Celery and celery seed are often overlooked as health-promoting foods but can help to lower a high blood pressure. With a high water content, celery stalks are low in calories and have a mild but distinctive flavour due to their unique antioxidant polyphenols. This flavour is more pronounced in celery leaves and celery seeds which are also used in Chinese medicine to treat both high blood pressure and stroke.
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How celery lowers blood pressure
Celery contains potassium which helps to lower blood pressure by flushing sodium from the body, via the kidneys. The main blood pressure-lowering effect of celery comes from its high content of natural nitrites, however, similar to those found in beet root. These dilate blood vessels to help lower blood pressure.
Celery stalks also contain antioxidant polyphenols that can lower blood pressure, including apigenin, luteolin, quercetin, kaempferol and lignans. Celery stalks provide 14mg per 100g of these polyphenols, while celery leaves provide 130mg per 100g. The real treasure house is in celery seeds, however, which contain 2,100mg polyphenols per 100g weight – although they are only eaten in small quantities. One teaspoon of celery seed provides around 10mg polyphenols.
Celery and high blood pressure
A study looking for links between blood pressure and vegetable intake among almost 2,200 Americans found a significant link between eating raw vegetables and a reduced risk of high blood pressure. Among 12 commonly eaten raw vegetables, celery, tomatoes, carrots, and scallions (spring onions) were each significantly associated with having a lower blood pressure.
Celery seed and blood pressure
Celery seed have a warm, pungent, flavour that is stronger than celery stalks due to its volatile oil, including limonene.
Celery seed also contains concentrated amounts of 3-n-butyl phthalide, a substance that gives celery its characteristic scent and has also been found to lower blood pressure in preliminary studies by up to 14%.
In Chinese medicine, celery seed is used as an herbal medicine to treat people with high blood pressure.
A pilot study involving 30 people with high blood pressure found that taking 150mg celery seed extracts per day for 6 weeks lowered blood pressure by 4.6/4.5 mmHg after 3 weeks, and by 8.9/8.5 mmHg after 6 weeks, although there was no placebo group with which to compare these results.
Celery seed and stroke
Celery seed is also used in Chinese medicine to treat stroke, with 3-n-butylphthalide now identified as the substance that can protect brain cells from some of the effects of low oxygen levels.
A clinical trial involving 573 people with acute stroke showed that, when used within 48 hours of onset of an ischemic stroke, patients in whom a synthetic form of 3-n-butylphthalide was added to usual treatment for 90 days had significantly better outcomes than those not receiving it.
This celery seed derived treatment is now a clinically approved anti-ischemic and neuroprotective agent in China.
Celery seed extracts are available in supplement form, sometimes combined with other beneficial blood pressure lowering herbs such as Montmorency cherry.
How to add celery to your diet
Celery brings out the flavour in other foods, especially meats, as its polyphenols stimulate the umami or savoury taste buds on your tongue. This makes it a great addition to low salt recipes to lift their flavour. Celery also helps to accentuate sweeter flavours such as chicken.
In Italy, finely chopped onions, celery, carrots, garlic and parsley are cooked down in olive oil to make soffritto – the basis of many a fine ragu. A similar flavouring mix is used in France, and known as mirepoix whose traditional ratio is two parts onions to one part carrots and one part celery.
Celery crudités make a great snack with which to scoop up dips such as humus, broad bean puree or by itself or a crunchy topping for a salad. Add celery to soups, stews, chilli, pasta sauces, and to reduce the amount of meat you need for recipes such as meatballs and burgers.
Although celery stalks last a long time in the fridge, they are best consumed within 7 days as their nutritional value decreases with age.
If you don’t like the strings on the outside of celery, here’s an easy way to remove them before adding chopped celery to salads:
How to add celery seed to your diet
Celery seed are available whole or ground with salt. While you need to cut back on salt when you have high blood pressure, there are times when you need a small amount and adding it to food in the form of celery salt may help to reduce some of its adverse effects on blood pressure.
Celery seed can be used in all dishes that require celery stalks and has the ability to stimulate ‘umami’ taste buds to enhanced the flavour of any dish.
Celery seed is traditionally used in soups, sauces, pickles, and chutneys, or added to any cabbage, tomato or meat dishes.
You can also add a teaspoon of celery seed to savoury dishes, such as this stir-fry celery with cashew nuts.
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.