Many dishes wouldn't taste the same without the earthy, peppery flavor of the humble celery (Apium graveolens). Used in soups, salads, braises and stews, the versatility of this vegetable makes it a great addition to your kitchen repertoire.
As a pet owner, you're probably wondering if celery has uses for your animal companion, too. The answer is yes. Celery can be given to your pet as a snack or treat, or it can be added to your pet's nutritionally adequate, species-appropriate diet. Continue reading to learn more about the nutritional value of celery and how you should feed it to your pet.
Did You Know?
Celery is one of the "holy trinity" of French cooking, along with onions and carrots. The combination of these three aromatic vegetables is called "mirepoix," the flavor base for many French dishes.1
These Antioxidants Provide Other Health Benefits, Too
Celery contains a number of phytochemicals with powerful antioxidant properties, including "caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid, apigenin, luteolin, tannin, saponin, and kaempferol." These compounds may help reduce your pet's risk for oxidative damage, which is at the root of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.2
Aside from their free radical-fighting properties, these phytochemicals also exhibit other pharmacological activities. For instance, apigenin is considered one of the most renowned phenolic compounds, as it has "countless nutritional and organoleptic characteristics."3
An animal study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology showed that apigenin may help regulate hyperglycemia, lipid peroxidation and thyroid dysfunction.4 It's also been shown to have neuroprotective and cognition-enhancing properties.5
Kaempferol, on the other hand, is reported to exhibit anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, antimicrobial and antidiabetic properties. A study published in Lipids in Health Disease showed that kaempferol's effect on inflammatory molecules helped relieve atherosclerosis in animal models.6
Beta-Carotene Is Essential for the Eyes, Bones and Immunity
Celery provides your pet 20.2 micrograms of beta-carotene for every 1-tablespoon serving.7 This carotenoid exhibits potent antioxidant properties and helps modulate immune responses.8
Beta-carotene is the precursor for vitamin A, which is necessary for your pet's bone growth, reproductive health, cellular differentiation, immune response and visual health.9
Research also shows that beta-carotene may help stimulate the cell-mediated and humoral immune responses of dogs.10 Even older dogs with lower immunological responses experienced significant improvements after their levels of beta-carotene were increased.11
Celery Contains an Array of Essential B Vitamins
Celery is a good source of several B vitamins, including folate, vitamin B6 and riboflavin.12 Vitamin B6, which is present at 6 micrograms per 1-tablespoon serving of celery,13 is important for brain development, nervous system function and immune health.14 In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found dogs that are deficient in vitamin B6 became anemic and experienced cardiac dysfunction.15
In terms of folate, your pet can obtain 2.7 micrograms of this nutrient per 1-tablespoon serving of celery.16 Folate is essential for normal metabolic function, DNA synthesis and cell growth.17 Riboflavin, on the other hand, is vital for proper growth and development.18 A tablespoon serving of celery contains 4 micrograms of this vitamin.19
Celery Fun Facts
The ancient Greeks and Romans used to celebrate the victories of their athletes by giving them wreaths made of celery. Woven celery garlands were also found in some Egyptian tombs.20
Vitamin C Plays Various Roles in Your Pet's Health
Another notable antioxidant found in celery is vitamin C, which is present at 0.232 milligrams per 1-tablespoon serving of this vegetable.21 According to an article published in Topics in Companion Animal Medicine:22
"Vitamin C is synthesized in the liver in most species, including dogs and cats, and is widely distributed through body tissues. Vitamin C has an important physiologic role in numerous metabolic functions including tissue growth and maintenance, amelioration of oxidative stress, and immune regulation."
Decreased vitamin C levels have been linked to stress and illness.23 Research suggests that vitamin C may be a "potential life-saving treatment" for critical conditions like septic shock in cats and dogs,24 and may also help protect joint cartilage in dogs.25
Celery Is a Good Source of Dietary Fiber
You may have heard that pets only need a small amount of fiber in their diet. While that's certainly correct, that doesn't mean the fiber-rich celery is bad for your animal companion.
Misinformation about many healthy fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds abounds on the internet. This is because websites have labeled all risks (such as the risk of over-consumption causing gastrointestinal issues, or choking on too large of pieces or pits) as "toxicities," which isn't true but has managed to confuse millions of pet lovers, nonetheless.
In the case of celery, some websites warn against feeding this veggie because it's "stringy" (remedied by simply chopping it up into bite-sized pieces). Celery's fiber content can help improve your pet's gut health and promote regular bowel movement. But make sure to use common sense when feeding it to your pet — slice the stalk in small pieces and don't feed it to them in excessive quantities. Keep in mind that healthy treats like this should comprise less than 10% of your pet's daily caloric intake.
Where Does Celery Grow?
The ancestor of modern celery is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region about 3,000 years ago. Colonists introduced this vegetable into the U.S., where it's now grown year-round. California and Michigan are the top producers of celery in the U.S.26
As Much as Possible, Choose Organic Celery
Finely diced or chopped, there are many ways to incorporate celery into your pet's meals. This crunchy vegetable not only provides health-boosting phytochemicals and vitamins, but it can also help freshen up your pet's breath.
However, keep in mind that celery is ranked No. 11 in the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Dirty Dozen list of conventionally grown produce that often have high amounts of pesticide residue.27 It's important to look for organic, "spray-free" celery from your local farmers market to keep your pet from being exposed to harmful chemicals. If you can't find organic celery in your area, you can feed them what's available, but make sure that you rinse it well.