Celery Nutritional Profile
Energy value (calories per serving): Low
Saturated fat: Low
Major vitamin contribution: Folate
Major mineral contribution: Potassium, phosphorus
About the Nutrients in Celery
Celery has moderate amounts of dietary fiber and small amounts of the
B vitamin folate.
One-half cup diced raw celery has 1 g dietary fiber and 17 mcg folate
(8.5 percent of the RDA for a man, 9 percent of the RDA for a woman).
The Most Nutritious Way to Serve Celery
Fresh, filled with cheese to add protein.
Diets That May Restrict or Exclude Celery
Look for: Crisp, medium-size pale green celery with fresh leaves.
Darker stalks have more vitamin A but are likely to be stringy.
Avoid: Wilted or yellowed stalks. Wilted stalks have lost moisture and
are low in vitamins A and C. Yellowed stalks are no longer fresh;
their chlorophyll pigments have faded enough to let the yellow
carotenes show through.
Avoid bruised or rotten celery. Celery cells contain chemicals called
furocoumarins (psoralens) that may turn carcinogenic when the cell
membranes are damaged and the furocoumarins are exposed to light.
Bruised or rotting celery may contain up to a hundred times the
psoralens in fresh celery.
Handle celery carefully to avoid damaging the stalks and releasing
Refrigerate celery in plastic bags or in the vegetable crisper to keep
them moist and crisp. They will stay fresh for about a week.
Rinse celery under cold running water to remove all sand and dirt. Cut
off the leaves, blanch them, dry them thoroughly, and rub them through
a sieve or food mill. The dry powder can be used to season salt or
frozen for later use in soups or stews.
What Happens When You Cook Celery
When you cook celery the green flesh will soften as the pectin inside
its cells dissolves in water, but the virtually indestructible
cellulose and lignin "strings" on the ribs will stay stiff. If you
don't like the strings, pull them off before you cook the celery.
Cooking also changes the color of celery. Chlorophyll, the pigment
that makes green vegetables green, is very sensitive to acids. When
you heat celery, the chlorophyll in its stalks reacts chemically with
acids in the celery or in the cooking water to form pheophytin, which
is brown. The pheophytin will turn the celery olive-drab or, if the
stalks have a lot of yellow carotene, bronze.
You can prevent this natural chemical reaction and keep the celery
green by cooking it so quickly that there is no time for the
chlorophyll to react with the acids, or by cooking it in lots of water
(which will dilute the acids), or by cooking it with the lid off the
pot so that the volatile acids can float off into the air.
Medical Uses and/or
Benefits of Celery
Protection against certain cancers. According to the American Cancer
Society, fiber-rich foods and vegetables that provide vitamins A and C
may lower the risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal and respiratory
Adverse Effects Associated with Celery
Contact dermatitis. Celery contains limonene, an essential oil known
to cause contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals. (Limonene is
also found in dill, caraway seeds, and the peel of lemon and limes.)
Photosensitivity. The furocoumarins (psoralens) released by damaged or
moldy celery are photosensitizers as well as potential mutagens and
carcinogens. Constant contact with these chemicals can make skin very
sensitive to light, a problem most common among food workers who
handle large amounts of celery without wearing gloves.
Nitrate/nitrite poisoning. Like beets, eggplant, lettuce, radish,
spinach, and collard and turnip greens, celery contains nitrates that
convert naturally into nitrites in your stomach and then react with
the amino acids in proteins to form nitrosamines. Although some
nitrosamines are known or suspected carcinogens, this natural chemical
conversion presents no known problems for a healthy adult. However,
when these nitrate-rich vegetables are cooked and left to stand at
room temperature, bacterial enzyme action (and perhaps some enzymes in
the plants) convert the nitrates to nitrites at a much faster rate
than normal. These higher-nitrite foods may be hazardous for infants;
several cases of "spinach poisoning" have been reported among children
who ate cooked spinach that had been left standing at room