If you’re like most people, you look at celery as a tool or utensil.
Perhaps you use it to stir your Bloody Mary or Caesar. Maybe it serves as a scoop for hummus, baba ganoush or other favorite dip.
Or, your only use for it, is to ferry peanut butter, cream cheese or even the star of the 70s, Cheez Whiz into your waiting mouth.
Which ever the case, at just 6 or so calories per stalk, celery’s ultimate claim to fame might just be that it’s long been considered a low-calorie “diet food.” Negative calories anyone?
But now celery’s time has come. Like fashion, furniture trends or ever the latest “in” color, food trends are inevitable.
Cue celery juice.
The word superfood still has a lot of clout. While it can’t be qualified nor defined in any meaningful way, superfoods are seen as being able to prevent and/or treat disease. Acai berries, goji berries, kale and quinoa are classic examples but celery?
The celery juice craze started with Anthony William, a practitioner who refers to himself as a ‘medical medium’. If you haven’t heard of the term, consider yourself lucky. A medical medium is one who can talk to high-level spirit(s). The medium can intuit or read a person’s illness without the need for any kind of testing. Once a diagnosis is made, they’l recommend a treatment.
Long story short, for better, for worse, we owe the celery juice movement to him.
What are the health claims?
Is celery juice good for you? Maybe.
Not surprisingly, some fairly amazing claims have been made about celery juice such as the requisite celery juice detox, the use of celery juice for weight loss, celery juice acne cures, and the obligatory celery juice cleanse.
Other amazing claims are even more specific:
- supports a sluggish liver
- helps with kidney detoxification
- starves yeasts, bacteria, fungi, mold & viruses that are lurking in your body
- helps to flush toxins out of the digestive tract
While it’s easy to be dismissive about anything when fantastic claims are made, there is some responsibility to look a little deeper before rendering an verdict such as “this is dumb”. Pretty much every review I’ve read about celery juice has concluded that there’s no benefit to it beyond hydration. Worse yet, any rebuttal of the nutritional or health benefits of celery juice have relied on dismissing Anthony William as a quack.
If he’s a quack, then celery juice must be as well; guilty by association.
Celery juice nutrition
What is the nutritional value of celery juice? Good question. I found it very difficult to get some reliable information on celery juice nutrition specifically. I’m not sure it’s been well analyzed but we do know the nutritional content* of a medium stalk of celery, so if you used 10 stalks to make a glass of juice, you’ll get about:
- 60 calories
- 2.8 g protein
- 12 g carbohydrate
- 5.5 g sugar
- 160 mg calcium
- 40 mg magnesium
- 1040 mg potassium
- 16 mcg fluoride
- 140 mcg folate
- 1800 mcg beta carotene
- 1.13 mg lutein
- 117 mcg vitamin K1
*USDA Nutrient Database
So eating whole celery won’t give you much of the above nutrition if it’s part of a salad, used with a dip etc but as with juicing in general, the nutrients become concentrated when the water, and the nutrients dissolved in it, are extracted.
Fresh celery juice does have some impressive numbers but people aren’t really drinking it for the vitamins, or at least they’re not sure which it might benefit them. Some of the legit benefits are from the heaps of phytonutrients found in celery such as flavonoids, flavanols etc.
Celery juice health benefits
What’s on everyone’s mind of course is whether or not there are any health benefits from drinking celery juice.
Celery has never been associated with the word superfood. Yet, it contains naturally-occurring phytochemicals such as 3-n-butyl phthalide (NBP), luteolin and apigenin , to name a few, which have in fact been studied for their health promoting properties.
Some of the works include:
Lowers blood pressure
NBP helps to relax blood vessels which allows blood to flow smoothly resulting in lower blood pressure. The equivalent of just four celery stalks may lower blood pressure in a meaningful way in those who had mild to moderate elevations (1, 2, 3). Celery juice will have much more NBP per serving, along with a lot of blood pressure-lowering potassium.
NBP has been studied for its anti-inflammatory properties (4, 5, 6). NBP has even been shown for it’s neuroprotective effects when given along with the chemotherapy drug Doxorubicin (DOX). Turns out NBP can improve DOX-induced anxiety, and depression by reducing inflammation and oxidation (7).
Luteolin, also found in celery juice, also has anti-inflammatory properties (8, 9, 10, 11)
Turns out that juicing doesn’t destroy the flavonoids and celery juice can be an effective way to get more of these beneficial compounds (12).
Luteolin is an oxygen scavenger. It was found to inhibit reactive oxygen species (think “rusting”) which induce damage of lipids, DNA, and protein. Increased oxidation of lipids, DNA and proteins is associated with greater chronic diseases. Luteolin also significantly turns on oxidation-fighting (rust-proofing) genes (13).
Cancer risk reduction
Celery and celery juice contain luteolin. While celery juice by itself can’t be promoted to prevent cancer, it does contribute to an overall dietary intake of luteolin and other phytonutrients known to reduce the risk for cancer (14, 15).
Apigenin found in celery helps induce apoptosis in cancer cells. Cancer cells are dangerous because they are ‘immortal’, reproducing at will and ignoring the signal to die off after a certain period of time. Apigenin seems to prevent this (16, 17).
Any negative effects of celery juice?
