What's The Deal With Celery Juice?
On a recent trip to my local grocery store, I was dismayed to find all of the celery sold out. This situation continued over the next 3 days, when the produce manager finally told me that celery was literally flying off the shelves and he couldn’t keep it in stock. So what gives? How is something as decidedly unsexy as celery having a moment? Let’s find out what’s behind this run on celery.
Meet the Medical Medium
Celery, by itself, is not the prom queen of vegetables. No one has ever hailed celery as a superfood - leave that role to kale and broccoli - and celery’s role (up to this point) has been playing a bridesmaid to carrots on the raw veggie tray or acting as a vehicle to carry peanut butter and raisins into your mouth (ants on a log, anyone?)
Celery juice owes its popularity to Anthony William, better known as ‘The Medical Medium.’ William openly admits to his lack of formal nutrition or medical training (you can read all about his interesting story HERE). William is wildly popular -he has 4 books on the New York Times bestseller list, he is a regular contributor to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, and there are thousands of anecdotes online of people praising the power of his work.
William claims that celery contains 'undiscovered cluster salts’ which give celery juice its miraculous medicinal properties. He states celery juice clears the body of heavy metals and toxins, will kill off unproductive bacteria in the gut, and will cure chronic and mystery illnesses.
To reap these benefits, William suggests 16oz of plain celery juice is drank by itself in the morning at least 30 mins before breakfast. He has stated this protocol has been successfully used to treat everything from digestive issues such as constipation, gas, and bloating to Lyme disease, acne, and ADHD.
Celery Juice, Meet Evidence-Based Medicine
So, what evidence-based science is there to back the celery juice trend? Celery juice is crazy-popular. All you have to do is search the #celeryjuice hashtag on instagram and see the millions of photos of pretty people drinking green juice from cute containers. Celery juice supporters tout its benefits to reduce bloat, eliminate cravings, and improve energy. Dietitians say these claims sound about right - because celery is mostly water, it will certainly improve digestion and energy. But so will water. So perhaps people are seeing these miraculous effects of celery juice because they are more hydrated and have a better electrolyte balance?
In terms of vitamins and minerals, celery juice contains potassium, vitaminK, and flavonoids - compounds that have been shown in studies to help improve electrolyte balance, function as antioxidants, and reduce inflammation. This is why celery juice is so great at reducing blood pressure - a claim that is backed up by many, many, peer-reviewed scientific studies. In addition to being low in calories, celery provides fiber, vitamin K, folate, potassium, and over a dozen types of antioxidants. It also contains natural substances that have been shown to help optimize circulation and boost endurance and enhance strength training when consumed pre-workout. Celery also contains anti-inflammatory substances that are thought to help support a healthy gut and protect against cellular damage that can lead to premature aging and disease.
While thousands of people are seeking the benefits of celery juice, this green drink isn’t backed by a strong scientific evidence base. Remember those ‘cluster salts’ referred to by William? Those, he claims, are still undiscovered by science because, according to William, there’s “no reason to reason for science and research to care about a celery stick and there’s no reason to fund celery research.”
Whatever the reason, human research on celery juice is scant except several robust studies on blood pressure. This means we don’t know the optimal amount to consume, how often to drink it, the potential risks for certain people, and possible interactions with medications and supplements. For example, allergic reactions are possible, especially for people sensitive to birch, dandelion, and other plants. Celery juice may also increase sensitivity to sunlight
The Middle Way
As it turns out, celery is poorly studied, just as William states. There are no human trials to verify all the claims William is making. Perhaps there are undiscovered compounds in celery juice that can cure Lyme disease. Other foods -such as blueberries, beets, olive oil, and avocado - are better studied and there are clear benefits to ingesting these foods. But celery juice exploded onto the scene fairly recently, meaning that western science still has some catching up to do in terms of molecular research, human trials, and meta-analyses.
So, what is a health-conscious person to do? If my local produce aisle is any indication, celery juice has a strong foothold that isn’t likely to wane anytime soon. Maybe we can choose a middle path. It’s unlikely that a single food or beverage will resolve our health issues or cure disease. Perhaps a good way forward is to look at our overall lifestyle and cultivate healthy behaviors for overall optimal health. Because nobody ever got healthy by drinking celery juice followed by eating 3 donuts and skipping exercising, am I right? If you enjoy celery juice, make it part of healthy eating pattern; something that is part of a bigger picture and doesn’t replace intake of other vegetables and fruits.
It’s fine to drink it daily, just be sure not to overdo it, and mix it up by consuming other green veggies and various colors of produce, too. Celery juice alone won’t satisfy your vegetable quota for the day. Scientific evidence shows that when it comes to variety, mixing up the vegetables you eat - or drink - does a body good because variety trumps quantity when it comes to disease protection. So, if you love your celery juice routine and it works well for you, go for it. Just keep it part of a well-rounded nutritional plan.