Umbellifereae, say what?
Celery and Fennel are a part of the Umbellifereae family of plants which also include parsley, dill, and coriander. Since we already covered parsley, dill, and coriander in a previous week on spices I will concentrate on celery and fennel this week.
Celery and fennel are both nutritious powerhouses and have long been considered medicinal. They are both extremely low in calories, high in fiber and phytonutrients. I will concentrate on each one separately.
Celery – In history celery was first used as a medicine before it was used as a food. The most prominent medicinal of use of celery is in treating and preventing high blood pressure. The Chinese have used celery for centuries for high blood pressure and there is now evidence that has confirmed its usefulness. The phthalide compounds in celery relax the muscles of the arteries that regulate blood pressure, therefore increasing blood flow. And celery is a good source of potassium which is necessary for maintaining healthy blood pressure. Accordingly celery is good for preventing cardiovascular disease. The folate and vitamin B6 guard against elevated levels of homocysteine thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It has also been associated with promoting lower cholesterol levels.
The medicinal properties of celery are many including protecting against chronic disease and enhancing the immune system. It is high in Vitamin C and antioxidant compounds which help eliminate harmful cells, including cancer cells. The acetylenic compounds in celery have been associated with stopping the growth of tumor cells.
Other nutrients in celery include calcium, magnesium, molybdenum, vitamin A, B1, B2, manganese, phosphorous, iron, and tryptophan, all for only 19 calories per cup! And the silicon in celery is great for bone, joint, and connective tissue health.
If that weren’t enough celery is also great for weight and appetite control. It is said that at the end of a meal it can reduce cravings for carbs. Chewing celery stimulates saliva and therefore aids in digestion.
Celery is frequently used in juicing. While juicing fruits is not highly recommended because of the loss of fiber and increased sugar content, juicing celery actually is healthy. Although eating celery whole or using it for cooking and flavoring dishes maintains its healthy fiber, the concentrated nutrients in celery can be obtained from the juice in a concentrated form.