In short, no. There aren’t any known, nor are there any expected harmful effects from drinking celery juice. Whether its pure celery juice or a vegetable and fruit juice blend (e.g. beet, ginger, apple, carrot and celery – my personal favorite), celery juice isn’t going to kill you. Having said that, like any concentrated source of vegetable juice, a little goes a long way. Most vegetables contain compounds that “could” be a problem if you drank a lot of juice made from them.
To answer the common question – how much celery juice per day? No one can say for sure, but a few small glass a week (e.g. under 250 ml) isn’t likely to be an issue.
Many will make the argument that the downside of celery juice is that juicing removes fiber. We know fiber-rich foods take longer to chew and may help keep you full, and yes, fiber feeds your gut bacteria. But to signal a doomsday alarm that the lack of fiber is a reason to avoid celery juice is ridiculous. It’s easy to meet your fiber requirements from other while including juices.
Others will say that because celery juice specifically hasn’t been studied for it’s health benefits means there’s no reason to recommended it. Fair enough, but that’s not a reason to say it can’t be consumed as part of a healthy diet. We know celery has many nuanced ingredients beyond vitamins and minerals that have many health benefits. You don’t need a PhD in nutritional sciences to know that those phytonutrients will be in the juice itself.
Others haven taken more of a paternalistic stance. Many a bloggers, health professionals and peers have declared that people shouldn’t waste their time with celery juice because of the expense, or because of the hassle of making it. You decide what’s right for you and if you can afford the expense and the time to make it.
True, people need to know that celery juice isn’t a miracle cure nor should they feel panicked about making it because a celebrity (she who shouldn’t be named lest she appear – Gwyneth Platrow) or other Instagram “influencers” says so. But to tell someone celery juice is idiocy and, by extension they are for considering it doesn’t help.
How to juice celery
There are a couple of ways to make celery juice. You can use a juicer (no kidding) or a blender.
Using a juicer
Step 1: Wash thoroughly to remove any soil clinging to the stalks. Trim the tip and tail from the stalks, but leave the leaves on.
Step 2: Cut the stalks into pieces that fit into your juicer.
Step 3: Run you celery through the juicer. Your juice will come out the output.
Using a Nutribullet or blender
Step 1: Wash celery stalks thoroughly to remove any soil clinging to them. Trim the tip and tail from the stalks, but leave the leaves on.
Step 2: Cut the stalks into 1 inch pieces.
Step 3: Put at least 1/2 cup of water into the blender. Add the celery on top. Start the blender on a low speed, then increase to puree, about 30 seconds. If the contents of the blender are too thick, thin with water.
Step 4: For the next step, you need a pitcher and some kind of strainer. Cheese cloth works well. Place the strainer in the pitcher with the edges outside the top edge of the pitcher. Pour the contents of the blender into the pitcher through the strainer.
Step 5: Lift the strainer material and close the top. Inside will be the pulp from the celery and the juice will be dripping out of the strainer. Squeeze the material until the liquid stops dripping out. Set the pulp aside.
Wondering how to make celery juice taste better?
Let’s face it, celery juice is going to taste fairly strong and/or intense. The best way to make it taste better is to mix with a small amount of juice such as apple, pure apple cider, or with any other 100% pure fruit juice of your choosing.
As mentioned, you can make it with other vegetables too. If you wanted to, you can use mostly celery and then round out the flavor with a bit of apple, carrot or beet, perhaps some fresh ginger. Adding extra juice or using other fruits or vegetables won’t affect the phytonutrients in the celery juice.
What’s the bottom line?
Do you need to drink celery juice to be healthy? Of course not. Can you just eat celery instead as everyone is saying you should? Yes, of course you can.
Should you give celery juice a chance?
It’s really up to you. As you’ve read, celery juice is a great way to add a wealth of nutrients to your diet if it’s something you want to try. However, you need to lose the belief that consuming a few servings of celery juice—or any other ‘superfood’— can be a quick fix for better health.
Saying celery offers nothing more than hydration is not only wrong, it’s lazy. A person who’s stance is such hasn’t taken the time to role up their sleeves and do their homework which is just sloppy. Looking at potassium alone, several stalks of celery provide a good dose. To focus solely on the vitamin and mineral content to evaluate celery’s nutrition is rather 2-dimensional.
There’s more depth to nutrition than protein, calories, fat, carbs and micronutrients but that’s where most nutrition professionals are focused. Similarly, to dismiss celery juice as a fad or nonsense simply because you don’t like the messenger is bias. I would hope anyone I was seeking advice from would do more for me, and so should you.
If you want to drink celery juice on its own or use celery in your vegetable juices (like I do), then have at it. But deep down, I’m sure you know that celery juice isn’t going to have much of an impact on your health, especially if you haven’t gotten the rest of your house in order. For me, a few small glasses of vegetables juice a week if you’re going to juice, is sufficient.
Start with the foundational stuff; get that in order and layer from there. Make sure you’re getting enough good quality sleep every night, manage your stress, don’t over do the coffee or alcohol, focus on getting more plant foods into your diet, and eat less highly processed and fried foods. Move more.
And as a reminder, as a vegetable, celery isn’t without its charm. There are many health benefits of eating more of this unassuming vegetable beyond its vitamin and mineral content. Adding more celery to your diet is a good idea.
Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto dietitian and functional nutritionist with a focus on digestive, gut, mental health. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.