Celery Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Celery annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Originally used as a medicinal herb, celery is now a common ingredient in kitchens worldwide. Celery stalks are rich in cellulose, a complex carbohydrate found in the cell wall of plants that is edible but indigestible to humans. Given celery's high water content, you may wonder if it's worth eating at all. Luckily, celery provides several micronutrients, making it a valuable addition to any meal.

Celery Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 medium (7 1/2" to 8" long) celery stalk (40g).

  • Calories: 5.6
  • Fat: 0.1g
  • Sodium: 32mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1.2g
  • Fiber: 0.6g
  • Sugars: 0.5g
  • Protein: 0.3g

Carbs

Celery is a popular choice on low-carbohydrate diets because it is very low in calories and carbohydrates. A whole cup of chopped celery has just 3 grams of carbohydrates, over half of which come from fiber. There are also 1.4 grams of natural sugar in a cup of celery.

Raw celery has a low glycemic index of 35. Cooking dramatically raises celery's glycemic index to a value of 85.

Fats

Celery is naturally fat-free, with very minimal amounts of fatty acids.

Protein

Celery is low in protein, with less than 1 gram per cup.

Vitamins and Minerals

Despite its low calorie content, celery is rich in certain micronutrients. There's a decent amount of potassium, folate, choline, vitamin A, and vitamin K in celery. Celery also provides some natural sodium and fluoride.

Health Benefits

Celery is certainly a health food with its high water content, fiber, and micronutrients. Here are some of the benefits of eating celery.

Aids in Diabetes Prevention and Management

In one study, a dose of 250mg of celery leaf extract taken three times per day, 30 minutes before a meal was shown to reduce blood sugar levels in elderly adults with pre-diabetes. However, this limited study was only conducted for a period of 12 days on 16 participants. Study authors acknowledged that the small sample size was a limitation of the study.

The flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin, and phenolics) in celery are protective against oxidative damage to the beta cells of the pancreas. These cells are responsible for producing insulin and regulating glucose levels. Apigenin, specifically, stops the progression of diabetes by preventing cataracts, retinopathy (blindness), and neuropathy (decreased sensations in hands and feet). Celery is also high in quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that increases glucose uptake in the liver and stimulates insulin secretion to help keep diabetes from progressing.

Supports Heart Health

It's widely accepted that dietary patterns rich in vegetables are associated with lower rates of heart disease. Celery is an especially great choice, given its high content of potassium (lowers blood pressure), fiber (reduces cholesterol levels), and folate (prevents inflammation). Although celery provides some natural sodium, it is high in polyphenols that are anti-inflammatory and protective against cardiovascular disease.

Protects Eyesight

The vitamins in celery are powerful antioxidants that help prevent age-related macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss. Along with vitamins E and C, celery provides two forms of vitamin A that are associated with better vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin are specialized carotenoids that accumulate in the retina for concentrated protection.

Supports Weight Loss

Celery is often referred to as a "negative-calorie food," but, this term can be a bit misleading. The calories our body burns digesting a particular type of food is referred to as its thermic effect. Celery is very low in calories but burns energy during digestion due to its fiber content. However, the energy burned from digesting celery likely doesn't exceed the energy it provides.

Nonetheless, the high fiber and water content of celery, combined with its satisfying crunch, means you can fill up on larger volumes of food without taking in excessive calories. For this reason, celery and most other non-starchy vegetables, are helpful for weight loss.

Reduces Risk of Birth Defects

Celery is a good source of folate, which is crucial during the early stages of fetal development. To minimize the risk of birth issues, like congenital heart defects and preterm birth, folate supplements are recommended for all women of childbearing age. Eating leafy greens, like celery, can also help supply the folate required for a healthy pregnancy.

Allergies

Celery allergies can cause mouth itchiness and swelling of the throat, tongue, and lips. Respiratory or skin issues have also been reported. Celery allergies are often associated with pollen allergies and may triggered by cooked and raw celery, as well as celery spice. If you suspect an allergy to celery, see an allergist for a diagnosis.

Adverse Effects

A cup of chopped celery has about 30 micrograms of vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting. As a result, celery may interfere with blood-thinning medications intended to prevent clots. It's usually not necessary or advisable to avoid green vegetables when taking blood thinners, but rather to maintain a consistent intake so medication can be properly dosed accordingly. Speak to your doctor if you take blood thinners to learn more about the role of foods that are high in vitamin K.

Folate may interfere with the effectiveness of methotrexate, a medication prescribed to treat autoimmune diseases and cancer. Although this is usually more of a concern for folate supplements rather than foods high in folate (like celery), it doesn't hurt to discuss your dietary intake of green vegetables with your doctor or registered dietitian while on this medication.

Celery is a source of oxalates which contributes to certain types of kidney stones. If you are prone to kidney stones, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian to determine whether you need to limit your celery intake.

Varieties

There are several varieties of celery including Conga, Merengo, Tango, and Samba. The most sweet and tender of these examples is Tango.

When It's Best

Celery is available at the grocery store year-round. Look for celery stalks that are crisp and green. They should be free from signs of dryness, brown spots, cracks, or limpness.

Storage and Food Safety

Store bagged celery unwashed in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for 1–2 weeks. Rinse thoroughly under running water before cutting or eating. Look out for dirt stuck in between the ribs. The bottom tip of the root and top of the stem can be trimmed off and thrown away or used to make vegetable broth.

How to Prepare

Although most people discard celery leaves, they are edible and can make a good addition to soup, pesto, and smoothies or juices. Chop celery leaves to add on top of salads, sandwiches, and cooked dishes.

Raw or cooked, celery adds texture, color, flavor, and nutrients to meals and snacks. Braise, steam, or sauté celery and serve it with meats such as turkey, chicken, and roasts. Dice celery and place it in side dishes like stuffing. Dip celery into peanut butter, hummus, yogurt dip, tuna, or chicken salad. Celery's natural crunch makes it a healthy substitute for chips or crackers.

Recipes

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