Celery Juice: The Health Benefits, Side Effects and Science Behind the Trend
Celery juice started trending last year and I thought for sure it would blow over. But here it is, building steam. As of today, more people are googling celery juice than the Mediterranean diet. Celebs like Jenna Dewan and Kim Kardashian have been downing the green juice, along with pro athlete Novak Djokovic, and there are more than 127,000 posts tagged with #celeryjuice on Instagram. Gwyneth Paltrow's website Goop.com is the first result that pops up in Google, and it leads me to an article written by the Medical Medium (don't forget, Goop has been in hot water before for basically lying about health claims).
The Medical Medium, Anthony Williams, calls himself the originator of the celery juice movement. And he probably is, but his "credentials" are that he can talk to spirits-not that he went to medical school or studied nutrition-and he recommends drinking pure celery juice on an empty stomach. He claims it's a miracle juice that can heal chronic illness and improve digestion.
Here, we myth-bust the latest celery juice claims and tell you what you actually need to know about celery juice.
Celery Juice Health Benefits
I'm all for celery. It's an often-overlooked crunchy vegetable that happens to be delicious topped with peanut butter. And since it's a vegetable, yes, celery is good for you.
1 cup of chopped celery has:
- 14 calories
- 1 gram protein
- 2 grams fiber
- 80 mg sodium
- 40 mg calcium (about 4 percent of your daily value)
- 263 mg potassium (about 6 percent of your daily value)
- 3 mg vitamin C (about 5 percent of your daily value)
- 453 IU vitamin A
- 30 mcg vitamin K (about 25 percent of your daily value)
Celery is very low in calories and doesn't have a mega amount of any one nutrient.
Celery has been studied and does have health-promoting antioxidants (side note: all vegetables have antioxidants). Celery contains the antioxidant apigenin, a compound that promotes the death of cancerous cells, according to research from Ohio State University.
Most of the studies around antioxidants in celery, though, were done in a petri dish or with rats, rather than investigating humans eating or drinking a certain amount of celery.
A Note on Juicing vs. Eating Celery
One cup of celery juice made with half a bunch of medium stalks (4 to 5) will be higher in nutrients than 1 cup chopped celery, since more celery is used to make the juice (although some vitamins, like vitamin C, will diminish a little with heat and oxygen exposure from blending or being put through a juicer). The juice, however, won't deliver the same amount of fiber-since that will be left in the pulp-and fiber is a key nutrient that most of us don't get enough of.
The Medical Medium recommends drinking 2 cups per day, more if you have a chronic illness, which is 1 to 2 bunches of celery! That's a lot of celery juice.
For the most part, eating your calories is more satisfying than drinking them. And while some people hype celery juice for being hydrating and "mostly water," the best hydrating drink is water. It's 100 percent water and very hydrating. Plus it's free and doesn't take any time to make.
Celery Juice Side Effects
Rachele Pojednic, Ph.D., an assistant professor of nutrition at Simmons College, said it best with this Instagram post debunking the myths, "IT'S JUST JUICE."
And while she, and other scientists, acknowledge that celery has beneficial compounds, we don't know what the optimal dose is for humans. As she explains, "When you juice a ton of celery, it concentrates all of these chemicals. While that might sound great in theory, we don't know what an optimal dose of these concentrated phytochemicals is because studies haven't been done in humans (almost all studies are in cells and rats). And, we know there are toxicants in celery-furanocoumarins & psoralens-which can cause skin issues and may result in liver damage from breakdown intermediates during metabolism (mechanism unknown). Yep, even celery can be too much a good thing."
Celery juice may interact with certain medications (blood thinners come to mind because of the vitamin K content in celery) so talk to your doctor if you are going to start drinking celery juice regularly.
Celery is also on the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list of most-contaminated produce when it comes to pesticide residue. The experts at EWG recommend buying organic celery when possible to reduce your pesticide exposure.
But What About All Those Celery Juice Testimonials?
There are a lot of people out there who claim that celery juice has done wonders for them. Namely, helped improve their skin and gut and brain fog. That whole "it sounds too good to be true" thing absolutely applies here. In what world did someone decide that a humble celery stalk should be masticated into juice to solve all your health problems?
From what I've seen on the Medical Medium's Instagram, the people who have benefited the most from drinking celery juice often made lots of other changes too.
It's impossible to say whether the benefits come from the celery juice or the other changes. And then, there's the placebo effect. If people have bought into celery juice as being a miracle cure-all drink, they are much more likely to report feeling benefits.
And, if people just started their day with 2 cups of plain water before they ate breakfast, would they see similar results?
Celery juice isn't a miracle cure-all drink (and please do not do as the Medical Medium says and start juicing celery to treat your strep throat or shingles-go to your doctor!). Drink more water instead. Tea is loaded with antioxidants. Eat more whole food: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy proteins and fats.
If you drank as much celery juice as the Medical Medium wanted you to, you'd be spending over $20 a week just on celery juice. That's over $1,000 a year. I can think of lots of better places to spend $1,000 than on a daily green juice habit that isn't backed up by experts or science.