Celery is a large, bushy marsh plant in the cabbage family, Cucurbitaceae, which has been grown since antiquity as a commercial vegetable. Celery has a long, tapering stalk of green leaves containing numerous white, fluffy seeds surrounded by a thick fibrous husk. Depending on region and cultivar, both the leaves, stalks or both are used and eaten in everyday cooking. The name ‘celery’ (a French word meaning ‘small brown’) comes from the Latin term small brown ‘celerium’. The root, not part of the flower, is also used commercially as a nutrient supplement.
Celery tops the health benefits list of vegetables because it contains a significant amount of soluble fiber, an ingredient that binds with fat and aids in weight loss and regulation of blood sugar. This makes it a healthy addition to diets that are low in fat, include fruits and vegetables, and that are high in fiber. However, it is only in high quantities that this nutrient is adequately absorbed and used by the body. Celery can provide a surprising amount of dietary fiber for a vegetable; about 20% of a serving.
Because celery may be high in fiber, it can be used as a regular vegetable in any well-balanced diet and is especially suited to people following a special diet, such as the South Beach diet or the Paleolithic diet. In one study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, participants who followed the South Beach Diet recorded a remarkable reduction in their total cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and body fat, even after a significant increase in their carbohydrate intake. These results were particularly noteworthy because of the common tendency for people to turn to more carbohydrates, such as sugar, for energy in times of stress. In the Paleolithic diet, for example, one tablespoon of freshly grated flesh from organic celery was consumed per day. No significant changes were found in participants who adhered to a vegetarian diet; nor did the results of a test of blood pressure indicate a difference between groups. The results of a test of intestinal microflora showed greater diversity in intestinal bacteria among people who adhered to the South Beach diet than among those who adhered to a vegetarian diet.
Some foods, including white bread, contain ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction. Wheat and rye are among the most commonly reported allergies, although other types of wheat, like barley and oats, may also cause an allergic reaction. One may experience an allergic reaction to raw or semi-raw celery, including the skin and the inside of the flesh. The raw or semi-raw celery may also cause an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. To avoid this problem, it may be best to use celery that is already cooked or prepared and has been mixed with other ingredients.
Celery is high in magnesium and calcium, which may have potential benefits for maintaining urinary tract health. Celery has been used to improve the tone of the bladder. Celery is also rumored to improve the blood flow to the prostate and may help decrease the risk of prostate cancer. Celery may also prevent the occurrence of kidney stones by preventing the buildup of oxalate crystals within the kidneys. A number of studies have shown potential benefits of celery in relation to urinary tract disease (UTI) and therefore may help decrease the frequency of urinary tract infections.
Celery leaves can be combined with other vegetables in recipes to create a more complex taste and texture. Certain flavors (namely lemon mint and cardamom) are known to be complementary to celery extracts. Since celery seed extract is very bitter, it may not be advisable to consume large amounts on a regular basis. However, the small quantities that can be found in salad dressings, side dishes, and other recipes that use vegetables as components make it worthwhile.
Celery extract has proven to be an effective addition to a diet that is high in fiber. Fiber helps lower blood pressure and has positive effects on cholesterol levels. Celery seeds contain a type of lecithin, a compound that appears to help lower blood pressure. In addition, some evidence suggests that it may lower LDL cholesterol (bad) and increase HDL cholesterol (good). Because of its potential to prevent and treat various diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and stroke, experts continue to look at the benefits of celery extracts. However, a consensus has not been reached regarding whether or not these extracts are useful for treating or curing cancer.
Celery juice is one of several alternative remedies that people have tried to treat or cure ailments. Many people also believe that drinking it on a regular basis will help keep them from having to take drugs and medications to cope with everyday problems. If you are interested in trying celery juice, it is a good idea to find a reputable supplier who offers both organic and non-organic varieties of the vegetable. Many health food stores now carry frozen and fresh celery juices, as well as recipes for making juice or other drinks.