Today, I am resigned to the fact that #celeryjuice is officially a thing. As of now, it has more than 74,000 tags on Instagram.
Promoted by the non-credentialed “Medical Medium” Anthony William, the celery juice movement calls for drinking blended and drained celery every morning on an empty stomach in order to “create sweeping improvements for all kinds of health issues.” Various celebrity testimonials promoting the drink, from the likes of Kim Kardashian and Debra Messing, have made the celery juice hype spread across social media.
This sad news means that registered dietitians, food scientists, and biochemists are mourning the loss of another nutrient-dense food turned “cure-all” by way of some A-list celebrity support. We ask that in lieu of sending flowers, you’ll read below.
What is celery juice?
Celery juice is made by blending and straining celery. Whole stalks of celery packs tons of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, vitamin A, potassium, and folate.
But from a nutrition standpoint, celery juice takes phytonutrient-filled produce and turns it into a concentrated source of sugar. Generally speaking, no matter how much or how little sugar a vegetable or fruit contains, juicing it will yield a higher concentration of sugar per fluid ounce than you would eat in grams.
Does celery juice help with chronic inflammation?
The Medical Medium blog claims that celery juice is teeming with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. “Celery is perfect for reversing inflammation, because it starves the pathogens [like] unproductive bacteria and viruses,” William writes. He believes that by depriving disease-causing pathogens of fuel, celery juice can cure all kinds of illnesses.
Scientific data actually suggests that celery juice contains antioxidant compounds called flavones. It’s biochemically plausible that flavones could stop specific reactions in your body that lead to chronic inflammation, in turn lowering your risk of chronic disease.
Here’s the problem though: The data is still limited on how bioavailable (actually usable) these compounds are in human beings. Most research so far has been performed on lab rats or in test tubes, so even though it’s possible that doesn’t make it applicable to your everyday life.
These claims that celery juice is an anti-inflammatory miracle tonic ignore the fact that we’re humans who live in the world and not a laboratory. All of us have very different, unique lifestyles that affect our body’s cells.
Making the jump from potential benefits to “highly beneficial for people who suffer from chronic and mystery illnesses,” as William claims, is not just a leap — it’s abuse of existing data. It’s actively not taking into account what else we might eat in a day, week, or year.
Does celery juice help you “detox?”
When it comes to your diet, “detox” and “cleanse” are two terms I think are constantly misused. Some Instagrammers claim celery juice can “flush out your system” and works “as a digestive aid after meals.” But as long as you have a functioning gut, liver, and kidneys, you’re always detoxing — ridding your body of the gunk you just don’t need — every minute of every day.
Enzymes in your stomach and intestine absorb the nutrients you need and excrete what you don’t. The liver converts anything we’ve consumed too much of into other compounds the body can use elsewhere. If the liver can’t repackage a compound for organ functions, it often makes it into bile, a substance that helps you absorb nutrients from other foods.
Periods of extreme eating and juicing do not expedite the functions that your gut, kidneys, and liver already do all day, every day. Trying a celery juice “cleanse” for the purpose of giving your liver a break is both:
* Antithetical to what the liver actually does.
* A bit like telling someone how to do their job — albeit, incorrectly.
The bottom line: Your liver doesn’t need celery’s help.
Will celery juice help with weight loss?
There’s another pervasive myth that since celery stalks contain so few calories (about 6 per stalk), digesting celery takes more energy than it provides, making it a so-called “negative-calorie food.” Negative calories are not a thing. All foods and beverages provide some calories from carbohydrates, protein, and fat in varying degrees. It’s still possible to gain weight from drinking celery juice, especially because the juice form is less filling and contains more concentrated calories than the vegetable, while also lacking the satisfying component of actually chewing on real food.
This is a phenomenon I call full but not satisfied syndrome. FNSS thrives on the concept of “willpower” and tricks us into believing that we can beat basic human biology. If you consume carbohydrates without dietary fat and protein (e.g., drinking celery juice on an empty stomach), you’ll likely feel hungry later on. The metabolic breakdown of protein, fat, and fiber is a slower process that provides you with lasting fuel. Without those nutrients, you’re primed for FNSS — you’re stuffed full of celery juice, but you’re just not satisfied.
This restriction feeds into a mindset that we have to limit what we eat and drink in order to achieve better health — and where does that thought actually land us? Primed to dive head-first into the leftover donuts in the conference room and scooping up every last morsel of frosted cereal leftover in the pantry.
So, in both research and in my clinical experience: Drinking meals versus eating them does not lead to weight loss. It actually has the reverse effect, and can trigger feelings of shame and isolation that come along with the restrict-binge-restrict cycle.
Instead, let’s relax. Eat more veggies and fruit more often — in their wholesome, closest to nature form as possible. This applies to fiber-full foods you actually chew, not the cold-pressed juice you can buy for $16. Choose good-for-you fats, seafood, and 100% whole grains. Think inclusive versus exclusive, and I promise you’ll be on the road to a healthier, happier year of enjoying real food without restriction — no juicing or detoxing required.