Celery is a type of vegetable, it has a long fibrous stalk that tapers into leaves and is common and affordable in local markets. Many people use it in soups, as a spice or even in a salad.
Nutritionists say people should know the health benefits the vegetable has to offer, and make efforts to make it part of their meals.
Joseph Uwiragiye, a nutritionist at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), says celery contains many minerals including calcium, sodium, copper, magnesium, iron, zinc and many more, all vital for good health.
Uwiragiye says that celery helps lower cholesterol levels in the body.
“Eating celery every day may reduce artery-clogging cholesterol (LDL or bad cholesterol). The phthalides in it also stimulate the secretion of bile juices, which work to reduce cholesterol levels,” he says.
He says that a smaller amount of cholesterol in the body means less plaque on the artery walls, which ensures general improvement in heart health.
Additionally, Uwiragiye says, the fibre in celery helps clean cholesterol out of the bloodstream and, eliminate it from the body with lar bowel movements, which ensures cardiovascular health.
Dieudonne Bukaba, the nutrition programme coordinator at Africa Humanitarian Action (AHA) Rwanda, says celery also acts as an antioxidant.
He says consuming it often aids in avoiding diseases of the kidney, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder.
Furthermore, it’s recommended for people who are suffering from stress, as it has been shown to lower the condition.
“Celery contains phthalides, which are organic chemical compounds that help lower the level of stress hormones in the blood. This allows the blood vessels to expand, giving blood more room to move, and thereby reducing pressure,” he says.
Bukaba says the vegetable also contains potassium, which is a vasodilator (medications that open (dilate) blood vessels) that helps reduce blood pressure.
When blood pressure is reduced, it puts less strain on the entire cardiovascular system and reduces the chances of developing conditions like atherosclerosis (the build-up of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on the artery walls), or a heart attack or stroke, Bukaba says.
Another vital benefit of celery, Uwiragiye says, is that it helps prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), which are common in pregnant women and children.
“Celery, especially its seeds, helps in the elimination of uric acid because it is commonly used for its diuretic properties, meaning that it stimulates urination,” he says.
Therefore, he says, it is good for people with bladder disorders, kidney problems, cystitis, and other similar conditions.
Erick Musengimana, a nutritionist at Rwanda Diabetes Association in Kigali, says the vegetable has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce swelling and pain around the joints. It also helps prevent diseases like arthritis and rheumatism.
“They also act as a diuretic (any substance that promotes diuresis, the increased production of urine), which helps remove uric acid crystals that build up around the body’s joints that can add to pain and discomfort.
“Cancer, which now affects a large population, can be prevented if celery is consumed regularly. This is because it contains phthalides, flavonoids, and polyacetylene, which are cancer fighting components,” he explains.
He adds that celery also contains coumarin that enhances the activity of white blood cells, which can effectively keep cancer at bay. These antioxidant components seek free radicals and neutralise them before they cause conditions such as cancer.
Bukaba says adults and children below the age of five should be given the vegetable.
He explains that this is because celery is rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants, which aid in boosting the immune system and makes it more active and efficient.
“If children consume this vegetable, because of its abundance in Vitamin C, it helps reduce the risk of catching a common cold, as well as protects them against a variety of other diseases,” he says.
Uwayagiye says the presence of coumarin in celery can also provide relief from migraines. Also, celery extracts are effective in treating arthritis and muscular pains.
“Celery can help treat various diabetic conditions because of its high fibre content,” he says.
One can extract juice from celery, and when drunk, especially before meals, it helps in weight loss. This is because it is low in calories and is filling due to its high fibre content. Therefore, it helps reduce the tendency to overeat and helps one keep weight in control, Uwiragiye says.