This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Stick a bunch of celery stalks in a juicer and what do you get? According to Goop, a “miracle juice.” But it’s not just Gwyneth Paltrow’s controversial wellness company that has touted celery juice as a cure-all beverage. After Pharrell posted a photo of himself holding a green drink in September with the caption “green juice,” countless commenters proclaimed that celery juice was the reason for the singer’s eternal youth (even though they had no proof that the stuff in his mason jar was even celery).
The Goop article was written by Anthony William, aka “The Medical Medium,” the man whose blog seems to have started the celery juice trend. According to this guy, celery has many undiscovered types of sodium clusters which “cling to toxic, dangerous salts from poor-quality foods and help draw them out of your body.” The author claims that these unknown salts are able to break down viruses and bad bacteria and flush them out of our systems. Consuming a bunch of the mystery salts in a glass of celery juice can supposedly cure everything from migraines to high blood pressure to chronic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis. But William says himself that he is not a licensed healthcare provider.
You’d think that people would be very skeptical of a trend started by a “medical medium,” but lots of other people on Instagram have claimed that drinking celery juice results in super fast weight loss, that it “detoxifies” your liver, heals your digestive system, or that it cured their or their child’s eczema and acne. So many people believe in the power of celery that #celeryjuicechallenge—in which people drink celery juice on an empty stomach every morning for a week—continues to trend, despite all of these claims being debunked again and again.
What real science tells us, and has told us many times before, is that those claims about celery “detoxing” your liver are totally bogus—as are all other claims about detoxification. “There is no evidence that drinking celery juice, or any juice, has any detoxing or cleansing benefits,” says Lindsay Krasna, a registered dietitian in Brooklyn, New York. “Our kidneys and liver are the vital organs responsible for purifying our blood and ridding our bodies of harmful toxins. They do that beautifully whether we're consuming celery juice or eating a burger.”
The only way jumping on the celery-juice bandwagon would have some benefits is if you don’t eat many vegetables or drink much water. When you’re suddenly drinking a bunch of juiced celery, you’re getting much-needed vitamins and hydration that you weren’t before. Celery has a healthy dose of vitamins C, K, and potassium, says Beth Warren, a registered dietitian in New York City. It’s also packing serious weight in water—about 95 percent of a celery stalk is made up of H2O.
So, sure, switching out a few sodas or other sugary drinks per day with a few glasses of celery juice, or adding the juice to a mostly veggie-less diet, may make you feel better. And hydration is vital for healthy-looking skin, so that might explain the acne disappearance, too. But all of this has less to do with juiced celery and more to do with the sudden reduction in sugar and influx of vitamins and water you weren’t getting before. The same could be said if you were drinking any other type of green juice. There’s nothing particularly magical about celery.
Swap your regular water for celery juice, then, and you probably won’t feel much different. When you already drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet, any power celery juice might have likely disappears.
In fact, everyone, even people who rarely eat veggies or don’t drink enough water, would be better off skipping the juice and drinking a glass of H2O and making themselves some ants on a log instead. (That’s celery stalks topped with peanut butter and raisins, for anyone who forgot their kindergarten snacks.)
“Celery juice is void of fibre—an important nutrient for digestive health,” Krasna says. Fiber is responsible for keeping your bowels moving regularly and making sure you feel full after you eat. When you juice a fruit or vegetable, you lose the fibre, which is why nutritionists tend to recommend eating actual fruits and vegetables rather than drinking a few glasses of juice per day. While whole celery has been shown to feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, there’s no guarantee that celery juice (minus the fibre) will do the same, Warren says.
But isn’t the vitamin-filled veggie juice still healthy? Sure, there are more vitamins in celery juice than there are in plain water. But, again, if you’re already getting enough of those vitamins in whole foods, drinking celery juice won’t do anything for you.
Plus, the juice is higher in sugar than celery is in its natural state. “Any time you concentrate a fruit or vegetable, it will be higher in sugars, carbs, and calories,” Warren says. That’s because you can drink a lot more celery than you can eat. Of course, celery is already pretty low in all of those things: One cup of whole celery has about 30 calories, eight grams of carbohydrates, and four grams of sugar. But celery juice on its own apparently tastes pretty terrible, and many brands add fruit juice to counteract the extreme bitterness; those added sugars increase the sugar you’d get by juicing the celery in the first place. Even if you make it at home, many recipes suggest adding apples to cut the bitterness, which would still up the sugar content.
Even if you’re not worried about sugar or calories, celery juice doesn’t make sense financially—especially if you're spending $7 on it at a juice bar rather than making it yourself. But even if you're juicing at home, you could buy a whole bunch of celery for snacking at a fraction of the cost, Krasna says, and you’d end up in a better place nutritionally thanks to the fibre being intact.
Bottom line: There’s absolutely no reason to start drinking celery juice. While it won’t necessarily hurt you, aside from the cost component, Krasna says she wouldn’t bother trying to convince her clients to stop drinking it. “If they really enjoyed it, didn't mind spending the money, and it helped them stay hydrated, sure,” she says. “But there's no evidence that it does anything magical.”