Celery juice is one of the most popular and heavily Instagramed recent health trends. Suddenly, it seems like everyone is guzzling celery juice, and proclaiming that it can cure every ailment from acne to cancer to infertility.
Confused, as I couldn’t remember ever hearing about any benefits of celery juice during my master’s in nutrition program, I decided to take a deep dive into investigating the trend and truly examine what – if any – evidence there was behind this wellness trend.
So today I’m spilling the tea on celery juice. I’m a bit anxious to post this as I fear some people may get upset with me; after all, links to peer-reviewed literature are way less sexy than colors of pretty pastel green juice and promises of perfect health.
But after a lot of internet digging, database searching, and textbook consulting, I have come to the conclusion that yes, celery, consumed as part of a robust, diverse diet, can be healthful food. And yes, it has some healthful plant compounds…as do many other plant foods. And those celebrated in celery are not exclusive to the vegetable.
Importantly, there is scant evidence to support the alleged health benefit of consuming celery juice in humans. As far as I can tell, the trend was started by someone with no actual nutrition or medical background information, and brought to the mainstream by often as inadequately-educated health influencers.
Now, if you’re interested in joining me into the deep throws of my research journey, I’ve explained some of what I found while research celery juice in the sections below, detailing everything from healthful compounds truly found in celery, to dangers of overconsumption.
Disclaimer: As always, this is general information intended for healthy adults. Your needs may vary based on medical status, lifestyle, or life-stage. Please never replace generalized health information you’ve read online with individualized clinical care.
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Let’s look at where the trend originated:
After scouring the internet, as far as I can tell, the celery juice trend became very popular in large part due to the promotion of the trend on the popular wellness blog, “The Medical Medium.”
After reading through the page and researching the person who the site is named after, I find little reason to see the site as a legitimate authority when it comes to matters of nutrition or health.
As far as I can tell, the people behind this blog have no medical, nutrition, health, or science-based education. Yes, that’s right folks, the Medical Medium is not a doctor nor a nutritionist; rather, he is a self-proclaimed medium.
A few red flags I noticed on the site in addition to the namesake author lacking any proper training or education: there is a striving lack of links to peer-reviewed journal articles to support health claims made.
The website is also flooded with flowery language, which to me, reads a bit gimmicky at times, and there is no rigorous evaluation of any of the mystical benefits promised.
There are also many, many affiliate links to products, supplements, and books the Medical Medium recommends. There is nothing inherently wrong with affiliated links and product promotion; however, when it come to health, if there is no presented evidence and lots of ads, I tend to proceed with caution.
I am sure the people behind this site are lovely people and I have nothing against them personally. However, I think it’s time for people to step up and call out fraudulent or unproven health information, especially when it is trending, and a potential risk to some.
So yes, I’m going to say it: as far as I can tell, this site is where this trend became popular, and I find no real reason to take the information from the page as legitimate. I caution everyone to check in with themselves and their healthcare providers before blindly trusting influencers with issues so delicate as their health.
A little check list: Before starting an influencer health kick yourself, always ask yourself:
- Does this person have a legitimate nutrition, medical, or rigorous science-based educational background?
- Can they point me to an ample volume of rigorous, amply powered, peer-reviewed, well-designed research studies?
- Can they explain the biochemistry of their remedy to me?
- What does this person have to gain from me if I take their advice?
- Does this person truly have my best interests at heart?
When looking at the post devoted to celery juice specifically on the Medical Medium website, I was left with even more questions.
Personally, I would have appreciated a lot more science – including a legitimate explanation of the biochemistry of celery juice absorption and mechanism of action – included under “The Science of Celery Juice Section,” which mostly contained unsourced claims about powerful benefits of celery and defensive language against naysayers.
Left unsatisfied with the science provided by the celery juice pioneer, I strapped on my PubMed boots and dug deep into PubMed, Science, MedLine, and several other legitimate science website to see what celery juice literature currently exists.
