Three Sides to Celery

Celery as diet food is so passé. Open your eyes to celery's sexier side.

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If chomping on celery gives you flashbacks of your dieting days, it's time to wash the slate clean and think of celery in a whole new light. Sure, we know it's low in cals, but it isn't just a crunchy, "diet" friendly snack. Celery is loaded with health benefits that it rarely gets recognized for. Plus, it tastes pretty great in all sorts of non-crudité ways. Celery contains active compounds called phthalides, which can help relax the muscles around arteries and allow those vessels to dilate. This creates a little more room in the arteries, allowing blood to flow smoothly, helping to lower blood pressure. Among the many phytonutrients found in this stringy vegetable, one in particular called luteolin may reduce brain inflammation and help improve memory. Celery also has a sexy side: It's loaded with pheromones (androstenone and androstenol), and when men chomp on these stalks they give off a subtle odor that may turn women on.

Keri Glassman
Keri Glassman

Now that I have sold you on the healthy side of celery, I am going to give you three new ways to incorporate it into your life—with taste! It's time to leave the days of endlessly chomping on celery stalks behind you. Most people buy celery simply for the stalk, but their pretty leaves, ugly roots, and seeds have a place on your plate too. In fact, with just a bundle of celery, you can add to an entire day's worth of meals. Here are three new sides to celery: a snack vehicle, a surprising soup ingredient, and a flavorful seasoning that can spice up any savory dish.

Zesty Tomato and Celery Gazpacho

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

• 2 medium zucchinis, sliced

• 2 celery stalks, sliced

• 1 cup frozen corn, thawed

• ½ cup thinly sliced onions

• ½ cup crushed tomatoes 

• 2 tablespoons parsley

• 2 tablespoons lemon juice

• 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

• ¾ teaspoon garlic powder

• ½ teaspoon ground cumin

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Thanks to the infamous Bloody Mary, we all know and enjoy the delicious flavor combo of tomatoes and celery—tomatoes are sweet, juicy, and deep in flavor, while celery is zesty, slightly bitter, and light in flavor. This gazpacho takes both flavor profiles outside the cocktail glass and into the culinary world creating a nutritious dish the whole family can enjoy!

Tuna Salad Celery Boats

Yields about 3 cups.

• 2 6-ounce cans of tuna, drained

• 2 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt

• 3 tablespoons lemon juice

• 1 tablespoon parsley

• 2 tablespoons capers

• 3 celery stalks, cut into bite-size pieces

1. Combine all ingredients, except the capers and celery, in a blender and pureé until smooth. 

2. Pour mixture into a bowl, add the capers, and mix with a fork. 

3. Distribute the tuna dip amongst the celery sticks.

This dish gives a whole new outlook on the typical tuna sandwich. Not only does this recipe make for a delicious snack, it also gives you loads of protein with each crunchy, crispy bite. Enjoy it in between meals for a tasty energy boost, or even as a healthy alternative to the traditional chip and dip.

Celery Spice

• Bunch of celery, with lots of leaves

• 1 Mason jar

1. Remove celery leaves; wash and drain them.

2. Place them on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven on very low heat. Remove when dry (about 30-40 minutes).

3. Crumble and store them in a mason jar.

People often discard the fragrant green leaves of the celery stalk without giving them a second thought. The leaves are actually twice as flavorful as the fresh stalk and add a nice earthy flavor to savory dishes, such as vegetable soups, poultry, and seafood dishes.

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and president of Keri Glassman, Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City, and Nutritious Life Meals, a gourmet, healthy, daily diet delivery program available across the U.S. She is a member of Women's Health Magazine's advisory board and has authored three books: Slim Calm Sexy Diet, The O2 Diet, and The Snack Factor Diet. Her expertise is regularly featured on the Today show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live, among others, and she hosts "A Little Bit Better" on Youtube's Livestrong Woman channel. Read more of Keri's tips every day on Facebook!