Celery not only makes for a great low-calorie snack, it has many health benefits as well. You may be more familiar with its reputation for improving weight loss success, but celery's health and healing capabilities go beyond fat loss. Below, I've listed some of celery's other very useful health benefits. This is not a complete list, just enough to peak your interest in this crunchy member of the Apiaceae family.
Celery health benefits
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Relieves constipation
- Prevents ulcers
- Helps anxiety and insomnia
- Natural aphrodisiac for men
Celery is also well-known for its cholesterol lowering prowess. According to researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center, celery can lower cholesterol by up to 7%. “Approximately four stalks of raw celery would, theoretically, provide the required daily 'dose' of phthalide for humans.”2 Celery's phthalide content has been proven to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, but phthalides aren't the only reason celery is able to decrease cholesterol levels. Celery is rich in dietary fiber, but low in fat and calories. Undoubtedly, these factors also help contribute to its cholesterol lowering ability.
Celery's insoluble fiber content also helps prevent and alleviate constipation. One cup of celery contains 10% of the fiber an average adult needs each day and insoluble fiber is the kind that hastens food's journey through the digestive tract and adds bulk to your stool. Celery also contains a high percentage of water, which is just as important as fiber in preventing and relieving constipation, if not more so. Water eases the digestion process and, without sufficient water intake, insoluble fiber can actually cause constipation.
Research also suggests that celery can prevent peptic ulcers. Peptic ulcers are open sores in the lining of the stomach, esophagus, or duodenum. “A study using laboratory rats found that celery extract protected the lining of the stomach and reduced the incidence of ulcers, according to a report in the July 2010 issue of Pharmaceutical Biology. The results may be due to the antioxidant effect of chemicals found in the celery extract, such as flavonoids and tannins, but a definitive conclusion was not reported.”3 Many years ago, it was proven that ulcers were not caused by spicy foods or stress (as previously believed) but by the bacteria called H. pylori. Celery, and other flavonoid rich foods, have been shown to inhibit the growth of H. pylori, in clinical studies. “Acccording to the American College of Gastroenterology, about 20 million Americans will develop an ulcer during their life.”4 That's a lot of people and, considering the negative consequences that can arise from the overuse of antibiotics, consuming a diet that includes celery and other flavonoid-rich foods seems a good alternative.
Celery is also helpful to those suffering from anxiety and insomnia. More often than not, insomnia is a byproduct of stress and anxiety. Celery contains nutrients and essential oils with a soothing effect on the nervous system, killing two birds with one stone. Magnesium, for example, is not only important to biochemical reactions all over the body, it has been shown to prevent and treat anxiety, irritability, depression, headaches (I can personally vouch for that one) and more. And scientists have known this for a long time. “In 1968, Wacker and Parisi reported that magnesium deficiency could cause depression, behavioral disturbances, headaches, muscle cramps, seizures, ataxia, psychosis, and irritability – all reversible with magnesium repletion.”5 In one case study, a 59 year old man “with a long history of treatable mild depression, developed anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and insomnia after a year of extreme personal stress and bad diet”5 was successfully treated with magnesium, after conventional treatment with Lithium and antidepressant drugs failed. This is a great example of how treating the cause of a health problem, instead of the effect, can be more effective. In addition, celery seed oil has been used historically to soothe both physical and emotional pain and discomfort. “Celery seed oil has some sedative effects and is used for anxiety and nervousness.”6
And last, but certainly not least, celery has proven to be an excellent natural aphrodisiac for men. Since ancient times, celery has been prized as a libido enhancer; even Casanova is reputed to have eaten celery daily to enhance his libido. Today, we have scientific proof that Casanova and the ancients were correct. Celery contains Androsterone, a male pheromone that “[stimulates] sexual arousal in women.”7 In addition, celery is thought to be sexually exciting to the consumer “or even straightforward arousing.”7 So, if you're a man, celery may be a great alternative to Viagra, without risking the side-effects of priapism, blindness, etcetera. However, the effects have yet to be studied in people suffering with weakened sexuality.
As you can see, celery has many impressive health benefits. This is just a partial list, the most noteworthy (in my humble opinion). When you consider the billions of dollars spent each year to treat most of these conditions, it's good to know that there is an alternative that one need only add to the menu. And, as if that isn't enough of a reason to add celery to the grocery list, it also has a flavor and texture that make it a satisfying snack, a great addition to various dishes, juices and smoothies too. But, keep in mind, you will get the most from celery when you eat it raw.
1 Heart & Vascular Team. “Celery May Help Bring Your High Blood Pressure”. Cleveland Clinic, April 9, 2015. Web. December 7, 2015
2 Lalonde, Bethany. “Celery and Cholesterol”. Livestrong.com, July 15, 2015. Web. December 8, 2015
3 Busch, Sandi. “The Effects of Celery on Your Digestive System”. Livestrong.com, May 8, 2015. Web. December 8, 2015
4 Ehrlich, Steven. “Peptic Ulcer”. University of Maryland Medical Center, September 24, 2013. Web. December 8, 2015
5 Deans, Emily. “Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill”. Psychology Today, June 12, 2011. Web. December 9, 2015
6 Meininger, Kathryn. “Celery Seed extract Side Effects”. Livestrong.com, June 15, 2015. Web. December 9, 2015
7 Asha MR, Hithamani G, Basavaraj KH, et al. “History, mystery and chemistry of eroticism: Emphasis on sexual health and dysfunction”. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, April-June 2009. Web. December 9, 2015