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4 remarkable benefits of this underrated vegetable

4 remarkable benefits of this underrated vegetable

Sometimes, celery seems to get “no respect.”  For many, it appears to fall into one of two categories: a traditional garnish/stirrer for a Bloody Mary or a low-calorie snack that can help stave off hunger pangs in an emergency.  And while celery excels at both tasks, this versatile veggie has much more to offer.

Celery is a member of the Apiaceae family - which also includes such nutritional “M.V.P.s” as carrots and parsley - and contains many of the same disease-fighting plant compounds as its more colorful cousins.

Let’s check out some of the surprising - and science-backed - benefits of regular celery consumption.

Celery may reduce the risk of cancer cell growth

Celery is rich in apigenin, a flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.  According to a recent review published in Current Pharmacological Reports, apigenin in celery is an emerging anticancer agent, one which not only reduces the risk of certain cancers but increases the effectiveness of cancer drugs such as cisplatin.

The scientists reported that apigenin works in a variety of ways to fight cancer, including suppressing cancer cell growth and inhibiting angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels to feed tumors).  In one particularly promising study, apigenin was shown to suppress the growth of pancreatic tumors.  The review’s authors strongly recommended dietary supplementation with apigenin-rich foods.  By the way, parsley, chamomile tea, and celery are believed to be among the best sources of apigenin.

And, apigenin isn’t the only cancer-fighting antioxidant compound contained in celery.  Quercetin, kaempferol and luteolin - all of which have been linked with reduced mortality from various cancers - are also present.

Finally, celery is fiber-rich, with a cup of sliced celery contributing a whopping 5 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber.  Diets higher in fiber are associated with lower rates of some cancers, particularly cancer of the colon.

Celery promotes better health for your heart

Dietary fiber found in celery does more than reduce the risk of cancer.  It may also benefit heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol and reducing blood pressure.  Multiple studies have revealed that people who eat fiber-rich diets featuring fruit and vegetables tend to have lower blood pressure than those with lower-fiber diets.  In addition, celery contains healthy amounts of vitamin K, which “specializes” in keeping calcium out of the blood and in the bones, where it belongs.

In this way, vitamin K helps to prevent and slow the development of artery-clogging atherosclerosis. 

Finally, some researchers have credited apigenin in celery with supporting heart health, counteracting coronary artery disease, and lowering blood pressure.  In one interesting study, scientists found that apigenin-rich celery seed extracts reduced blood pressure in animals with hypertension - but did not affect levels in animals with normal blood pressure.

Calm down a troubled digestive system by eating celery

It’s no accident that natural healers sometimes advise nibbling on celery – an alkalizing food, by the way - to ease heartburn, GERD, and nausea.  Celery’s stomach-settling effects may be due to its high content of pectin-based polysaccharides, a type of fiber that contains a compound known as apiuman.  Researchers believe that opium may be behind celery’s ability to decrease the incidence of stomach ulcers, modulate digestive fluids, and soothe inflamed stomach linings.

In addition to contributing apiuman, the fiber in celery supports digestive health by combating constipation and helping to speed the elimination of waste from the body.  And, celery’s potent antioxidants - such as apigenin and quercetin - can improve digestion by causing gastric relaxation.

Luteolin in celery can help you avoid the problems associated with obesity

At a miniscule 10 calories a stalk, celery lives up to its reputation as a diet-friendly food, while offering essential nutrients like antioxidant vitamins C and A, magnesium, iron and folate.  Celery also contains bloat-fighting B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.  To top it off, celery’s high percentage of water and electrolytes helps support proper hydration.

Another antioxidant in celery is getting major “props” from researchers for its ability to fight obesity.  In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Biochemistry, the scientists reported that luteolin lowered the expression of inflammatory markers from adipose tissue and reduced insulin resistance induced by a high-fat diet.

Meanwhile, a Chinese study published in the International Journal of Obesity showed that luteolin activated a fat-burning process known as thermogenesis while inducing the formation of brown fat tissue.  Although “brown fat” doesn’t sound like something that should be encouraged, this beneficial type of fat tissue actually counteracts obesity.  The impressed researchers praised luteolin as a potential dietary intervention for obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Easy-going celery “plays well” with other food ingredients

Celery’s mild, delicate taste makes it perfect for blending into green smoothies, sauces and stews.  Give it a starring role in cream of celery soup - or create a power snack by stuffing stalks with peanut butter or hummus, then sprinkling with raisins.  Of course, celery sticks are also perfectly at home, teamed up with carrots and raw broccoli in a traditional crudite tray.

Celery can be enjoyed raw or cooked, with gentle steaming advised as the best way to preserve nutrients and phytochemicals.  When buying celery, choose crispy stalks with unblemished, unwilted leaves – and don’t chop it until you’re ready to serve or cook it.

Don’t be fooled by celery’s (somewhat) dull reputation.  This unassuming vegetable is actually a disease-fighting force and a nutritional powerhouse.  Maybe it’s time to make celery a regular part of your healthy diet.

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