Let’s look at the science:
Celery can indeed be a healthful food. Plant-foods are often beneficial to overall health for a variety of reasons, and knowing this while wanting to get to the bottom of the celery juice hype, I decided to look into what literature currently exists on celery juice.
Although I wasn’t quick to buy into all the claims that celery cures cancer, infertility, and every other ailment under the sun as many influencers claim, I kept an open mind, curious to see what benefits have actually been associated with celery.
Celery is rich in several micronutrients, including Vitamin B6, Vitamin B2, folate (Vitamin B9), and Vitamin K, as well as potassium and calcium. By weight, it is mostly water, and is very low in calories and rich in fiber, although juicing often removes the fibrous parts of the vegetable, removing a potentially beneficial aspect of celery consumption.
Many health influencers harp upon the “healthing” compounds found in celery. It is true that celery contains beneficial antioxidants, including apigenin, luteolin, and pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ).
Apigenin is a compound found in celery, parsley, cilantro, basil, grapes, cherries, oregano and chamomile, among many other produce foods. It is considered to be anti-inflammatory in nature. Some believe it is worth studying further to better understand its mechanisms, and see potential for using it at therapeutic doses, particularly when it comes to preventing cancer. One study I found reported apigenin in celery decreased H. pylori (a harmful stomach bacteria) in a group of gerbils, but this study used the human consumption equivalent of 3.5 pounds of whole (not juiced) celery.
Other studies have shown apigenin to directly induce apoptosis or pro-apopotic stimuli in select types of cancer cells, including head and neck, colon, and pancreatic cancer cells; however, these studies tested apigenin in isolation as opposed to from celery or celery juice, and most of these studies were conducted either in vitro (in cell cultures) or in animal models.
Luteolin is another compound often mentioned by celery juice fanatics. Luteolin is a naturally occurring flavonoid found in celery, thyme, bell peppers, carrots, capers, rosemary, apples, onions, and chamomile tea. Luteolin has potential antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and chemoprotective properties, and may be beneficial for gut health by fostering a health GI microbiome in diet-induced obesity. However, I couldn’t find many studies that specifically tested luteolin from celery as opposed to its various other sources.
PPQ is another compound found in celery (as well as in even greater quantities in beans, soybeans, papaya, potatoes, cabbage, and carrots) that is associated with reducing certain indicators of inflammation; although it is known that PPQ may influence energy-related metabolism in animals, much remains to be understood about PPQ in humans.
In my research about celery juice on influencer/celery juice fan posts, these three compounds were continuously mentioned. However, I think it is worth noting that these compounds are not exclusive to celery, let alone celery juice. And most research done on these compounds does not mention that the compounds used in treatment were specifically from celery or celery juice.
As found is complex, it is difficult to draw large conclusions from a single compound found in a food, when other compounds, micro and macronutrients, and dietary fibers in the food may impact the bioavailability of each compound.
When it comes to celery juice, there is also a lack of existing literature to support its alleged health benefits. I did find one study that examined the influence of diluted celery leaves and roots in combinations with doxorubicine (a chemotherapy drug) in sexually mature male mice. The study found that when applied in combination with doxorubicin, there was a decrease in intensity of lipid peroxidation (a marker of inflammation), but concluded that far more research needs to be done to understand how celery juice may impact metabolism of doxorubicine.
Another study I came across suggested that large doses of essential oils extracted from celery decrease ‘yeast suspension’ (often used as an indicator of bacterial growth) in mice (sample size 25).
However, as far as I can tell, there have been no studies specifically examining celery juice on human health. I couldn’t find a single one, despite scouring PubMed and Google Scholar.
Any of the above mentioned studies examined compounds found in celery in isolation at therapeutic doses (ie, high doses) in mice (often small sample sizes of a single gender, I might add), and/or benefits listed of celery refer to celery when consumed as a whole food. None have examined celery juice specifically.
Also, I don’t know how many times I have to scream this from the rooftops, but contrary to what celery juice fanatics will tell you, celery juice will not detoxify your body. In fact, there is no single proven food or pill or juice for that matter that detoxifies your body. Your liver and your kidney do that for you.*
*Prepare to hear me repeat this until forever since apparently people still believe in gimmicky detoxes.
