Posted on Jul 25, 2019, 4 p.m.
At one point talk of celery juice was all the rage, bombarding news feeds with promises of more energy, weight loss, improved digestion, restoring nervous system function, helping to kill off pathogens, helping to alleviate mental conditions, and detoxification.
In a short period of time social media was blasted with numerous posts tooting horns to celery juice; in all honesty there’s almost 175,000 on Instagram alone. But does this so-called cure-all actually offer some benefits or were the devotees just jumping on that bandwagon singing praises?
It appears as if this trend was started last year by Anthony William who admits he is not a licensed doctor or healthcare practitioner, but claims “that regular consumption of his elixir can help address all manner of ills—mental, physical, spiritual, emotional because celery juice is alkalizing, enzyme-rich, electrolyte-enhancing, liver-repairing, blood-sugar-balancing, antiseptic, and more." However he suggests these benefits don’t come from the celery rather from "undiscovered sodium subgroups" or "sodium cluster salts." But there is no science or real evidence to back up his claims.
As for all the hype, this may just be the good old placebo effect. “People feel good when they feel like they are doing something good for themselves," says Rachele Pojednic, Ph.D. "I'm not sure if this is necessarily the placebo effect, but the fact that everyone on social media is saying that celery juice is all-powerful makes people expect to see good things happen. So they do. The power of persuasion is very real in the food and diet space."
Part of the reason people may be feeling better after drinking celery juice may be drawing from legitimate nutritional benefits, and that may be drinking it in place of less healthy alternatives with more caloric fare which is being replaced by a low calorie drink with real nutrients.
"All vegetables contain legitimate health benefits, and celery is no different," says registered dietitian Abby Cannon, R.D., who goes on to explain that celery contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and that science shows celery to contain natural bioactive phytochemicals with potential health benefits, most notably luteolin and apigenen which have been shown to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
Although there are no studies on celery juice, celery acts as a natural diuretic helping to reduce water retention and bloating. Research suggests that 4 stalks of celery each day may help to lower blood pressure.
Willian Li, M.D., says "There are no miracle cure-alls for any disease, and celery juice is no exception to this rule. Celery is not higher in bioactives than other vegetables, so combining even more vegetables into the juice may provide even more benefits."
Celery is alkalizing for the body thus making it anti-inflammatory, but all greens and citrus fruits have this same property, meaning that celery isn’t particularly special in that aspect. However, celery does have properties that may result in reduced inflammation, antibacterial benefits, and lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels. But as Pojednic states, “Any current scientific studies we have demonstrate very small effects and only in cell lines and animals. We have almost no data in humans, and what we do have is mixed."
"Drinking celery juice or eating the whole food are both ways to get its benefits, but the added benefit of eating whole celery is you also get the fiber, which can help digestive functions and feed the good bacteria in your gut microbiome," says Li. "These bacteria break down fiber into SCFAs, or short-chain fatty acids, that have useful anti-inflammatory properties."
Fiber in celery contains loads of phytochemicals which can be lost when you juice, one would be far better off with a smoothie made using whole celery over a juice, according to Pojednic.
Celery juice may not be a cure-all but drinking it on a regular basis is most likely safe and healthy for most people, but keep in mind there’s much not known about celery juice especially since it contains highly concentrated levels of certain compounds such as furanocoumarins that may interfere with certain medications for blood pressure, cholesterol, and anxiety.
Celery also contains psoralens which may make you more sensitive to sunlight and negatively affect the thyroid, and goitrogens can also suppress thyroid function, those with thyroid conditions should be cautious before jumping aboard this boat. However, light snacking on whole celery is not thought to be dangerous.
“The biggest problem is, we don't know what an optimal dose of these concentrated phytochemicals is because these studies haven't been done in humans," says Pojednic. "As with many other herbals, you need to be careful of excessive amounts, especially if you are taking other pharmaceuticals or supplements."
"I have concerns whenever one particular food becomes sensationalized in the media. This perpetuates a diet mentality, reinforcing the idea that one style of eating will be appropriate for any and every body," says functional medicine nutritionist Megan Fahey, R.D.
Vincent Pedre, M.D., says "People believe they can drink celery juice while still continuing to eat all the other wrong foods. One right is not going to fix five wrongs. I believe the Medical Medium is preying upon people's longing for a cure of any type for their ailments. His advice can be quite dangerous, as I have seen people make radical decisions about their health, abandoning prior treatments that were working to follow his advice to no good effect."
Take away is that there is not enough research to support that celery juice is the cure-all panacea that it is being made out to be. While it does have some legitimate nutritional benefits, so do many other vegetables, and often in greater quantities, after all it is 95% water. Consuming celery whole or adding it with additional vegetables to smoothies is thought by most experts to be better than hyper fixating on celery juice.
There is no known quick fix, and no food in isolation will cure you. But sometimes people just want to try a trend to see what happens. We understand that, but keep the potential side effects in mind, and opt for organic celery juice. Also it is highly recommended to consult with your doctor beforehand to help guide you in making the best choice for your health.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.