Why is celery good for you, how much counts towards your five-a-day, and is celery juice really the superfood that some people claim? A nutritionist explains.
What is celery?
Celery is a marshland plant and comes from the same family as the carrot and parsley. It has long, pale green, firm, fibrous stalks – approximately 8-10 stalks per bunch, that taper into leaves at the top. The stalks are bunched together at the root, which is normally removed before consumption. Although most people discard the leaves, they are also edible.
Celery is grown from seed in well-watered soil, and in the UK it is ready for harvesting normally around August to October.
Celery is crunchy when eaten raw, or it can be used in cooking to add flavour. Celery has a mild, earthy, slightly peppery and herby taste.
Nutritional profile of celery
Celery is 95% water, contains negligible protein and fat, and just 1.4g carbohydrates (all of which are naturally occurring sugars) per 100g of raw celery. It is a low-calorie food with just 9 calories per 100g. It is a good source of fibre with 1.5g per 100g.
Despite its high water content, celery contains some vitamins and minerals including potassium and calcium, both of which are important for heart health, as well as folate and vitamin K which are both required for the formation of red blood cells and effective blood clotting.
Is celery juice healthy?
You may have heard about the celery juice 'craze', which started in 2019. There were many health claims made about celery juice, relating to a huge range of conditions from eczema to high blood pressure.
This 'global celery juice movement' was started by Anthony William who is also known as The Medical Medium. According to his website, Anthony William does not have any medical or nutritional training, instead relying on psychic abilities to obtain health information. Despite this, some celebrities and social media influencers began to promote celery juice, and it quickly gained in popularity.
Williams recommends juicing a large bunch of celery (providing about 450ml of juice) and drinking this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. He recommends waiting 15-30 minutes before you consume anything else.
Although for most people celery juice isn't likely to be harmful, there is nowhere near enough human-based research to back up the wide variety of medical claims that have been made about it.
It is also important to note that celery juice is high in soluble oxalates which may not be suitable for anyone with kidney stones or kidney-related conditions. It is also worth noting that diets low in calcium may also increase the amount of oxalates in your urine and therefore your risk of developing kidney stones, as calcium binds to the oxalate in your gut. Always check with your GP first if you are concerned or have kidney-related health issues.
Juicing also removes a considerable amount of fibre during the process. Fibre is important for good digestive health and has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer – so in some ways, just eating the raw celery (rather than juicing it) may be better for you.
What research has been carried out into the benefits of celery?
There have been some animal studies carried out into the health benefits of celery.
A 2010 animal study using celery extract suggested that the phytonutrient content may be beneficial in protecting digestive mucosa, therefore protecting against gastric ulcers.
A 2009 study found that, together with a specific chemotherapy drug called doxorubicin, celery juice appeared to have a protective effect during treatment of cancer in animal models.
A 2017 animal study found that celery extract appeared to improve cognitive function while increasing neuronal density in mice.
Although all of these studies are interesting, their relevance to human models is limited. More research needs to be carried out into the effects of consuming celery in humans before any firm conclusions can be reached.
How much celery counts as one of your 5-a-day?
80g celery count towards one of your five-a-day which is about three celery stalks.
Discover more in our five-a-day infographic.
Can you be allergic to celery?
Yes – you can be allergic to celery. A mild reaction may include symptoms such as an itching mouth or tongue, sneezing or a runny nose. If you experience these symptoms after eating dates, speak to your GP. If a more serious allergic reaction occurs, call for an ambulance immediately.
Visit the NHS website to read more about allergies.
Healthy celery recipes
This article was published on 20 January 2020.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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