As a nutritionist, I always try to stay on top of all the latest nutrition trends, and I found out about this particular trend on Instagram. I was amazed to see just how many people swear by the benefits of drinking celery juice. Everyone from celebrities to juice companies to self-proclaimed wellness coaches have jumped on the bandwagon and are calling celery juice the "miracle juice" and one of the "greatest healing tonics of all time." You can read numerous social media posts, magazine articles, and blogs claiming that celery juice improves digestion, cures diseases, improves cognitive function, and more. But is any of it actually true?
If you have been following my blog for very long, you probably know that I am obsessed with the idea of using food as medicine (known as functional nutrition). I have had many of my friends who are also nutrition students tell me that they always come to me when they want to know about the benefits of a specific food. However, as a nutritionist and future dietitian, I rely heavily on science and need to see some evidence before I believe any particular health claims.
Nutrients in celery:
I have to be honest, while celery is a great healthy snack because it is so low in Calories, there really aren't just a ton of nutrients in it. In fact, celery is approximately 95% water, so it is super hydrating, but that doesn't leave a whole lot of room for other nutrients. That doesn't mean there aren't other nutrients - there are small amounts of vitamins A and K, potassium, folate, flavonoids (anti-oxidants) and more - it's just that they are in very low concentrations (2).
Potential health benefits of celery:
While several studies have shown health benefits of celery, it is important to note that the research is almost always done on the whole celery stalk and not just on the juice from celery. Many of these studies were also done with animal models or had a very small sample size, so further research is needed to evaluate the evidence behind these claims.
Celery and Blood Pressure:
Celery contains a compound called nitrate, which can cause blood vessels to dilate, making it easier for blood to flow through them. As a result, it can lower blood pressure levels. Two studies have shown that consuming celery leads to a reduction in blood pressure (7, 8).
Celery, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammation:
As I mentioned earlier, celery contains compounds called flavonoids, which are a type of anti-oxidant found in many fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are also great because they help reduce inflammation, which is a major player is many diseases. One particular study done with mice showed that celery helps protect against inflammation in the gastric mucosa (stomach lining) and reduces the incidence of stomach ulcers (1).
Celery and Pathogens:
A few studies have shown that celery inhibits toxin production (4) and possess anti-microbial properties (5).
The man behind the celery juice craze:
The person who created the celery juice movement is a man named Anthony William. He is a #1 New York Times best-selling author who, according to his website, has not had any formal education in health or nutrition. He claims that the "Spirit of Compassion" provides him with the "extraordinarily accurate" health information that he preaches (9). I'll let you draw your own conclusions about the reliability of his claims.
The drawback to juicing celery:
One of the biggest drawbacks to juices in general is that the juicing process actually removes some of the nutrients that are available in the intact plant. One of these nutrients is fiber.
Fiber is one of my favorite nutrients because it does so many incredible things for your health! It helps lower cholesterol, improve satiety, normalize bowel movements, protect against cancer, and so much more (3)!
Studies have also shown that when celery is juiced, only 56% of the flavonoids are extracted (6). In other words, you lose nearly half of the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory potential when you juice celery rather than eat the whole stalk.
Let me be clear that I am not at all against juices. I actually love them! I think juices are a great, super easy way to add nutrients to your diet; you just have to choose your juices carefully to make sure you are getting the ones that are the most nutrient dense. You can read more about my recommendations for picking healthy juices in a blog I wrote for the Fitness Institute of Texas here.
While many people swear that celery juice helps you lose weight, improve digestion, and heals diseases such as Crohn's, IBS, and colitis, the evidence simply isn't there. In fact, of all the studies I found on the benefits of celery, none of them were about the health claims that people are currently making about celery juice. Celery juice can absolutely be a part of a healthy diet, but it is not necessarily the miracle drink many people claim it to be.
Al-Howiriny, Tawfeq, et al. "Gastric antiulcer, antisecretory and cytoprotective properties of celery (Apium graveolens) in rats." Pharmaceutical Biology, vol. 48, no. 7, 3 June 2010, pp. 786-93. PUBMED, doi:10.3109/13880200903280026.
"Celery, Raw." National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, USDA, Apr. 2018.
"Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet." Mayo Clinic, edited by Sandhya Pruthi, 16 Nov. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983.
Golden, Max C., et al. "Effect of Cultured Celery Juice, Temperature, and Product Composition on the Inhibition of Proteolytic Clostridium botulinum Toxin Production." Journal of Food Protection, vol. 80, no. 8, Aug. 2017, pp. 1259-65. PUBMED, doi:10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-17-011.
Horsch, A.M., et al. "The effect of pH and nitrite concentration on the antimicrobial impact of celery juice concentrate compared with conventional sodium nitrite on Listeria monocytogenes." Meat Science, vol. 96, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 400-07. PUBMED, doi:10.1016/j.meatsci.2013.07.036.
Hostetler, Gregory L., et al. "Endogenous enzymes, heat, and pH affect flavone profiles in parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum) and celery (Apium graveolens) during juice processing." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 60, no. 1, 30 Dec. 2011, pp. 202-08. PUBMED, doi:10.1021/jf2033736.
Lidder, Satnam, and Andrew J. Webb. "Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate‐nitrite‐nitric oxide pathway." British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, vol. 75, no. 3, 5 Feb. 2013, pp. 677-96. PubMed Central, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04420.x.
Moghadam, Maryam H., et al. "Antihypertensive Effect of Celery Seed on Rat Blood Pressure in Chronic Administration." Journal of Medicinal Foods, vol. 16, no. 6, June 2013, pp. 558-63. PubMed Central, doi:10.1089/jmf.2012.2664.
William, Anthony. Medical Medium, www.medicalmedium.com.