Also known as turnip-root celery, celery root or knob celery, celeriac (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum) is a variety of celery grown especially for its prominent, edible stem resembling a bulbous root. Low in fat and calories and rich in vitamins and dietary minerals, celeriac makes a nutritious root vegetable. Celeriac boasts a generous nutritional content, providing greater amounts of vitamins and dietary minerals than its stem-counterpart, celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce).
Celeriac is a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc, but also vitamins C, K, B1, B2, B3, B6 and folate. It also contains decent amounts of dietary fiber, contributing to constipation relief, good intestinal motility and cardiovascular health. Moreover, polyacetylenes found in celeriac and other members of the Apiaceae family are currently under research as in vitro and in vivo studies found they display toxic effects against various types of cancer, colon cancer and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in particular.
What does celeriac look like? Celeriac is a variety of celery with an enormous bulb-shaped, light brown to creamy white, knobbly, root-like stem called hypocotyl. The variety has tiny, fibrous roots attached to the bulbous-stem, beautiful green stems and leaves. Celeriac has a tough, hard to peel skin and crisp, creamy white flesh. The younger the vegetable, the softer the skin and the more tender its flesh. If left to mature, the variety can easily exceed 1 kg in weight.
What does celeriac taste like? Celeriac tastes a lot like celery: crisp, fresh, firm, with a distinctive celery flavor and slight sweet-peppery aftertaste. If left to mature and grow to significant sizes, the vegetable takes on a woody texture. Immature celeriac, however, is quite tender and considerably more flavorful. Celeriac roots, root-like stem called hypocotyl and leaves are all edible. However, only the root-like hypocotyl is of great culinary interest as it is the most prominent part of the vegetable. The vegetable is edible both raw and cooked. Raw celeriac is often grated and used to spice up more ordinary dishes. Roasted, stewed or mashed celeriac has a fine flavor and creamy texture with a barely noticeable sweet, earthy aftertaste.
While celery is rich in vitamin K and several other antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, celeriac boasts a generous vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin K content, as well as good amounts of phosphorus, potassium, manganese and magnesium, making it significantly more nutritious than its big-stemmed relative. Additionally, this bulky root has been found to possess rather impressive antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer (antiproliferative and cytotoxic) properties.
Here are 7 reasons why celeriac is good for you:
1) Encourages weight loss. With 88 g of water, 1.9 g of dietary fiber and only 42 kcal/100 g of flesh, celeriac greatly encourages weight loss. Not only does it supply good amounts of nutrients in exchange for very little calories, but it also contains dietary fiber which prevents excess fats from being absorbed at the intestinal level and keeps you feeling full for longer. Overall, celeriac is ideal for losing weight and makes a great substitute for potatoes, unless you are allergic to it.
2) Improves digestion and relieves constipation. Dietary fiber is basically indigestible plant material which passes through our intestines unchanged. Dietary fiber binds to fats, water and already digested food, forming a sizable bowel movement. The bulkier the bowel movement, the faster the intestines expel it, resulting in regular bowel movements and constipation relief. By keeping us regular, dietary fiber regulates the activity of our digestive system, improving its overall functioning.
3) Supports cardiovascular health. First of all, the dietary fiber in celeriac binds to excess fat we have ingested, indirectly lowering the amounts of fats our intestines absorb and our blood lipid levels (LDL cholesterol, triglycerides). Secondly, celeriac is a great source of vitamin K (41 µg, around 40% of the RDA). Vitamin K ensures calcium goes into our bones and teeth and does not deposit in other areas such as heart valves or artery walls, thus contributing to preventing arterial calcification and athersoclerosis, conditions that put us at risk for stroke or heart attacks.
Thirdly, celeriac provides good amounts of potassium (300 mg) and small amounts of magnesium (20 mg). Potassium regulates body fluids and blood pressure, while magnesium supports the activity of the heart muscle.
4) Improves bone health. Celeriac is rich in vitamin K, a heart and bone-friendly nutrient that ensures the calcium we ingest either through diet or supplementation is deposited into bones and teeth, not joints, heart valves or artery walls. Vitamin K also preserves bone integrity by ensuring osteoclasts (bone cells that break down bone tissue in order to repair it) don’t reabsorb too much bone tissue and leave us with a frail bone structure. Moreover, celeriac contain 115 mg of phosphorus, a dietary mineral that regulates calcium levels in the blood, with direct effects on bone health.
5) Boosts energy levels. Celeriac is a modest source of carbohydrates, macronutrients our body requires for almost-instant energy production. It also contain generous amounts of vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid (B5) and trace amounts of niacin, riboflavin and thiamine, all of which are essential for macronutrient synthesis resulting in energy production. Low energy levels, weakness and fatigue often indicate a B vitamin deficiency.
6) Boasts anti-inflammatory activity. Celeriac contains several powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients, notably vitamins C and K. Vitamin K has been found to reduce Interleukin-6 levels (a major inflammation marker), while vitamin C is known to reduce inflammation overall as well as detoxify the liver and protect cells and DNA against free radical damage and potentially cancerous mutations.
7) Anticancer properties. According to research, celeriac contains biologically active compounds called polyacetylenes which have exhibited potent anticancer effects against acute lymphoblastic leukemia, cell line CEM-C7H2 (Polyacetylenes from the Apiaceae vegetables carrot, celery, fennel, parsley, and parsnip and their cytotoxic activities).
The polyacetylenes in celeriac with antiproliferative and cytotoxic activity are panaxydiol, falcarinol, falcarindiol and 8-o-methylfalcarindiol and are believed to hold great chemopreventive potential against other cancer forms such as bladder and colon cancer.
Caution. But as healthy as it may be, celeriac is not for everyone. In addition to triggering allergic reactions in a great number of people, celeriac is not recommended to people taking anticoagulant medication as its high vitamin K content can encourage blood clot formation. Pregnant women are also advised to monitor their intake closely.
Moreover, the vegetable contains several biologically active constitutents called furanocoumarins (bergapten, psoralen, isopimpinellin, xanthotoxin) which can trigger phototoxicity, making skin extremely sensitive to ultraviolet light. This occurs when the person comes into contact with furanocoumarins, via ingestion or topical administration, and then exposes him or herself to UV radiation from sunlight, tanning beds, etc. resulting in a severe form of sunburn (itching, redness, blisters) which may take weeks or even months to heal.