Are the celery juice health benefits real?
Posted November 13, 2018 6:35 a.m. EST
(CNN) — It sounds simple enough: juice a bunch of celery, drink it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, and wait for the health benefits to roll in.
A search for #CeleryJuice on Instagram returns over 35,000 posts, not including all the variations on the hashtag. Some social media users say that drinking celery juice has cured them of mental health problems and infertility. Others credit it with healing eczema that nothing else could cure. One website even claims that it can prevent cancer. Stories touting its "potent healing properties" have appeared on Gwyneth Paltrow's controversial lifestyle site, Goop.
But are these health benefits real?
"It's not a surprise to me that anything a celebrity or an influencer with lots of followers would mention would get a lot of attention," Lisa Drayer, a registered dietitian who writes about nutrition for CNN, said of the celery juice trend.
Celery certainly has health benefits, according to Drayer. "There are some beneficial flavonoids that have been discovered in celery that have been shown to perhaps play a role in reducing inflammation in the brain or reducing age-related memory decline," she said.
Celery also provides a healthy dose of fiber, as well as vitamins C and K and potassium, and it is a very low-calorie snack.
"A 5-inch stalk has only three calories, so that's very low-calorie. A cup of chopped celery has only 20 calories," she said. But turning it into juice can change this.
"Any time you concentrate a vegetable or a fruit, it's going to be higher in sugars and carbohydrates and calories," Drayer said. A cup of juiced celery jumps to 42 calories.
"I'm much more likely to recommend celery as a snack. It's crunchy, it's low-calorie, and it will fill you up," Drayer said. In fact, she often advises it this for people who are trying to lose weight.
Research around the benefits of celery and celery juice is limited, she noted, and we "really can't say there's anything magical about celery that's going to help cure cancer or help you to quickly shed pounds."
Juicing celery has other drawbacks beyond raising the calorie count.
"Juicing celery (and any other vegetable) strips away the beneficial fiber that helps you feel fuller longer, improves intestinal health and feeds the health bacteria in your gut," Malina Malkani, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, wrote in an email.
Although she agrees that there are several health benefits to eating celery, she also agrees that there is little evidence to back up the claims made by some supporters of the juice trend.
"There isn't much scientific evidence to support the majority of health claims about drinking celery juice," she said. "In general, if a food fad, diet or service sounds too good to be true, you can assume that it is."
There's something else about celery juice that could explain its popularity on social media: "The beautiful green color of celery juice also lends itself to gorgeous photos in an Instagram feed," said Malkani, who is also creator of the Wholitarian Lifestyle, which promotes foods that "are nutrient-dense, minimally processed, plant-based and as close as possible to their original state when first harvested." However, she pointed out that this doesn't mean there is evidence behind the health claims.
Neither Drayer nor Malkani thinks that drinking celery juice is problematic, but they stress that it is probably not a miracle cure.
"If you enjoy the flavor of celery juice, have at it!" Malkani said. "But don't jump on the Instagram bandwagon, hoping that celery juice will be the cure-all you've been searching for all your life."
Both suggest that celery should be eaten as part of a balanced and inclusive diet and that everyone should be wary of celebrity-endorsed food trends.
"In general, just because a celebrity is touting a food or a beverage for particular reasons doesn't mean it's backed by sound science, even beyond celery juice," Drayer said. "What I always tell people is that there's no one magical food or beverage that will be able to totally make over your health or cure an illness."