What are the dangers of over-consuming celery?
Celery naturally contains psoralens. Psoralens are compounds that occur naturally in many plants; these compounds absorb UV radiation and can increase risk of DNA damage from UV radiation, meaning that large exposure may increase risk of skin cancers. While eating celery and other plant foods that contain psoralens in normal amounts is typically safe, overconsumption (such as that with excess celery juice consumption) may lead to increased sun sensitivity, DNA damage, and subsequent cancer.
Furthermore, celery contains furanocoumarins. Also found in grapefruit juice, this plant compound can inhibit certain enzymes that may activate or deactivate many drugs, including statins, and leave too little or too much of the drug in the bloodstream. This can be very dangerous to individuals on certain drugs.
And then, of course, there’s the whole issue of pesticide exposure. Celery is considered part of the EWG’s “dirty dozen,” aka the fruits and vegetables found to be highest in pesticide residue. Unless you are purchasing only organic celery, and/or vigorously scrubbing your celery, ingesting gallons upon gallons of celery juice is likely to increase your exposure to pesticides.
What makes celery juice so special?
Well, honestly, I’m not sure. As I alluded to earlier, I am personally confused as to why celery is being hyper-focused upon, considering many other foods contain the same healthful compounds in equal or higher amounts, without potential celery-associated risks.
Also, juicing fruits and vegetables removes their fiber-rich pulp, and can often strip the plant food of other nutrient-rich parts, such as the skin, which also often contains many of the beneficial plant compounds.
Furthermore, juice has a different impact on blood sugar compared to eating whole foods, and prolonged light exposure that often comes about with juicing often decreases the liquid’s micronutrient content, as many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are light-sensitive (for more on juicing, see this post).
Although there is no real data to support consuming massive quantities of celery does the body any sort of good, it is well documented that a diverse, robust diet rich in a variety of plant foods may benefit human health.
So, personally I’d suggest eating a wide variety of vegetables rather than focusing your energy on slamming large quantities of a specific one.
I’ve said this before but I think it’s worth repeating in this post: sometimes I think we too often hyper-focus on specific foods or compounds when it comes to health.
The best ways to truly achieve health is by consuming a diverse, robust, nutrient-dense diet with a variety of plant foods (while not being overly strict or rigid), getting enough rest and appropriate amount of exercise (not too much, nor too little), managing stress levels, and caring for our mental health.
Even though many influencers harp upon the benefits, I question if it is a placebo effect, which can indeed be very powerful, as can feeling as if one is actively making an effort to take care of one’s health. I’ve also considered that maybe people just feel better after drinking a large amount of water in the morning – especially if they are under-hydrating most other days.
I’m sorry to say I see nothing super special about celery juice. If you enjoy a glass now and then, congrats, you are getting some extra veggies in for that day. But I wouldn’t advise anyone I know to actually invest time and energy into slamming it by the pound every morning. I see no reason to believe the claims that it’s going to fix every problem you have.
Take home points:
Celery is a nutrient-rich vegetable that can certainly be part of a healthful diet. However, evidence to support the health claims and mystical benefits promised by diehard celery juice-promoting bloggers and influencers are not supported by scientific data; there is specifically a supreme lack of scientific literature about celery juice consumption and its impact on human health.
As with all things in life, the dose makes the poison. Too much celery juice may actually not be good for you.
If you enjoy celery juice, having a glass now and then is fine. But I wouldn’t advise drinking celery juice in hopes of curing any serious ailment. There’s nothing super miraculous about the stuff. Chances are, when you hear about a ‘miracle cure’ type of health trend, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
In my humble opinion, rather than spending money on a pound of celery every day, consider investing that money into healthy, diverse, nutrient-dense groceries.
Variety is an important part of a healthful diet, so especially if you are on a tight budget (like me), spread that produce money around and select a variety of fruits and vegetables to add different colors, textures, flavors, and nutrients to your daily diet.
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