Celery is referred to as both an herb and a vegetable. It has a crunchy stalk and unusual flavor, and is most commonly used in soups, stews and salads. It is very low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals, making it an ideal diet food. In particular, its high potassium content offers many health benefits, including the possible reduction of cholesterol levels. However, a direct link between potassium and lower cholesterol has not been established.
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Celery: Nutritional Facts
Celery is high in vitamins A and C, and the B vitamin compounds folate and choline. It also contains reasonable amounts of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. However, its high potassium levels may be of most relevance to its effect on cholesterol. A strong link between a healthy intake of potassium and lower blood pressure has been suggested by studies such as those carried out at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands and published in the September 13, 2010, issue of the "Archives of Internal Medicine." Celery contains 263 mg of potassium per cup
Facts About Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your body. It helps form cell membranes and is required for the production of certain hormones and vitamin D. It is produced in your liver, but is also found in foods such as meat, dairy foods, egg yolks, poultry and fish. Eating too much dietary cholesterol can increase your blood cholesterol, which can lead to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, and heart disease. Vegetarian food sources do not contain cholesterol.
"Good" and "Bad" Cholesterol
Cholesterol and blood do not mix. In order for cholesterol to travel through your blood, it is coated with a layer of protein to make a lipoprotein. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, carries most of the cholesterol in your blood. Too much LDL cholesterol can cause a build-up of fat in your arteries and is known as "bad" cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol, helps remove cholesterol from your blood, preventing fat build-up. For this reason it is known as "good" cholesterol.
Potassium and Blood Pressure
Eating a diet rich in potassium may help to lower your blood pressure. In their investigation of potassium consumption in 21 countries, Linda van Mierlo and colleagues at Wageningen University found that the daily potassium intake in the Western world varies between 1.7 g and 3.7 grams, considerably lower than the 4.7 grams recommended for optimum health. The research suggests that raising your potassium intake to this level would be as beneficial to your blood pressure as lowering salt intake to recommended levels. Too much sodium in your diet can also contribute to high blood pressure.
Although there is no established link between potassium and cholesterol levels, it does provide other health benefits apart from lowering blood pressure. Potassium is necessary for digestive, cardio and muscular function, and it supports bone health. A diet naturally rich in potassium may help prevent stroke, according to The University of Maryland Medical Center. Diet supplements of potassium do not appear to give the same results.
Good sources of potassium include meat, some types of fish, dairy products and some fruits, vegetables and legumes such as artichoke hearts, avocados, bananas, kidney beans and lentils. Vegetarians and vegans typically eat higher levels of potassium and have much lower cholesterol levels. It is possible, however, that the combination of plant foods generally eaten by vegetarians accounts for their lower cholesterol levels rather than the amount of potassium in their diet.
It is important to maintain the correct balance of potassium in your body. This is dependent on the amount of sodium and magnesium in your blood, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Too much potassium is known as hyperkalemia. Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach irritation, nausea, muscle weakness, slowed heart rate and abnormal heart rhythm. People most at risk include the elderly and those with impaired renal function. Do not take a potassium supplement without first consulting your medical practitioner.