and prevents age-related degeneration of vision. Celery is very rich in vitamin K and also contains folate, potassium, and vitamin C. Celery is a very rich source of antioxidants. It contains the following phytonutrients: phenolic acids, flavonols, dihydrostilbenoids, flavones, furanocoumarins, and phytosterols.