Metabolic syndrome is on the rise due to fast-food diets and inactivity, but you can fight back by adding more celery to your diet. This unassuming vegetable contains a surprising blend of antioxidants, flavonoids and other phytochemicals that work together, tackling metabolic syndrome via multiple pathways
Nature is full of powerful compounds that can boost your health, even in vegetables as unassuming as celery — and for conditions as complex and prevalent as metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is better described as a cluster of risk factors that can increase your risk of multiple chronic diseases, including heart disease, arthritis, chronic kidney disease and cancer. The risk factors — abdominal obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and dyslipidemia (abnormal levels of fats in your blood) — combine to seriously undermine your health, even leading to early death in some cases.[i]
Metabolic syndrome is on the rise — spreading globally — fueled by an increasingly popular fast-food diet, along with decreases in physical activity.[ii] In the U.S., metabolic syndrome increased from 1988 to 2012, at which time more than one-third of U.S. adults met the criteria to be diagnosed with this potentially debilitating condition.[iii]
The good news is that, as researchers wrote in Phytotherapy Research, “lifestyle adjustment and weight loss have a vital role,”[iv] which brings me to the importance of celery — a veggie that offers multiple beneficial effects on metabolic syndrome.
Celery Compounds Decrease Oxidative Damage and Inflammation
An excess of reactive oxygen species (oxidative stress) is a major contributing factor to metabolic syndrome.[v] Everything from poor diet to exposure to environmental pollutants can lead to excessive oxidative stress in your system, but celery (Apium graveolens) contains a wealth of phytochemicals and antioxidants that can decrease oxidative damage. This includes substances such as:
Also impressive, celery contains phytochemicals known to decrease proinflammatory cytokines and inflammation, along with flavonoids that suppress cardiovascular inflammation.[vi] This is important, as low-grade inflammation — the type caused by poor diet and physical inactivity — is linked to metabolic syndrome.[vii]
The duo of oxidative stress and inflammation is primarily responsible for increasing heart disease and atherosclerosis, or hardening and narrowing of the arteries, in people with metabolic syndrome, and celery compounds are effective against both.
Celery Lowers Blood Pressure
Celery can also benefit the high blood pressure often seen along with metabolic syndrome, due to compounds called phthalides (3-n-butylphthalide). Phthalides not only cause celery’s odor but also help to expand smooth muscle, helping to lower blood pressure.[viii]
Anecdotally, celery’s blood-pressure lowering effects were noticed by one set of researchers when a family member’s blood pressure declined after eating one-quarter pound of the crunchy vegetable daily for one week.[ix]
Celery Is Antidiabetic
Luteolin, a flavone flavonoid found in celery, is anti-obesity and anti-diabetic, helping to suppress inflammation.[xi] In an animal study, a luteolin-enriched supplement even prevented obesity and related metabolic disorders, such as dyslipidemia, insulin resistance and inflammation — the same ones seen along with metabolic syndrome.[xii]
“[T]he most active ingredients in celery … have shown hypolipidemic, antidiabetic, and hypotensive properties,”[xiii] researchers explained, adding clear-cut support for adding this versatile vegetable to your regular diet.
Celery Fights Cancer, Boosts Brain Health
When you add whole foods like celery to your diet, the benefits are far-reaching — a sentiment that’s been understood since ancient times. Traditionally, celery has been used for stomach problems and as a heart tonic, as well as to treat joint problems.[xiv]
Modern research has shown that beyond its role in fighting metabolic syndrome, celery also contains compounds, like the flavone apigenin, that have anticancer activity.[xv] It’s also heralded for being protective to the digestive tract, including protecting the gastric mucosa from ulcers, and can reduce high triglycerides, another hallmark of metabolic syndrome.[xvi]
Further, due to celery’s anti-inflammatory prowess, celery may improve cognitive health by dampening inflammatory cytokines in the brain.[xvii] So while celery doesn’t get nearly the attention as flashier vegetables like kale and broccoli, it’s earned a spot on the list of superfoods worth eating a lot of.
How to Enjoy Celery
Part of what makes celery so lovable, aside from its healthy nature, is its extreme versatility. Add it to salads, soups and stews. Juice it or eat it alone as a snack — the uses for celery are only limited by your imagination. If you choose to cook celery, steaming it may help retain the antioxidants better than boiling or blanching.[xviii]
When choosing celery, look for crisp, bright green stalks — the fresher the better. Also choose organic celery to avoid exposure to pesticides, although it’s worth noting that one of celery’s additional claims to fame is helping to protect against pesticide-induced toxicity.[xix]
Not a fan of celery? Not to worry, as metabolic syndrome responds to a wide range of natural foods and lifestyle changes. Pomegranate, rosemary, coffee and nuts are just a few examples of foods that, like celery, are beneficial for metabolic syndrome.
Combined with exercise and other positive lifestyle moves, such as avoiding sugary beverages and artificial sweeteners, you can support your health and even ward off chronic diseases like metabolic syndrome. View the latest evidence on natural substances for metabolic syndrome here.
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