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Eating Smart

Celery Doesn't Have 'Negative Calories,' but Lots of Positives

October 07, 2002|SHELDON MARGEN and DALE A. OGAR | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Like urban legends, some food myths will not die. One such myth is that celery contains "negative calories," (that is, you would have to expend more calories to eat a stalk of celery than you would get from it). Celery is extremely low in calories, with just 6 per 8-inch stalk, but no food has negative calories.

Like cucumbers and iceberg lettuce, celery is almost entirely water, about 95%. Four ounces, or about three ribs, of raw celery contain about 13% of the vitamin C and about 10% of the fiber you should get each day, along with a good supply of potassium. Celery is fairly high in sodium (35 milligrams per stalk), but not so high that people on low-sodium diets should worry.

When you buy celery, look for a glossy surface and a light color. The darker varieties have more nutrients but are also stringier and not so tasty.

The leaves on a bunch of celery should be green and not wilted. The ribs should be firm, without cracks or bruises.

Look for any areas that appear to have been trimmed to hide bruises or rotting. If the celery is damaged, it will not keep and is potentially dangerous because of a natural carcinogen celery produces in very small quantities. Damaged celery produces more of this material.

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Dr. Sheldon Margen is a professor of public health at UC Berkeley; Dale A. Ogar is managing editor of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter. Send questions to Dale Ogar, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-7360, or e-mail to daogar@wellnessletter.com.

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