Celery’s reputation as a diet food in no way does justice to its culinary strengths and subtleties. Here’s a vegetable about which most of us know little except that it’s “mostly water” and has “practically no calories.” Such characterizations damn celery with excruciatingly faint praise — while its reputation for stringiness burdens it with undeserved liabilities. Happily, it’s what many of us have yet to discover about celery — its extraordinary perfume, its delicate flavor, its nourishing, detoxifying and protective effects on both brain and body — that matter so much more.
Mildly salty, with light pine and citrus notes, this aromatic vegetable is a member (with parsnip, fennel and parsley) of the carrot family. Celery’s outer stalks, also called ribs, surround the tender, mildly flavored innermost ribs, called the celery heart. (Note that what’s known as “celery root,” also called celeriac, makes for great eating, but it comes from a different variety of celery plant.) Most celery is light green, but you can also find white celery (which, like white asparagus, is grown shaded from direct sunlight) and the more intensely flavored red celery. Celery seeds can be used whole or ground as a seasoning.
The vegetable’s bold texture and crunch can bring a satisfying contrast to all kinds of dishes. And its leaves, too often discarded, are supremely edible, adding a dash of good flavor — and celery’s highest concentration of nutrients — to salads, soups or virtually any other dish.
A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that luteolin — a bioactive plant compound found in celery, carrots, peppers, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary and chamomile — reduces age-related inflammation in the brain and may help prevent memory loss.
Celery contains coumarins, compounds that help prevent free radicals from damaging cells. Coumarins also enhance the ability of certain white blood cells to eliminate harmful cells, including cancer cells.
One serving of raw celery — about two to three stalks, or a little more than 1 cup chopped — provides 44 percent of the daily suggested amount of vitamin K (good for blood and bones) and 14 percent of vitamin C (an immune-system booster).
Celery is a good source of potassium, calcium and magnesium, all associated with reduced blood pressure.
The acetylenics in celery have been shown to inhibit tumor growth.
Celery contains active compounds called phthalides, which contribute to celery’s distinctive aroma and help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve circulation and aid detoxification.
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