March is National Celery Month. Even though celery may not be one of the most exciting foods to blog about, there are plenty of good reasons to. Celery is an amazingly versatile vegetable that can provide so many benefits for you and your family. Besides, it is a favorite food of mine and has been since my Grandma introduced it to me as a snack with peanut butter and raisins in my childhood.
Celery is native to the Mediterranean and is considered a marshland vegetable. It really is quite easy to grow in the home garden as long as it has plenty of water. Celery adds crunch to salads while adding lots of flavor to casseroles, soups, stuffing and a variety of cuisines. And it is always a great snack with dips, cheese spreads, avocado, or peanut butter. Don’t forget that celery leaves are as nutritious as the stalks; the dark green outer leaves have the most flavor but are often a little tough so they are great additions to soups and stews. The tender and milder inner leaves can be chopped along with the stalks for any recipe that calls for celery or used as a garnish. It is also possible to dry celery leaves and use them to flavor anything that needs a ‘celery lift.’
Celery is high in fiber and as such is filling. Per serving (2-3 medium stalks), celery has only 16 calories and is 95 percent water. While not a superfood, it is a good source of potassium and vitamins A and C. Celery is also a source of sodium nitrate which our bodies convert to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps relax our arteries, which reduces blood pressure and improves blood flow throughout the body. Celery is known as a negative calorie food because it requires more calories to digest it than one consumes by eating it. Plus, it’s low on the glycemic index, meaning it has a slow, steady effect on blood sugar. Thus, it is a great food for dieters.
Celery has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. As far back as 850 B.C., celery seed was believed to have healing powers. Celery still plays a role in traditional Chinese medicine because it contains a plant compound called apigenin which is an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and antioxidant agent. Celery also contains a flavonoid called luteolin that has shown promise in preventing the spread of cancer cells. Other benefits include preventing gallstones, aids in indigestion, and helps to lower blood pressure. Because these nutrients occur in relatively small amounts in celery, eating celery alone is not likely to prevent or cure any disease.
In recent times, celery juice has become popular. While eating celery stalks and using celery in recipes is healthy and important, drinking pure celery juice is more nutrient dense. When celery is juiced, the pulp or fiber is removed so one is able to consume far more celery as juice than by eating it. Moreover, it’s very hydrating and low in sugar making it a great alternative to sugary beverages. While there are health benefits to celery juice, consumers should be weary of claims that celery juice detoxes the body as these claims are not supported by science. Further, celery juice has a high concentration of sodium nitrates which may be of concern to some. People on salt-restricted diets may wish to avoid celery juice as a single cup of celery juice contains around 215 mg of sodium.
Low in calories, packed with flavor, fiber, and crunch, celery is an amazing vegetable that can promote health and with good health, comes happiness—all reasons to celebrate! What are we waiting for? With so many benefits, we should be adding celery to our meals in whatever way chosen not only in March but always. How will your ‘celerybration’ look?