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For Immediate Release: September 14, 2009

NW: Questions about sodium in celery, veggie pizza, crab cakes

Week of October 12, 2009
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

Nutrition Wise
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Is it true that celery is high in sodium and should be limited by those with high blood pressure?

A: Increased blood pressure from celery is only likely if you dip it in salt or high-sodium dip. Two medium stalks of celery contain about 64 milligrams (mg) of sodium, which is higher than the 2 to 20 mg found in a serving of most unseasoned raw vegetables. But that doesn’t make it high-sodium. That’s still only a fraction of the recommended limit. The place to be cautious is with vegetables like pickles, another choice known for its low calories, that typically contain about 570 mg of sodium in a similar portion – one-fourth of a day’s worth of sodium. Although not as high in vitamins and phytochemicals as other fruits and vegetables, celery is one of the top dietary sources of a particular flavonoid phytochemical called apigenin. Apigenin is currently under study for a possible role in the self-destruction of damaged cells (such as cancer cells). And celery provides compounds called phthalides that may contribute to blood vessel health and cancer prevention. Besides, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight plays a huge role in blood pressure control. Weight control is easier when you can serve hearty portions of mixed dishes by including vegetables like celery, since a whole cup of chopped celery adds just 16 calories.

Q: If I order vegetable-topped pizza, do a couple slices count as a serving of vegetables?

A: Vegetable pizzas are a great choice, but most take-out or frozen pizzas don’t supply enough vegetables to provide a full serving, even with tomato sauce. If you order a combination of several different veggies, the entire pizza usually contains only a cup or so. However, it’s easy to add a few veggies of your own to get a half-cup serving on two slices of pizza. While waiting for pizza delivery, microwave, steam or sauté some vegetables like mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli or artichoke hearts. You can also use fresh, pre-washed spinach and microwave it right in the bag. Sprinkle any of these with a dash of Parmesan for extra flavor as you add it to the pizza. Another option is to make pizza at home, starting with either pre-made crust or dough to save time, if you like. Then you can load the pizza with lots of vegetables, making it healthier, tastier and more filling.

Q: How much more fattening are crab cakes compared to plain crab?

A: The nutritional value of crab cakes varies with how they are made, but since most recipes add mayonnaise and bread or cracker crumbs to the plain lean crab, calories certainly increase. On the other hand, if you serve plain crab smothered with cream sauce or cream soup, or dipped in a pot of butter, the calories aren’t so lean either. Crab cakes served in restaurants or prepared ahead in your grocery store often contain 150 to 360 calories per serving, with fat content ranging from 4 to 22 grams. That’s quite an increase from about 80 calories and just over 1 gram of fat in a three-ounce serving of plain cooked crab. If you have a crab cake as your main dish and round out your meal with vegetables and salad with little added fat, and perhaps a roll or small serving of rice, that can still work. But if you use these crab cakes as an appetizer, or are also choosing other dishes somewhat higher in fat, the calorie load from your meal will probably be pretty high. If you like crab cakes, check the Internet for recipes to make crab cakes at home. They’re easy to make and you can stick with leaner versions with less added fat and little or no refined-grain crumbs. And experiment with ways to enjoy the delicious sweet taste of small amounts of crab in lean dishes that don’t smother it in added fat.


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