March Madness: Score big with celery

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer

As March makes its entrance into 2016, we may feel as if we are walking on eggshells.  Our minds are ready for spring: park that parka, kick off the boots, hide the hats and toss the turtlenecks!  However, the month of March is much like a political “swing state” in that it can cause the flowers to bloom with an early arrival of spring, or just as easily bring us one more snowstorm. We’ll just have to keep an eye on Mother Nature and wait it out.

Lest we deem this month fickle for its unpredictable weather, there are also many fun reasons to embrace March, aside from Easter and St. Patrick’s Day.  March is National Celery Month, and what a veggie this is to celebrate!  Those lovely green stalks can apparently do more than provide a place to spread peanut butter and top with raisins (not that there’s anything wrong with “ants on a log”).

Those of you who are regular followers of this blog already know how I feel about anti-oxidants, one of nature’s greatest gifts to mankind. Recent research has indicated that celery contains substances called non-starch polysaccharides; these chemicals, most notably apiuman, play an important role in anti-inflammatory generation within the body.  If you happen to be an avid exerciser (which I do advocate, of course!) your body may already be familiar with inflammation following a very intense workout.  Imagine being able to alleviate or lessen the severity of this without reaching for the bottle of Advil. 

I am often asked whether heating certain foods will diminish their health properties.  Luckily, there is a way to preserve the all-important elements of celery if you are not a fan of raw vegetables.  Instead of boiling or blanching the celery, which can cause a loss of up to 41% of its anti-oxidants, steaming this vegetable preserves as much as 99% of the desired nutrients, even after 10 minutes of steaming.  

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A single cup of diced raw celery offers up a whopping 32% of the US RDA of Vitamin K. That is one vitamin that does not receive much press, yet serves many important roles within the body.  Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is most well known for the significance it has in blood clotting. However, this nutrient is also necessary for building strong bones, since it is seen as an adjunct to Vitamin D.  Recent research has also indicated that consuming adequate quantities of Vitamin K may aid in preventing heart disease.

There are many fun and creative ways to incorporate celery into your daily meal plans, whether at home or on-the-run.  Celery stalks dipped in either salsa or hummus makes a great late afternoon snack without adding many calories.  If you are seeking something even quicker, here is a terrific and tasty post-workout rehydrating shake, complete with electrolytes for those days when rigorous exercise has caused an excess of water loss through sweating ~

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 ounces coconut water
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 lime

DIRECTIONS:

  • Using a vegetable juicer or a blender, combine the celery, cucumber and lime until smooth. Pour in the coconut water and gently stir juice to blend. 

Optional additions: protein powder, yogurt, ice cubes…be creative!

(This beverage may separate over time, so enjoy promptly after blending.)  

Embrace March this year by crunching on some fresh, nutritious celery.  And go ahead, take a delicious waltz down memory lane, revisit your childhood days and prepare “ants on a log.”