Stalk of the Town

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Don't sell celery short— savvy folks are rediscovering this lean, green nutrition machine.

Isn't it always the one you least suspect that is revealed as a “wow”? Unsung celery, the oft-overlooked cruncher on the crudité platter or the untouched garnish in a Bloody Mary, turns out to have a celebrated past. In the 1800s, the low-calorie vegetable was regarded as a high-class treat, put on display in many wealthy homes in artistically designed glassware called celery vases. And those Victorians were onto something: When it comes to health benefits, this is a super stalk.

Power Up 
There’s a reason celery is a dieter’s dream food. One cup (100 grams) of raw chopped celery is fat-free and has only 16 calories. It’s also a bloat buster—thanks to its high water content, it works as a diuretic—and because it’s loaded with fiber (1.6 grams per cup), it aids digestion. For more long-term effects, celery is beneficial for blood health, with 29 micrograms of vitamin K (about 25 percent of the daily amount recommended for men; 33 percent for women, according to the National Institutes of Health), and contains nine percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin A, which aids vision and boosts immune function. It may help prevent certain diseases too. Celery is a significant source of lutein, the consumption of which Harvard University researchers found may decrease risk for agerelated macular degeneration. And a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating luteinrich foods, including celery, spinach, broccoli and other fruits and vegetables, may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Celery also contains a compound called apigenin, which has been shown to reduce inflammation and, according to research published in 2011 in Cancer Prevention Research, may delay the growth of tumor cells in women at risk for breast cancer. Finally, a 2013 study in Natural Medicine Journal linked celery seed extract to lowered blood pressure in people with mild to moderate hypertension

When buying celery, look for stalks that are crisp and leaves that are green, not browned or yellowed. Suggestions abound for how to maintain this veggie’s crispness while storing—a website called Tipbusters put multiple methods to the test and found that refrigerating celery wrapped in paper towels in a plastic bag yielded the best results over several weeks. Celery is often served as a vessel for dips and spreads or to add texture to soups, stews and salads. But also consider trying recipes that highlight its subtly sweet flavor, such as cream of celery soup or celery au gratin. Served raw, it goes well with the licorice-like taste of fennel (tip: some chefs recommend shaving off the outer layer of celery with a vegetable peeler to make it less fibrous). And don’t overlook the leaves. Often discarded, they can be used as an herb, like parsley, to add freshness to a dish or in salads. Martha Stewart even recommends freezing the leaves in ice cubes to use in cocktails or water.

Did You Know?
There’s a celery museum in Portage, Mich., called the Celery Flats Interpretive Center; it features information and exhibits about the history of celery, how it’s grown and more. —Liz Donovan

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