How Celery Benefits Your Nervous System
by Elissa Michaud, Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Yoga Instructor
I'm one of those people who loves foods that crunch. As a kid, it was all about the snacks. The crunchier the better - potato chips, cheezies, peanut brittle, sesame seed snacks, mmmm - remember those? Now, as an ever youthful adult and a holistic nutritionist with a crunch fettish, it's now about healthier choices. And, while the aforementioned snacks are mouth hunger satisfying, their nervous system enhancing properties are at best questionable! I can't think of a food that offers more crunch than celery, while packing a powerful nutritional punch and nervous system support. Plus it's boat like shape is perfect for loading all kinds of healthy, tasty toppings from hummus to sunflower seed butter.
SCelery is hydrating and promotes alkalinity, balancing the body's PH. It also boasts an extreme nutrient line up. The leaves are high in vitamin A and the stems contain plenty of B1, B2, B6, C, potassium, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and vitamin K. One of it's biggest boosts come from the natural sodium content that is both living and soluble, and needed at all times in every cell for maximum cellular efficiency and communication. Juicing celery gives you a nice fat dose of these nutrients and natural sodium. When the body is supplied with the right nutrients, minerals, electrolytes, and PH is balanced, the nervous system is supported and we are relaxed.
Other positive effects on the nervous system come from the natural oils and plant hormones present in celery that calm and help regulate the nervous system and reduce insomnia. Celery fosters the correct balance and acidity of digestive enzymes in the stomach, contributing and facilitating the production of stomach acids. Say goodbye to acid reflux, undigested food and digestive upset! It even contains compounds that alleviate constipation. Given that the lining of our digestive tract is comprised of neurons and has a strong an immediate connection to the brain, when the digestion is healthy, the mind is balanced and happy. In other words, our gut reaction becomes sophisticated and intuitive; we make better choices and cause less stress for our nervous systems to deal with.
Other benefits of celery and celery juice include eight families of anti-cancer compounds shown to stop the growth of tumour cells and block damaging prostaglandins. It's proven to lower cholesterol and blood pressure by 12 - 14% by relaxing smooth muscle and arteries, (although surprisingly it has no effect on low blood pressure). And how about those anti-inflammatory polyacetylenes and anti-brain inflammatory phytonutrient luteolin, a definite benefit for those with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Celery also facilitates the elimination of toxins, and gall/kidney stones.
Yogi Bhajan who brought Kundalini Yoga to the west discussed the natural insulin compounds that are available in celery. These mimic the activity of our own insulin, thereby benefiting conditions of high blood sugar and to counter the effects of over-indulgence of carbs or sweets. Chronic inflammation and high blood pressure/sugar all create daily stress to the nervous system that once reversed, takes the pressure off; making our Shivasana, well, more Shivasana.
Yogis have always understood that the way to a peaceful mind and to support deep meditative practice that it's important to nourish the nervous system. The yogic approach to diet is based on Ayurveda with it's a bounty of natural whole food recipes abundant with flavour and spice. The Ayurvedic approach also considers the relationship of food to the seasons and each person's unique constitution known as Dosha. While juicing is great in warmer weather and for certain doshas, it is not as supportive for others. Cold foods both in temperature and quality or nature, are not as suitable during the cooler months. Winter is a great time for adding lots of celery to more nourishing root vegetable soups and broths, or as a gently warmed and blended soup by itself so as to preserve the nutrients. This warm nutrient dense nourishment relaxes the nervous system and heals at a deep level.
Food is amazing and potent medicine. Yoga is a powerful technology. For more fun with yoga and nutrition for the nervous and endocrine systems, check out the 10 week program starting at Sooke Yoga (SookeYoga.com) on January 19th - Tuesdays from 2 - 4 pm