March 30, 2010

Is Celery Really a Nutritionally-Void Food?

Celery gets a bad rap - for a lot of bad reasons. Maybe you've read that celery is a "negative calorie" food - as in you burn more calories chewing a stalk of celery than you actually get from the celery itself. Another constant comment, "oh celery...that's a waste: just water and nothing else good for you." So what's the deal - and how does celery really stack up from a nutrition standpoint?

First of all - celery is a very low calorie food. One medium eight-inch stalk has only 6 calories. Put another way, if you were to cut up and eat one cup of chopped celery, you'd get about 16 calories. That 16 calories might not sound like much - and it's not - but for almost no caloric intake, you get 1.6 grams of dietary fiber. Not bad considering you'd have to eat 1.5 cups of romaine lettuce, 2 cups of raw spinach or 2 cups of chopped iceberg to get the same amount of fiber.

Some other benefits of celery:
  • High water content helps with hydration
  • Naturally low in salt
  • Good source of vitamins A & C
  • Cholesterol and fat free
  • Low calorie means you can munch freely
The Fruits & Veggies More Matters campaign offers ten ways to enjoy celery, including:
  • Stir-fry celery
  • Top salads with celery
  • Add to salsa, soups or coleslaw
Celery is available year-round. Try using celery as a base for low-fat chicken salad or tuna salad instead of bread. If you're looking to lose weight, celery is a great, low-calorie snack (provided you don't load it up with peanut butter!) Eating two cups of chopped celery gives you more than 10% of your daily recommended intake for fiber - not bad considering you get that for less than 2% of your daily caloric budget (based on an 1,800 calorie per day meal plan for weight loss).